Sunday 10 September 2017

Product Review Series | Distress Showdown - Regular vs Oxide

Hi everyone, thank you for stopping by. I hope you're having a great day.

I'm not going to spend a lot of time on the chit chat today (I'll try not to.. we'll see.. yeah it's already happening), because this is a long one.

I'm going to do a side by side comparison of the Tim Holtz Distress Inks. I have broken this up into 5 commonly used (by me) categories, the first four are done on 110lb cardstock (my go to, as that is where I would typically be using it) and the fifth is done on Strathmore 140lb cold press watercolour paper (my go-to watercolour paper; if you want to know why click here)

So lets dive right in - there is a lot to cover today!

  • Regular Distress is a water-based dye ink that is acid-free, non-toxic and fade resistant
  • Distress Oxide inks are a water reactive ink and pigment fusion
  • Distress Oxide does not come in the mini cubes
  • Both have the same price point for the full-sized pad as well as the reinker

Category 1: Sponging

Probably my most commonly used application of this Distress inks. I use them to create backgrounds, and to colour in large areas because I'm too cheap to use my Copics for big spaces. I like getting that halo look around the edges of my paper and I like the feel of the sponge tool in my hand as I do it.
  • Regular Distress ink took more applications to get a smooth coverage, and even then it appears blotchy, for the Distress Oxide ink, it literally just went on, first pass; annnd done.
  • Both are designed to stay wet so that you can blend, however it took much longer for the Oxide to actually be dry. Maybe I was too liberal?
  • Regular Distress ink did not change the texture of the paper. It soaked in, dried and that was that. 
  • Distress Oxide leaves the paper feeling chalky and even after it dries there is some transfer if you pull your finger along the sponged area.

Category 2: Splatter

Ahhh, the reason we even buy Distress inks. They are reactive to water. They reactivate when new water is applied, they can be pulled up with water; making them one of the best for watercolouring because you can correct minor mistakes. For this demonstration, each were splattered with clean water from a size 8 round watercolour brush, the droplets were left for 30 seconds, then patted dry with a clean paper towel. Remember this is not watercolour paper; this is still the 110lb cardstock.
  • Regular Distress inks result in a faint splatter that seems to push the ink from the middle to the edges, allowing for a darker outline of the splatter, 
  • With Distress Oxides the colour seemed to disappear. The splatters are much more distinct, much more white and (in my opinion) should be used much more conservatively.
  • Looking at each, the Regular Distress reminds me of an underwater scene, while the Distress Oxide reminds me of space. 

Category 3: Blending

This is going to be a little more difficult to see, and that's my fault. I only have Salty Ocean and Broken China in the Distress inks at this point, and while I don't want to provide you shoddy comparisons, I felt this category was too important to leave out.
  • With regular Distress ink, I had to go back and forth between the two, despite how close the colours are to get a nice seamless blend.
  • With Distress Oxide I didn't even go back once, I put down the Salty Ocean then the Broken China and done. 
  • Even with the extra layers because of the additional colour, the results of the Regular Distress coverage are still blotchy
  • Both blend together extremely well - and I should hope so. That's what they are designed to do.

Category 4: Stamping

Maybe it's just me, but I love stamping with my Distress inks. Though I typically use the MISTI for them, (as well as the majority of my stamping), I did not do that this time. I stamped the Octopus and greeting from Lawn Fawn's "Critters in the Sea" using a 2x2" acrylic block. I did this because some people don't have a stamp tool like the MISTI and because this whole section would be moot if I did.
  • Stamping with regular Distress does not give consistent coverage and the lines appear blotchy, Nothing the MISTI couldn't fix. Or being really good at lining them up manually. There's a reason I have the MISTI, folks.
  • Stamping with the Distress Oxide put too much ink on the stamp and the lines are thicker in some places than in others. This is not something that could be fixed with the MISTI, maybe just more practice?
  • After the inks dry, the Oxide appears to be "truer" to the colour, while the regular Distress seems to fade out, even without additional water being added.

Category 5: Watercolouring

This was a huge one for me. I looooove to use my Distress inks to watercolour images. They are the first things I move towards, and I actually have to move them out of the way to get to another brand. This stamping was done with CTMH Archival Black ink on Strathmore 140lb cold press watercolour paper. I smooshed both pads to a palette and added clean water.
  • Regular Distress is light and travels well across the paper, it wicks well into wet areas and dries to create a light "watercoloury" feeling
  • Distress Oxide was much thicker and more opaque, it did not wick or travel well across the paper into wet areas.
  • Distress Oxide was too opaque to be painted over the stamped line. Clean up with an Archival maker or restamping would need to be done. 
  • Using the Distress Oxides felt more like painting with a thin acrylic than a watercolour paint.
  • The Oxides don't come in a mini cube and that's a big thing for me. I like how little space the minis take up and frankly, I'm not even sure where these two Distress Oxide pads are going to live.
For anyone keeping score, it would seem that the Distress Oxides have won in most of these categories - sponging, splattering and blending to be sure; it all depends on what you're going for. 

For the mixed media artist, I would recommend the Oxides - hands down. For me personally, I'm a huge fan of the watercolouring and the properties the regular Distress inks have align with my needs much more than that of the Oxides. 

That being said, we all know me. I'm going to get the Oxides. I'm just not going to rush out and replace all my cubes. I like how small they are. I like that the round sponge fits right into the bottom of the pad, exactly where it should. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with the sponges for the Oxide pads or where I'm going to keep them.

But, fear not! I will figure it out. And when I do, when I have more colours and I have used the Oxides more I will do a rematch with advanced comparisons. So stay tuned!

I hope you enjoyed this review. If you haven't already, please follow me over on the right side bar. You can also follow me over on Facebook. If you have any questions about this review, or have a suggestion for a future review, please toss me a line in the comments section below and let me know. I love to hear from you.

*disclaimer: I am not sent products to review, nor am I paid to review them. I review the products that I find interesting, that I have purchased with my own money and that I think you would enjoy reading about; and I receive no incentive, reward or payment to do so. All reviews are based off my personal experience and are my opinions only.


  1. Thanks for the great comparison

  2. I was 'dying' to know the difference between the two. This explained it very well thank you so much for taking the time for this excellent comparisons

  3. Great comparison experiment - TFS


  4. Enjoyed your comparison. I love the new distress oxides!

  5. Thanks for taking time to do this comparison for all of us!

  6. You have done a great job explaining these two, thanks!

  7. Thanks for the tips. I love that you did this as a PICTORIAL and NOT as a video. I could study the pictures as I read and go back and forth. Wonderful.

  8. Love that this wasn't a video comparison, easier for my brain to soak in and remember. Great job! Thank you!


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