Thursday, March 26, 2020

Distress Crayons

Hi friends!
I have talked a lot about Distress Crayons on this blog.  However, during Tims live demo on Facebook (link at the bottom), I could see in the comments, many people asking how to use them to color Paper Dolls.  So I'm going to cover the basics here and add links at the bottom to a few past projects that will show further use with photos.

There are actually four products in the idea-ology line with photos:
Paper Dolls - slick cardstock weight paper, people are cut out and always have feet although they might be sitting or standing.  There are repeats of some people in different sizes.
Found Relatives - slick cardstock weight paper, comes in a pack with 3 sizes of cards (none of the cards are the same).   The Found Relative I am using today is the largest card.
Photobooth - each photo is 1 3/4 x 2" and come in strips of three. The photos can easily be cut apart.
Baseboard Dolls - like Paper Dolls but printed on heavy weight chipboard.  These can easily stand on their own with just a bit of glue.
Each of these photo products are made from the same slick surface 
which is perfect for use with Distress Crayons.

I work on a Glass Media Mat which I love but a craft sheet will work too.  I like to work on the white pallet portion of the mat because you can see true color when you scribble the crayon onto the surface.  You can use whatever colors you have, there is no right or wrong. Sometimes colors will surprise you since they can appear different when used over the lighter or darker portion of the card.

I 'm starting with the background here.  I find that for darker areas, whether it's a background or a dark suit or coat it's best to scribble the crayon directly onto the card.
Then I take my finger to blend the crayon over the background.  I choose to skip the cotton swab here because it's too small for blending. However, if this was a very small area then a cotton swab might be the best choice.  Sometimes I have to dampen my finger tip to get the crayon to move.  If that is the case, just tap on a wet wipe and then rub.  Do not stick your finger in water or you will rub the crayon away almost immediately.  So lets say you did that very thing (wipe it right away), just wait for the card to dry before adding more crayon otherwise it will not stick to the surface (and probably cause you some frustration) since it is still wet.  This can work to your benefit when you choose a color dislike, you always have the ability to wipe it completely away and start over (once the card is dry).
You might notice there is a small flat brush in the photo.  I keep this brush on hand to pull away any crayon that goes over the line, say onto her face, her clothes or skin.  The thin flat bristles will pull it away as long as the brush is damp.  If you do not have a brush such as this, you can use a cotton swab, it is just not quite as precise.
Next up is the Detailer Water brush. I love this tool for the smallest of places like the flowers that surround the neck of her dress.  The tip is pointed and firm which I find helpful.  I don't use the self-feeding feature of the water brush.  I usually spray a bit of water on my Glass Media Mat next to the crayon and dip into it when changing colors.  This gives me more control of the amount of water I add to the brush. Just remember, less is more when it comes to water and if you need to tap over a paper towel before picking up the crayon, do it.
So to start, pick a few colors of Crayon and scribble them onto the Glass Mat.  My favorites to use are Aged Mahogany and Peeled Paint and then I throw in a blue like Stormy Sky or a gold like Fossilized Amber.  It very easy to pick up the crayon with just a damp water brush and dot the area of the flowers.  I usually start with the strongest color (Aged Mahogany in this case), leaving room for more colors, then Peeled Paint for the leaves, which are still just dots for the most part.
Take notice of the swatches of crayon.  You can see where I have picked up the color with a swipe of the brush.  I only needed a damp brush to pick it up.  If you add too much water, the crayon can become frothy/bubbly and that's never good so wipe it up, move to a dry area on the mat and scribble again.  No harm in starting over.
I scribbled some Milled Lavender onto the Glass Mat to test.  It's a color I don't use often so I was unsure how it would work with the others.  Well, it was the happy surprise of the day.  That color purple is very deceiving since the looks so light on the palette but on the card it works perfectly with the Aged Mahogany and the Peeled Paint.
The cheeks - there is a bit of a learning curve to getting it right.  I used to always use Worn Lipstick (which still works well) but I have fallen for Aged Mahogany because of the rich color it brings. The color was put on with the water brush and then made to look like rouge by tapping my finger tip over the top.  Something about what your fingertip does as it flattens over the color makes the difference in creating a realistic cheek color.  I do one cheek at a time and wipe away any excess with cotton swab (since the area is small).  Again, there is a learning cure so practice, practice, practice, it will make a difference.
I used my flat brush to give her dress a light wash of Milled Lavender.  I never did use the Mowed Lawn color, just the top three.
Did you notice that I forgot to color the right side under her arm in Stormy Sky?  Guess I better do that now.
So, can you mix color?  Yes you can.  You can mix colors or even create a pattern (think flowers or plaid) over clothing with the tip of the Water Brush.  Here I'm going to do a basic mix. I scribbled a halo of sorts around her head, right over the Stormy Sky background.  The next step is to rub the crayon with your fingertip to blend the two colors.  Start slow.  You may need a damp finger but remember water is also the enemy and too much will wipe away the blue and green.  So start rubbing and then see if you need to touch the wet wipe to keep going.  If you wipe too much blue away, just add more.
So here is what she looks like after I rubbed the two colors together.
My thought is that it should look like a painting, not perfect but perfectly textural in quality.  The crayon is meant to enhance the background.
I think I love the particular card because she looks like she is sitting for a Sargent painting (one of my very favorite artists).
You might be asking, is she going to 'seal' the crayon color?  First off, I find that the crayon sets in place and is very difficult to rub off the longer you leave it.  If fact the only way to remove it, is to physically rub it with a wet wipe.  So yes, it is still water reactive so I don't take it out in the rain or "lick it" as Tim says.  My projects have gone with me on teaching visits and to trade shows and I have never had to repair a photo that was damaged because of not sealing it.  Not once.  
That being said, if you really want to seal it for your peace of mind, I would use a spray fixative that you can find at any craft store.  Just a light spray once or twice over the top, not too close to the surface will do you. 

Thought maybe you might like to see some other examples of Distress Crayons coloring.
The post shows creating pattern on a dress.  Remember the Detailer Brush is your friend for this one. A color wash for the background.  Let it dry, then start dotting over the top.  That can make it look like a watercolor pattern.
Mowed lawn, Aged Mahogany, Faded Jeans

This post shows crayon layering but using only one color.  It can be done by letting the color dry between layers (just for a few minutes) and then adding layers of color on top.  I like to add the second round of color to enhance ruffles or lace or just add shadows for depth.
Worn Lipstick for her dress, Fossilized Amber for the flowers.
And another with a two color mix of green and blue.  FYI: The girl with the rabbit is from the 2019 Halloween Paper Dolls pack.
Peeled Paint and Stormy Sky

If you haven't had a chance to watch the Tim Holtz Facebook Live on Distress Crayons you can watch it HERE.  Absolutely worth the time to learn more about the Crayons and what they can really do over different surfaces.  Plus you get Tim talking and demoing which is always a treat to watch and learn.
now carry on,


  1. Oh my gosh Paula...amazing results! Thanks so much for sharing those tips and tricks, I will definitely give them a try! And I need more Crayons and Paper Dolls! ��❤

  2. I am a huge fan of your coloring Paula. These are all beautiful, can't wait to try some of these techniques.

  3. Great to have such a detailed and clear tutorial You really do inspire us all to bring our paper dolls and found relatives to life.

  4. So fun.. I can’t wait to get busy with my crayons..thank you for the inspiration !

  5. I was never a colorer, even as a kid. But you taught me to love Tim's Distress Crayons a long time ago. Now I can't imagine not having them! Thanks for the refresher course!

  6. This is so very helpful! Thank you for taking the time to put together a tutorial. Beautiful coloring, as always!
    Have a most wonderful weekend! :)

  7. WoW, thnx for sharing these very helpful tips, Paula. Beautiful colouring xxx

  8. Great tutorial...always helps to reiterate techniques and tips in order to learn the process. THANK YOU so much for taking the time to share this.

  9. A great tutorial with lots of useful tips, thank you Paula. I particularly love the colour you achieved on her cheeks.

  10. Love seeing how you brought color to these figures! I've been wanting to use Distress Crayons for a while, but unsure what I'd do with them. Now I have some ideas.

  11. Fabulous! Thank you Paula for all the tips!

  12. Absolutely fabulous Paula! thanks for sharing, I love Distress Crayons !!!

  13. Thank you so much Paula.. I love Tim's paper dolls. You post has given me new projects to try with the crayons.. so very very happy🤗❤