Today I am reviewing one of my favourite products, Distress Markers by Tim Holtz from Ranger.

This line of water-based markers has been available for a few years now.  They are very popular with crafters, colorists and mixed media artists alike.

The markers are double ended with a nice brush nib on one end and a firm, fine nib on the other.  The brush nib is ideal for watercolour effects (more on this later).  It is soft at the tip and does have a brush like feel to it.  It is not as soft as a Copic marker’s brush tip, but softer than most other marker brands.  The fine nib is perfect for detailed colouring or for writing.Distress Marker Nibs


They are acid free, non-toxic and made in the USA.

The Distress Marker colours

One of the biggest selling points of these markers is that the range of colours matches the other products in the popular Tim Holtz “Distress” lines.  These include the Distress Inks and new Distress Oxide inks, Distress Stains, Distress Paints and Distress Embossing Powders etc.

Handful of Tim Holtz Distress Markers

The Distress Marker colour range tends towards vintage, slightly muted colours.  If you are looking for bright primaries then these may not be the best pens for the job (I recommend Aqua Markers by Letraset for bright colours).  But if you love vintage and shabby chic styles then they might be a must!  Having said all that, I have used them on many styles of project, not just vintage ones.

You can buy the markers in a number of ways.  Many retailers offer sets of 5, 6, 12 or more markers.  Some make their own colour combos, others use pre-set packages from Ranger themselves.  There are currently 61 different colours available.  The markers are also available individually which is very convenient.

Quality that lasts

The markers are somewhat more expensive than some other brands of water-based markers, but they are very good quality and I have found mine to be very long lasting indeed.

The caps fit securely and are coloured to match the ink in the pen (the match is pretty good!).  The name of colour is clearly marked on the side of the barrel.  Unlike some markers, the text on the barrels does not easily rub off with use.

Some of my favourite Distress Marker colours

Distress Markers are a long, thin pen of a similar thickness to traditional felt-tip pens.  They are 7 inches long, which makes them about an inch longer than a Copic Alcohol Marker.  They are too tall to fit in either my Art Bin Super Satchel or my Meeden Professional Marker Case. The do fit perfectly in my Togood Marker Pen Storage Tote though.

I store mine flat, as I do all markers, but I know artists who store theirs upright and have no issues with leakage or one end drying out.  Ranger makes a very handsome metal tin to store your markers, which holds 70 of them.  At the moment I have only have half the range and they fit well in a much-loved pencil case.  But in a few marker’s time, I will need more space and will be buying one of the Ranger tins.

Very versatile markers

Because these are water-based markers they are very versatile indeed.  They also wash out of clothing and off of hands – a benefit that is good for messy chimps like me.

Distress Markers can be used as a high quality marker pen.  They are ideal for journaling or colouring.  I like that I can write on a journal page, for example, using a colour that matches other Distress products used on the same page.  The fine nib allows for very detailed work.

You can also colour an area then add water to blend it and move the pigment around.  Some colours do work better for this than others though. I have found that denser and shinier types of paper work best.  The pens do not blend much when on very absorbent papers, they soak in and dry too quickly.  Definitely something you will need to experiment with a bit.  If you spray or drip water onto coloured areas the ink will react like other Distress products and you will get a very attractive “speckled” effect.

My favourite use of Tim Holtz Distress Markers is as a watercolour paint medium.  I scribble a little of the marker onto an acrylic stamping block or my glass cutting mat then use a water brush to paint with it.  The soft colours look lovely and lend themselves so well to this.

Coloured with Distress Markers using the watercolour technique
Stamped image, painted with Distress Markers

The pen format makes the markers very easy and clean to transport and use, ideal if you like watercolour painting “en plein air”.

I particularly enjoy using the Distress Markers for “no-line stamping” techniques.  Here one stamps an image using a very pale water-based ink, or an ink that will match the main colour of the image.  Then one paints the image using the markers.   Here is a link to a previous post that explains more about this fun technique.

The Markers can also be used for stamping.  Just colour onto a rubber or acrylic stamp.  This makes multi-coloured stamping very easy.  You can give the stamp a quick spritz of water before stamping if you think you have taken too long and the ink might have dried a bit already.  This is definitely one of those techniques that require lots of experimentation – and will be a LOT of fun doing so.

You can also buy a spritzing device that clips onto a marker and turns it into a little airbrush.

One of my favourite mediums

I have been using Tim Holtz Distress Markers for just over three years and they are one of my favourite mediums.  Their compatibility with Distress Inks is very handy as I use the inks such a lot in my card making, ATCs, journals and mixed media projects.  I have found them to be a very worthwhile investment as they are so long-lasting, versatile and (most importantly) beautiful!

Another water-based marker that I like, with a rather different colour palette, are the Tombow ABT Dual Brush Markers.  Click the words to see my review of these pens.

Colourful Distress Markers

Distress Markers – Links to Suppliers I Recommend

Here are some links to the products mentioned on, and  If you buy from any of these links, I may receive a small commission from the shop for sending custom their way. This is at no cost to yourself.  Thank you.

Distress Markers on

Distress Markers on


Distress Markers on

Distress Marker Storage TinTim Holtz Fossilized Amber Distress MarkerTim Holtz Broken China Marker at Craft Stash




Tim Holtz Distress Markers from Ranger – a Review
Tim Holtz Distress Markers from Ranger - a Review

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