12 tags of 2014 – march…

they say march is supposed to be the start of spring, but i know for many of you it seems like winter just keeps on coming.  nevertheless we can certainly get creative with the hopes of sunshine and blue skies so today i’m sharing a technique from my new book “a compendium of curiosities vol.3” and one i taught in creative chemistry 102 called smudge stamping.  i am so happy to see the compendium book series reach it’s third volume – it’s such a great way to quickly reference many of the techniques i’ve shared here on the blog, taught at stores, and demoed at shows.  smudge stamping is a cool technique that uses distress inks and stamps to create a colorful layered background, and even two backgrounds simultaneously if you choose.  just about any type of stamps you choose will work for this technique, but there are a few tips to mastering smudge stamping.  so it’s time to get out those distress inks and stamps and embrace imperfection…t!m


  • surfaces: #8 manila tag
  • layering stencils: ths019 latticework layering stencil
  • stamps: cms180 bird feather stamp set
  • embellishments: word bands observations
  • trimmings: jute string, crinkle ribbon, tissue tape
  • distress ink:walnut stain, weathered wood, tumbled glass, wild honey, rusty hinge, pumice stone, frayed burlap
  • distress markers: weathered wood, black soot, frayed burlap, peeled paint
  • tools: distress marker spritzer,detailer waterbrush, ink blending tool, craft sheet, heat tool, mister, grid-blocks, tiny attacher

DSC08811step 1: begin with two #8 manila tags – i’ve found manila gives the best results for this technique because of the coating. *note: there are a couple of ways to do smudge stamping, you can either create one “full strength” or create the “second generation” version at the same time.  i’ve decided for this tutorial to show both since i know sometimes i want a lighter collage stamped background to use as a journaling card, or a background and this technique is perfect for that.

DSC08813step 2: place stamp on grid-block and ink with distress ink.

DSC08814step 3: stamp the image on one tag, then “breathe warm breath” on the stamp and stamp it a second time on another tag.

DSC08816step 4: immediately begin rubbing over the stamped images with a clean piece of foam using an ink blending tool.  you don’t have to work in a circular motion so try twisting the tool over the image (remember we’re trying to smudge the ink).

DSC08817*this is the effect you will get – keep in mind this effect is a subtle smudge.  you won’t see drastic smearing, but a softer edge to the image.  also, the darker stamped image should smudge more than the second stamping since there is more ink on that surface.

DSC08818step 5: place another stamp on a grid-block and ink with distress ink.  for this image, i used several colors of distress ink on the stamp.  this is a cool way to blend color on an image using this technique.

DSC08819step 6: repeat previous steps by stamping on one tag, breathe on the stamp and stamp on the second tag, and then smudge both with the same ink blending tool. *note: you need to start out with a clean piece of blending foam and use the same foam for the entire tag.

DSC08820*i love these two stamps that are part of the bird feather stamp set (they are also available in minis on the nature walk set).  they contain a solid egg and a speckled egg and when combined they create the perfect effect.

DSC08821step 7: begin stamping the solid egg using a lighter color of distress ink and follow previous steps for smudging.

DSC08822step 8: next stamp the speckles using a darker color of distress ink by positioning it over the solid egg.  since both stamps are cut in the same egg shape, they are easy to visually line up.

DSC08823step 9: repeat previous steps for smudging the images.

DSC08824step 10: finally stamp the fig. line with distress ink and follow smudging steps.  can you see the difference between the two tags?  pretty cool right?  one is bolder and the other softer, but both colorful and layered.

DSC08825step 11: now it’s time to fill in the background by inking the entire tag with light colors of distress ink using an ink blending tool – this will give the tag a cohesive look.

DSC08826step 12: for an even more distressed look, spritz and flick water droplets over the tags and dry with a heat tool to create a mottled effect.

DSC08827step 13: to make the images “pop” ink the edges of the tag with a dark color of distress ink using an ink blending tool.

DSC08828step 14: for highlights to the nest, color various leaves with a distress marker.

DSC08830step 15: blend the colored leaves and the next with a waterbrush.  *remember distress ink and markers both react with water to blend easily.

DSC08831step 16: insert the brush tip of a distress marker into the distress marker spritzer.

DSC08832*note: be sure the marker extends over the air hole as shown in order to get enough ink to “spritz” off of the marker.

DSC08833step 17: place a layering stencil over the tag and secure with tape.  holding the spritzer tool upright, begin squeezing quick bursts of air to spritz ink through the stencil.

DSC08838step 18: repeat with 2-3 colors of distress markers only spritzing the top area of the tag to fill in some of the empty space. repeat with a lighter application of ink to the second tag as shown.

DSC08839step 19: alter a couple of word bands by painting with distress paint, allow the paint to dry for a minute or so until tacky, and wipe away excess using your fingers.

DSC08841step 20: select a color of the new jute string (love this stuff – 30 yards of colored jute for only $5.99!!!).

DSC08843step 21: wrap the jute string around the tag a few times and tie ends in a knot.  attach the word band to the tag using a tiny attacher (yes, you can secure this with a tiny attacher and it works).

DSC08844step 21: since the staples of the tiny attacher don’t lay flat when stapling a thicker embellishment, simply tap them with a hammer to flatten out.

DSC08846step 22: adhere scraps of tissue tape to the background for a simple collage effect and burnish with your fingers to make the tape more translucent.

DSC08857the details: i love both looks when using this technique, but remember you don’t always have to create 2 backgrounds if you prefer the bolder colors.

DSC08858the details: i thought it would be interesting to show you a stamped tag (un-smudged) compared to a smudged tag.  i love the smudged image – subtle yet more cohesive.

*be sure to check your local stores for these supplies or you can
click the links below to purchase online…
(SSS=simon says stamp / IE=inspiration emporium)

GREAT NEWS! both of these online stores are offering a discount of 10% off your purchase – use the following codes with your order:
(SSS code: MAR10TH / IE code: timtime)

click here (SSS|IE)
click here (IE|SSS)
click here (SSS|IE)
click here (SSS|IE)
Crinkle Ribbon (SSS|IE)
click here (SSS|SSS)
Distress Markers (SSS|IE)
Water Brush Detailer (IE|SSS)
click here (IE|SSS)
click here (IE|SSS)
Tiny Attacher (SSS|IE)
Blending Tool (IE|SSS)
Craft Sheet (IE|SSS)
Mister Bottle (SSS|IE)
Heat Tool (IE|SSS)

Tim Holtz Creative Chemistry 101