Review of the Tim Holtz Distress Marker Spritzer Tool #TimHoltz #DistressMarkers #Spritzer

What is this strange looking object, you say.  A turkey baster?  A clean-up suction tool for coffee grounds?  An alien ray gun?

No! It’s a Tim Holtz’s Distress Marker spritzers, and you use it to get watercolor effects using water-soluble markers.  My friend, Tina Walker, kindly sent me one, and I thank her profusely!

You may have already seen these or not, but either way, you are probably wondering whether you desperately need one for your craft stash.  I know I wondered, but I hesitated to spend the approximately $15 without seeing how they work.  
Look & Feel

The name specifically mentions the Distress Marker, a water-soluble double-ended marker with a hard plastic tip at one end, and a felt brush tip at the other.  The spritzer will work with most felt-tipped markers.

The marker needs to fit into this guide-hole, or…

… you can remove the screw and the inner tube, then fit your larger markers into the bigger opening.  The screw can be used to tighten down and secure markers that are thin enough to be loose in the guide holes.
The marker needs to be long enough to fit in the opening and…
…line up with the tip of the air flow opening.  
So–any felt-tipped marker that will fit through either of the guide holes and is long enough to rest at the air flow tip will work with the spritzer.  It doesn’t have to be water-soluble.  Even alcohol markers will work.
Once you have your felt tip lined up, you squeeze the bulb and ink goes flying across paper!  
In the video demos I’ve seen, people use the spritzer one-handed.  I found it to have a bit of a kick and prefer to use one hand to squeeze and one hand to hold the pen stable.  this may vary from person to person, depending on the size and strength of your hands.  
I have a bad wrist, and did find squeezing the bulb a little painful.  If you have arthritis or carpal tunnel or something like that, you might want to hold off on purchasing one of these.  I don’t experience enough pain to stop using it, but I will limit my future use to add effects rather than creating a whole piece with the spritzer.

I also found that there was a variation in how much ink I got from a pen.  Some gave me a strong spray of color, and others an anemic spit.  Some of this probably has to do with how well I’m lining up the felt tip.  There’s a sweet spot, for sure.  I think the amount of ink in the marker counts as well.  Most of my Distress Markers have been used a lot, and they’re a couple of years old.  It only makes sense that a fresh, barely used marker will give you more color.

So what effects do you get?

The spray is a bit like splattering watercolor–you have some control but mostly with aiming the random splatter.  How harder you squeeze, the amount of water you use, the kind of marker you use, and the paper are all going to make a difference.

Basically, I found that I got three different types of spray.  The factors mentioned above make a difference, but the pattern of the spray and overall look are similar.  I got the widest variation using watercolor paper, and these examples are all done using Strathmore 400 series watercolor cards.

Just spritzing the color onto dry paper gives a pebbly textured look with strong coverage in the center and a soft radius around the edges.  The largest spritz I could get was about the size of an elongated dime.

Before I spritzed this second example, I wet an area of the paper so that it what shiny, but not pooling.  You still get some of the pebbly look, especially around the edges, but you also get some feathering and the color travels along the water, covering a larger area, and taking the shape of the water-covered area.  This example spritz is more quarter-sized.   Because water always dilutes color, the intensity of the color is less.

For this last example, I wet the paper thoroughly, leaving big drops of pooled water.  When I spritzed, the air moved the water, taking some color along with it.  The color, itself, didn’t move too much–almost like the water protected it.  I got spots of color surrounded by dilute streaks.

This technique gives your hard edges to your color where the first two give softer edges.

I did find one other technique that I like, but I’ll discuss that when I get to my second example artwork.

For this card, I use all the techniques above, and then used a water brush to spread some of the color.

After it dried, I picked out floral shapes with a Pigma Micron pen.

As well as the Spritzer, Tina sent me a cool exclusive stamp set from Frog Dog Studios that included a telephone call box.  If you’re a Doctor Who fan you know his ship, the Tardis, looks like a call box, and that when it’s traveling time and space, there are all sorts of lights and special effects.

For this card, I wet an area of the card where I intended to stamp the call box.  Then I colored the stamp with Dusty Concord and Chipped Sapphire Distress Markers–colored right onto the stamp itself.  I stamped into the wet area, and then used the Spritzer–with no marker–to spread the water and color across the card.

Those lovely purplish streaks were a result of using the spritzer purely to move water mixed with color.  The stamped image gets a soft, out-of-focus look very similar to the Doctor’s Tardis as it comes in for a landing.

I used a series of different markers in the spritzer to add more color and different textures.

This is a nifty little tool.  You can get interesting textures and more full-blown watercolor effects than you would normally get from a water-soluble marker.  It does take a little experimenting to get the hang of it, but it isn’t difficult.

Using it might be difficult for people with arthritis or other pain in their hands or wrists.

Is it a must-have for your craft or art stash?  Probably not–but if you use felt-tipped markers very much, you’re probably going to want one, anyway!

Here’s a great video that demonstrates the use of the spritzer.

Tim Holtz Demonstration of the Distress Marker Spritzer



  1. I was reading your review and scrolled down, saw the second to last piece you did and promptly stopped reading and just stared – that. is. GORGEOUS! and….great review 😉

  2. haha! love the Doctor's call box! those flowers are beautiful, too! i have one of these tools, but haven't tried to use it yet. actually, i forgot i had it, need to find it now.

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