playing with bits one byte at a time

Tutorial – Uniquely You Tags

In our new kit, Uniquely You, Karen and I used some of the tags from my Tags – Watercolors 1 product. This little tutorial shows you how I created those tags AND, as promised, there’s a freebie at the end.

If any of you are fans of Tim Holtz, I’m sure you’ll recognize a lot of this. If you’re not familiar with him, take the time to check out his blog. He has a TON of tutorials and that’s where I got the idea to make these.

Step 1 – Gather up your supplies

The supplies I use for this include an old shirt (be sure to button it up … I’ve often forgotten and definitely regretted it), spritz water bottle, distress stain, distress inks, ink applicators, heat gun, craft mat, paper towels and, most important of all, tags.

Step 2 – Spread stain on your craft mat

Using the distress stain, spread it on your craft mat. I used multiple colors (which you really can’t see), but you can do this with just one color, too. You may have to pump the bottle a couple of times and maybe squeeze it to get it to puddle.

Step 3 – Smash your tag

Using one of the tags, drop it into the stain and swoosh it around.

Step 4 – Check it out

Turn the tag over and if you like it put it to the side. If you don’t, swoosh it around a little more. You don’t need to cover the entire tag because we’ll be using some ink to fill those spots in.

Step 5 – Waste not, Want not

With what’s left over on the mat, swoosh another tag through the stain. When you’ve finished, use those paper towels to clean off the mat.

Step 6 – Dry your tags

Using the heat gun, I partially dry my tags. I do this to stop all the running of the inks, then I set things aside to finish drying. I prefer not to completely dry the tags with the heat gun because they will often get wrinkles in them that won’t come out. I’m sure I’m doing something wrong, but it’s just easier to set them to the side and not worry about it.

Step 7 – Fill in the blanks

Once the tags are completely dry, fill in the blanks with more color using the distress ink and applicator. Holding the applicator by the block rather than the handle gives you more control. You want to start off with very little pressure and move the applicator in a circular direction. If you don’t do that, you’ll get edges.

Step 8 – Blend

I realize it’s kind of hard to see what I’m doing, but I’m spritzing on some water to blend the ink and the stain together (the other hand is holding the remote to my camera … just ignore it). That’s the beauty (and the problem) of waterbased inks and stains … they remain water reactive even after they dry. After getting everything wet, use the heat gun to dry things. If you get things REALLY wet, you can actually get a pretty good watercolor effect.

Step 9 – Fix what you don’t like

I wasn’t very happy with how this one turned out (hated the dark areas), but before fixing it, I scanned it in. This little process works like an analog “undo” … just in case you hate it even more after fixing it.

To lighten the areas I didn’t like, I used a white stain. This is one of those stains that you really need to shake up well otherwise you get what amounts to water.

After the white has dried, I used some lighter green inks to brighten it up. I think it looks better.

However, if you still hate it, just turn the tag over and start working with whatever you’ve picked up on the backside.

Step 10 – Add some patterns

With the second tag, I decided to add a pattern by using some punchinella as a stencil, but I did scan in the tag before doing this … again, analog undo.

Step 11 – Sit back and admire your work

With the crafting part of the process done, you can sit back and admire your tags … but just for a little bit. The next step is to scan them in and extract them. I typically scan things in at 800 dpi and save them out as tiff files. My reasoning would be a completely new tutorial, so just trust me, this is how I do it to get the best output.

Once you have the tags in digital format, you can add even more to them like Karen did with the tag below.

And now my freebie … the digital version of the tags I made during the tutorial. These are for personal use and you can download them by clicking on the preview. ***expired***


If you’re interested in some more freebies, be sure to visit Karen’s blog for a great cluster freebie (preview below).


Karen also has a blog post on theStudio blog with another cluster freebie for you.

Finally, I will be posting a fan freebie on my Facebook page … so be sure to keep an eye out for it.

Be sure to check back … I will also be posting some layouts I’ve made with this kit along with some information on art journaling. Until then HUGS!!!



  1. Thanks so much – very inspiring. I will probably have fun giving it a go, but when it comes to scrapping it is nice to have a cordinated kit all ready to use. Seeing more of the process certainly makes me appreciate what I’m buying!

  2. Thank you very much. I really loved seeing all you did to make these. It really does give me a much deeper appreciation for how much work designers do to make something so beautiful. Just viewing the finished work of your designs has always put me in an awe state–I have no eye for color coordinating or talent for designing but after seeing just what you go through to design your beautiful creations is really totally overwhelming to me. How very much I do thank you and will definitely find a deeper appreciation for each design I see in the future.

  3. I enjoyed your tut, your comments were fun to read. Thank you for all the effort you put into your art-it shows in the finished product.

  4. Thanks Jill! Love the tags. I am always making Tim Holtz tags. Love what he does and love getting messy!!

  5. Jill! I love this tut. Great job! I’ve been making tags lately too for a mini album. Love the pattern effect.

  6. Thanks so much for all the tips!!!

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