How to Marble Paper: With Videos

by sheilamarie

Paper marbling is an art closely tied to making books. Marbling results when you add paint or inks onto a wet surface, swirl them together, and then transfer the colors to paper.

Have you ever looked at the inner leaf of a book and found beautifully marbled end papers? They look almost magical, don't they?

A form of marbling is done in many places around the world. Turkish marbling is called Ebru. The videos below show it used in storytelling, including the creation of human figures and flowers among the patterns. Japanese artists marble paper using colorful inks in a traditional process known as suminagashi. In China, techniques used are very ancient.

If you would like to learn how to marble paper, too, read on to learn how paper marbling is done.

You Can Marble Paper

You Really Can!

I have long admired marbled papers. The patterns and swirls look exotic and difficult to make. And it's true that really detailed effects can take a while to perfect, but marbling paper is something you can learn to do, and there's much to enjoy in the learning process.

Although there are techniques you can learn that produce certain effects (techniques that can be learned from one of the books listed below), there is no wrong way to marble paper. Even with no prior knowledge and done with an air of experimentation, you can produce really lovely results. Fooling around with water and paints is all you really need to do.

Of course, as with any craft, you can refine the process, but there's nothing wrong with learning as you go when you are marbling paper. In fact, if you've spent some time playing around with the process, you'll have a knowledge base set up for when you want to learn more specific techniques later on.

I'm writing this wizzle in an attempt to get you going with learning how to marble paper. It's an especially fun thing to do with a bunch of kids on a backyard picnic table during the summer months. Who doesn't enjoy outdoor water play on a hot summer day? And to be able to make it an art project, too? What a blast!

Japanese-style Paper Marbling

Inks on Water

Innovation Marbling Kit, Japanese Suminagashi


This was the first paper marbling kit I'd ever used. These inks float on the water, making delicate patterns and colors.

How to Use These Japanese Marbling Inks


Have You Ever Tried to Marble Paper?

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No, never tried it.
samsons1 on 06/22/2012

It is amazing and beautiful. A few years ago I thought I wanted to marble paper and even gather some bird feathers to use, but then my health failed me and I never got to try even though I'm astounded at it's beauty and simplicity...

Yes, and it's an amazing process!
GermanUtopia on 05/11/2013

I tried it when I was a child (so a long time ago). There can result very nice designs from it.

Heidi Finley: Paper Marbling Artist

Instructions on How to Marble Paper

What Will You Make With Your Marbled Paper?

Here Are Paper Marbling Directions from a Child

Uses Kid Friendly Materials

Marbling Paper with Kids

Shaving Cream, Food Coloring, and Crayons

Kids can be mesmerized with the process of marbling paper! The process is almost magical with how it uses colors and the properties of water and floating designs.

Two processes for marbling paper come to mind as a project for involving kids. The first is the use of shaving cream with either food coloring or liquid tempera paint. The video above shows the process of using the foam. If you have shaving cream at home, you may want to substitute the shaving cream for the commercially available art foam. It will do basically the same thing. Use either food coloring drops to add the color or fill a paint brush with liquid tempera and drip it into the foam. Practice different swirls to see what effects you will get. When you place the paper on the colored foam, both you and the child will be amazed with the way the colors pop out on the paper.

Another project you can try is one that uses wax crayons. Every home with kids probably has a glut of wax crayons that may or may not be used for different art projects. If you have extras lying about, this may be a good use for them.

Because of the use of boiling water with this process, please work with your child and don't let them get too close to the boiling water!

 Take a tin can and fill it with water. Make a double boiler by putting the can of water into a pot of water on the stove and set to boil. With an old grater (not to be reused for food), grate brightly colored wax crayons (Crayola, etc.) and place them in little piles on the boiling water. Using a stick, swirl the colors together. When they are cooled and being careful not to burn yourself, place a sheet of paper on the soft wax swirls. Lift and place face up to cool.

These colorful paper swirls make great greeting cards. You can cut to size and glue the finished project to folded construction paper for amazing cards to give on special days, such as birthdays, Mother's Day, Father's Day, etc.

Kid-Friendly Paper Marbling Kit

For Ages 7 to 12

Alex Simply Marbelous




Make stickers, picture frames, cards, and fancy papers.

Great easy-to-do paper marbling for kids from 7 to 12. See the video to the right for a demonstration.

Paper Marbling with Kids

Using the Simply Marble-ous Kit from Alex Toys

The History of Marbling Paper from Wikipedia

China, Japan, India, Turkey
Paper marbling is a method of aqueous surface design, which can produce patterns similar to smooth marble or other stone. The patterns are the result of color floated on either plain water or a viscous solution known as size, and then care...

Turkish Marbling: Ebru

Here's How I Use Marbled Paper


Adults who marble paper are often attracted to the idea of making book art or otherwise creating hand-made books. That was how I started marbling paper myself. I make little books of poems I call Pocket Poems using hand marbled paper for the pages. Each poem is broken into sections and printed on hand-marbled paper and then reassembled into books that measure 2" x 3". The covers have either photos or drawings. They fit into your pocket where you can take them out to read while waiting in the grocery store line or at a bus stop. They're fun to read and to share.

Maybe you can think of a way to use your marbled papers, too. Teachers can use them as part of a classroom writing and book-making project. Crafters can use marbled papers in their scrapbooking projects.

How will you use marbled papers? Please let us know in the comment section below.

Marbled Paper on eBay

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Updated: 03/10/2015, sheilamarie
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Comments: Do You Have an Idea for Using Marbled Paper? Share Your Experience with Marbling Paper.

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sheilamarie on 06/24/2012

I'm so glad you two enjoyed marbling, and I'm excited to hear how it worked on t-shirts. Sounds as if you'll all be getting a whole new wardrobe! Nice to have such a creative daughter!
Using the frame is a really good tip -- thanks!

katiem2 on 06/24/2012

We made a run to our favorite art store, Blicks, they advised us to use the moss as it creates a more interesting texture or design, according to the girl we spoke with. We have tons of supplies at this store, it's huge, amazing. We went straight for the shirts as we used the back of some old t-shirts. We had a ball. My daughter is very artistic, She moved to the pack of new t-shirts we bought and all turned out really cool. I don't know how she does what she does but she took to it like a duck to water and made some really cool designs. She then set them with heat to make them permanent. Gave one away to one of her bff's today. It WORKED!

Oh and I should add, she put the portion of the tee to paint into a frame like you would cloth to cross stitch...

sheilamarie on 06/22/2012

Thanks, Kinworm. I think so, too.

Marie on 06/22/2012

Excellent, Sheila. Paper marbling is great fun.

sheilamarie on 06/22/2012

Let me know whether the technique works on t-shirts, Katie. Depending on what the fabric paints are made from, you may need what is called sizing in the water to make sure the paints float. Some people use carragenan (Irish moss), the kind of seaweed they use to make thickenings for products such as ice cream, etc. I think you can get it in powdered form (as I doubt you have seaweed in Ohio!)
If I were you, I'd practice with paper first and then move to the t-shirts once you've experimented a bit.
Have fun!

katiem2 on 06/21/2012

What fun, me and my art loving daughter will have such a fun creative adventure. My mind is bursting with ideas as to what we can do with marbling. The paper, and more. My daughter has a variety of fabric paint. loves painting on t-shirts and thinks she can create some cool art with this marbling technique.

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