A few weeks ago I took a paper marbling class with a couple of friends at Brooklyn Brainery, a spot in my neighborhood that offers all kinds of classes, from hands-on crafts to lectures to walks where you learn how to identify trees (also super fun and recommended!).
I’ve dabbled in paper crafts over the years, making simple cards using stamps and collage. I was excited to add another paper technique to the craft arsenal, especially one that plays with pattern and color.
My favorite of the batch is a sheet of drooping curtains: turquoise, purple, blue, and black combed pattern
For the marbling process, essentially you need paint to float and spread on a thick liquid solution. After manipulating the paint to make the blobs and swirls characteristic of marbling, you lay a piece of paper on the surface of the water for a few seconds to pick up the paint.
We worked fast, both to avoid dreaded air bubbles and because class time was short (90 minutes). This speed was refreshing, as I often tend to agonize over details and trying to get something “just right”. Instead, I just played around and had a blast!
I’m hoping to organize a paper marbling get-together with some friends this summer. I record the process in detail here for anyone who’s curious, and to help jog my future self’s memory.
Sizing: Acrylic paint sinks in water, so the liquid solution needs to be thickened into “sizing” (or “size”). There are many methods to accomplish this, including using carrageenan and water or a base of shaving cream! We used methocellulose in the class. Mix up the sizing, a day in advance if necessary for the chosen method, and pour into a metal baking pan.
Paint: We used acrylic craft paints (Apple Barrel), watered down to the consistency of whole milk. Another marbling enthusiast I know loves Golden Opaque Airbrush Flow.
Using broom straw, plastic stir sticks, or another applicator, tap paint onto the sizing. Use as many colors as desired, with 3-6 recommended. If you stop here, you get a Turkish Stone design, which is the foundation for the marbling techniques we learned.
Turkish Stone pattern: classic paint spatter with veins, and the basis for most other designs
Patterns: Manipulating the colors was my favorite part! Drag combs, rakes, skewers, and other tools across the surface to create patterns. We learned the traditional Get-Gel pattern (literally forth and back, describing the path of your rake across the surface) and many variations.
You can create several concentric circles by tapping dots of paint onto the sizing with the blunt end of a skewer. With the pointy end, pull the four ‘corners’ of the circle into the center to create a clover, pull the rounded edges out into a point to create a flower, and so on. Check out this wacky psychedelic design! (Not my usual color palette. I think I applied some combination of my favored jewel tones, but pulling the paint with orange paper really changed the palette’s feel.)
Adding and manipulating concentric circles to the traditional paint spatter for psychedelic botanicals
Paper: In class we used construction paper, and the colored paper made the final results even more surprising. (The only marbling I did on white paper is the first Turkish Stone design above.) Bend the paper and gently lay it flat in the tray for a few seconds. Pull the sheet out onto a masonite board and squeegee the excess sizing off. Set aside to dry. When dry, store under heavy books to flatten.
Now what to do with all this marbled paper? I’ll share some project inspiration and more marbling resources next time around.