Paper Marbling Made Easy

Paper Marbling Made Easy

Posted by DecoArt on Oct 26th 2015

Most of us love marbled papers and most of us would love to do them ourselves but then get intimidated by such mysterious ingredients like the often used Carragheen for example and by the obvious "science" there seems to be to real paper marbling. Back at school I taught a rather simple but still effective paper marbling technique that doesn't need any "science" or mystery ingredient – good old wall paper paste does the trick almost as well and a lot cheaper! 

Items Needed:

  • 4 Additional Colors Of Media Fluid Acrylics
  • Wall Paper Paste
  • Soft Brushes
  • Water
  • Several Small Cups/bowls (one For Each Colour)
  • Two Styrofoam Trays (one Slightly Larger Than The Other)
  • Sheets Of White Printer Or Water Colour Paper (cut To Size Of Your Smallest Tray)
  • Egg Whisk
  • Sheeting
  • Pipette


Start with mixing your priming by pouring cold water (about 1 ½ fingers deep) into the smaller styrofoam tray (the one I used was about 7''by 9'') and stirring in about 2 tablespoons of the wall paper paste powder using the egg whisk. Rather start with adding too little powder as you can always go in and add more if necessary. Let sit for fifteen to twenty minutes before you check again. Use that time to prepare the paints and the place where you want to spread your marbled papers for drying (as explained in the next step).

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You will want to have everything ready and in reach before you start with the marbling. Thoroughly cover your desk and the "drying area" with some sheeting. You will only need a small space on your desk but a far larger space for the amount of papers you intend to do as they all have to be spread out singularly. Best let them dry overnight and make sure they don't touch each other. Don't be afraid – they won't be "glued“ to the sheeting and will come off easily once they are dry.

Pour small blobs of each Media fluid acrylic colour into the bowls and dilute with about twice as much water (using a pipette). Make sure you have an extra brush and water jar for the white paint!

Place the larger (empty) styrofoam tray next to the other. 

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Now's the time for the first test on your paints and priming. Your wall paper paste should feel as if you were dipping your finger into a yoghurt drink – not too creamy but also not as liquid as milk.

Take a brush and sprinkle some drops of diluted paint onto the surface of the priming (I recommend you use a darker tone for better visibility). If the paint sinks to the ground, it isn't thin enough – add some more water to the paint and mix thoroughly.

If the paint spreads too quickly and "vanishes" on the priming try adding some more drops of paint to your mix first to make it thicker and see how that will work. If it still spreads too quickly, add another half table spoon of wall paper paste powder and wait for another ten minutes before you try again.

This is the step that takes the most patience as you have to do some test sheets, go back in and add powder or water, try again, find out which paints and dilutions work best (because the different tones can behave differently) but I promise it is so worth it! Once you have found your recipe for the right priming consistency and dilution of the paints, you won't ever want to stop again! I promise! 

Ideally your paints should look like this when being sprinkled onto the priming  

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Take a deep breath, relax and cross the word "perfection" from your list!

Don't start with aiming for the one and only perfectly marbled sheet with the exact colour scheme you have in mind – as this will rather lead to frustration – especially at the beginning of your marbling session or when you are doing this for the first time. Your first ten to fifteen sheets are very likely to turn out totally differently to what you might have expected from the paints you had dripped onto the priming. But as you keep going you will get a feel for the best amount and order in which to apply the colour tones, for how quickly to work, how loosely or precise, you will find your favourite colour scheme recipes...

...but then often the more accidentally done sheets turn out the most beautiful ones!

So don't put any pressure on yourself. Just see and find out where the technique and the "behaviour" of the paints on the priming will take you.

I recommend though that you do a design (colour scheme) at least two times (so you can use two according sheets for creating a booklet for example).  

When you start adding paint to the priming start with evenly spreading drops of one will be the less visible paint afterwards as it will be pushed aside by the paints that are to follow. But it is the colour that will hold the other tones "in place" - so choose one that spreads well and evenly.

Then go in with the next tone and place drops in the centre of each previously applied drop. Keep doing this with some more tones until you are content (you don't have to be too precise with this).

You can now either leave the design as it is and "pull" your first marbled sheet with a rather dotty pattern...or go in with a skewer and do the "real marbling".

To do so carefully and slowly drag straight lines (or swirls) through the applied paints. As the priming isn't too liquid the paints won't move too far or quickly. Don't overdo this step as you might easily end up with a "muddy" effect.

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Once you are content with your pattern quickly place a sheet of paper onto it (rolling it on rather from one end so there won't be any air bubbles) and let sit. You know that the paint has seeped into the paper when the marks start showing through on the back. Be patient – the longer you let it sit, the more intense your colours will turn out!  

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Take your fingers (or tweezers) and pull your marbled sheet from the first tray to the second (flipping it around so its painted side faces upwards). Make sure you drag the sheet over the edge of the first tray so most of the priming gets taken off and stays in the "marbling tray" for further use.

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Carry the tray with the marbled sheet to your sink and thoroughly rinse off any wall paper paste residue. Don't be afraid of tearing your sheet. Let the water jet do the work for you while you move the tray under it. Then carefully lift your marbled sheet off the tray and place it in your prepared "drying area".

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Don't worry if your priming starts looking murky. That doesn't affect the marbling process or the paints you apply. It's just residue of paint that has sunken to the tray's ground.

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Once the sheets are all dry they become sturdy again and can be used for a lot of wonderful crafty projects! You can also hang the wet papers on a clothes line (which will have them dry faster – but then make sure there's only a small flap over because this one will glue itself to the back of the paper when they touch.  

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Soon you will have a lovley collection of marbled papers ready for use with loads of lovely craft projects! And they are perfect for wrapping up little presents or covering books!  

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