Marbling paper

Marbling paper
Since I wrote the article about making an Artist Trading Card (ATC or ACEO) with an origami owl, I’ve had a few emails asking me about the marbling of the paper I used for the owl itself, so I thought I’d briefly cover marbling because the results can be so useful for so many things.

Marbled paper can be used to cover notebooks or cans or boxes, or for making greeting cards and matching gift wrap, gift tags, envelopes, collages – or for making origami creatures! Marbling itself, as a technique, can be used not just on paper but also on boxes, candles, papier mache objects and any item that will take it.

The patterns come about because the paint floats on some sort of medium and is then transferred to your paper.

There are many different ways to achieve a marbled effect, some of them giving you no real control over the final pattern, some of them giving you complete control. I’m going to cover the way I found easiest and most convenient. It will be different for you according to what materials you already have at hand that you use for other purposes.

This is one of those activities that is better carried out on lots of newspaper to protect everything…

You can use oil paints, acrylics, tempura, marbling paint or ink, on all kinds of ‘floating’ medium like water, wallpaper paste, shaving cream, moss and seaweed.

I use plain old oil paints on water.

My container is an old baking tray which is quite shallow, and I have it filled nearly to the top with water. Mix oil paints with some turpentine. You’re aiming for it to flow like thick cream. You can check it by dropping a little onto the water – if it sinks it’s too thick and needs more ‘watering down’ with turps. If it spreads at speed across the surface of the water, then it needs thickening a little with more paint.

When the consistency is right, and you will quickly pick this up with practice, carefully drop some onto the water, using different colours or just one colour depending on the effect you want to achieve. You can let it be entirely random or use a stick to swirl the colour about and make patterns.

The paper or card that you wish to marble can be anything you fancy – I use paper out of my printer, partly because for origami I need it to be thin enough to fold sharply.

Try to ‘roll’ the paper onto the pattern of oil paint on the water surface and then lift it off smoothly, first having made sure that the paper touches the water all over its surface but without submerging it (or you’ll have white spaces where no paint adhered to the paper). When you’re feeling more confident you’ll find that you can make interesting patterns, too, by jiggling the paper as you put it onto the paint and also when you take it off, but for now, keep it simple.

Place your masterpiece face up on kitchen towel or newspaper to dry. And you have your raw material ready for all kinds of arts and crafts. Just like that!

Just below you can see some simple marbled papers I whipped up so I could make some more origami owls.

And here's the origami owl ATC or ACEO that prompted the requests for info about marbling:


Have fun!

Yours creatively


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