Tuesday, February 28, 2012

marbled paper

You probably know by now that I am completely obsessed with painting papers.
This will be the third (and final) installment in my "painted love" series and I saved my favorite for last.
I've tried a number of different techniques for marbling paper, but this one is my favorite.  It's cheap, easy and (relatively) not messy.

I start by pouring about an inch of liquid starch into an old 9"x12" pan.
(The only place I can find my liquid starch is Walmart - in the laundry aisle. It's dirt cheap and comes in a big bottle)
I mix cheap acrylic craft paints with water to make it drippy. How much water? It depends -this is a trial and error kind of thing because every paint has a different consistency.  The goal is to get the paint to float on top of the liquid starch.  If it's too thick it won't come off your brush in the first place, and if it comes off your brush but immediately sinks to the bottom of the pan it means you need more water.  Here are two colors floating on top:
I gently stir them with a chopstick:
I move the chopstick up and down until it looks like this:
I drag my handmade comb lightly across the surface to feather the paint.
(the comb is made from toothpicks sandwiched between 2 pieces of cardboard.  I think I learned it from Martha but can't find a link)
Now the surface of the water looks like this:
I lay a piece of card stock on top of the water and gently press it down to make sure the whole surface of the paper touches the paint:
I quickly peel it up. (this picture was from a different experiment, hence the orange paint)
Then I dunk it in a bucket of water.  You can also run it under the faucet, but I don't have a sink in my studio and I hate working in the kitchen.  This bucket works just fine.  I swish the paper around to get all the gloppy starch off the surface.  The paint stays on the paper.
Here's the finished piece:
If you're continuing with the same color palette, you can reuse the starch for many many pieces of paper. You can drag scrap paper or a paper towel over the surface to pick up any paint you didn't catch on your print, or you can leave it there and just add more paint for your next print.  Eventually you'll find your prints aren't as crisp or the colors are muddying - rinse out your pan and start over!  The big bottle of starch will get you through several sessions.

As much as I like the traditional feathered look, I absolutely adore the abstract "blobby" look, like this one:
Same technique, only this time leave the paint floating on the surface without stirring or feathering.  you might want to gently tip the pan or blow on the surface just to get the paint to spread, but leave it loose.
You can see a whole bunch more of my papers in this old post.
And here are some recent projects using my papers.
I used this one as a background for a poppy painting:
I used this one more traditionally - as endpapers in an altered book.
and check out the book - it has little DRAWERS in it.  I learned this trick from Amy in her awesome (free) altered book class on Flutterbye.
I've also been using them to decorate Altoid tins:
Big fun.
Try it.


  1. You are killing me here......and I love my tin like the one in the last two shots....can I come over and play?

  2. You make it all sound so easy, and I LOVE marbleized paper! Walmart, here I come (for starch..)! Love everything you made with it, and your handmade comb! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Great post...I learned so many things with this one. I'm going to see if I can find the starch and give this a try.

  4. Once again, good instructions! You made this look SO easy and since one of my goals is to try bookbinding this year, the marbled end papers will be perfect (though I like your more 'blobby' ones) - can't wait to give this a try!

  5. This is so cool, thanks for sharing your technique. I painted 5 hours today and am fried, but wanted to cstch was 70F pure heaven....xox Corrine

  6. You are just tons of messy fun! You try stuff that never even enters my mind.....but, then I see what you do with it...and it never leaves my mind :)

  7. Well, everyone's said everything already! :). Wait! Nobody mentioned how gorgeous poppies on top of one of your beautiful papers-Wow.... So much fun to explore, so little time!! Thanks for your excellent, easy to follow instructions!

  8. You're my new hero...gonna do it! cc

  9. Oooooo.. I'm telling MOM. You are going to get me in SO much trouble!!

  10. I must do this! Your directions just make it a must do for me!! I have done marbling with inks and it is much fainter than I want- so now I have a affordable way to do this!!!! Wow!!!!

  11. How do you do the tins, do you dip them or do you use paper and apply to tin? amazing :)

  12. I love making marbled paper. The designs are endless. Another easy, cheap way is to use cheap shaving lotion as your base. You squirt a layer over a cookie sheet, drop your inks/paints on top of that, and then swirl your colors around (or leave them in blobs). Stick your paper on top and then pull off. Voila!

    third slide in

  14. Great tutorial Karen, Thanks for taking the time to write it - I'm sure many will benefit from your shared knowledge!

    FYI, I used it as a reference on a recent paper marbling tutorial I did myself a week or two ago. Perhaps it will be of some help to your visitors interested in marbling...

    Keep up the good work and again, many thanks!
    ~ Paul

  15. Wonderful tutorial! Thank you for sharing :)

  16. Did this many years ago but forgot how. Want to show my Grandkids how, great for rainy days. Very good tutorial.Thanks