I sent this out a while ago — it’s by FAR the easiest and least time consuming, least expensive way to go with marbling!
AND I’ve gotten consistently beautiful results… I’ve taught this to hundreds of people!
The basics are using Art Paste from Dick Blick (it’s methyl cellulose) as the thickened water, and Golden Hi-Flow Acrylics
right from the bottle (though black may need some thinning…). DETAILS below...
with Mark Wangberg
NEW METHOD: with Elmers Art Paste — methyl cellulose, a 2 ounce box makes a gallon or more
(thinner is often better for marbling…). It is available from Dick Blick in the USA, & MUCH cheaper than
caragheenan! Mix this in a BLENDER using approximately 1 Tablespoon per 32 ounces of COOL water.
I usually add ANOTHER 32 ounces of plain COOL water for each 32 ounces of mixed paste.
Blend for about a minute, pour off into a large glass (lasts longer usually) or plastic container…
Leave OPEN overnight so that all the bubbles disappear. Then put the lid on it. I usually do the
blending WITHOUT the lid on the blender, starting on the slowest setting, and gently sifting a
little of the paste powder in until all is in and then continue running it on a higher setting for
30-60 seconds. It will start making a “slurping” sound as it thickens the water! Once mixed
this paste will last a LONG time, though the colors from Marbling seem to make it deteriorate
a bit faster. Unused, in a tight lidded container it will probably last a year or more, especially
if it is kept in cooler conditions.
NOTE > This paste is ALSO great for making paste papers!
To Mix for PASTE PAPERS > 1/2 paste to 1/2 acrylic paint… Vary the stiffness by mixing thinner
or thicker, and / or using acrylics that are stiffer or thinner to begin with...
OLD METHOD - Using Caragheenan… Buying & Mixing Info:
First, I order Pre-Cooked CARAGHEENAN (a seaweed based thickener, used
in ice cream and yogurts) from a place in Maryland called BOOKMAKERS or the
COLOPHON BOOK ARTS (in Washington State, Nancy Morains a great resource too!)
A 1/2 pound container makes a LOT of thickened water to do marbling on. Cost WAS $22.25
+ shipping 7 or 8 years ago, may be double now… and you can order via internet OR by phone
with a credit card. THIS IS BY FAR THE CHEAPEST way to have thickened water for marbling
(OTHER than Paste — which is MUCH cheaper) that I have found. I mix it in a
blender, a TABLESPOON of caragheenan sifted into a quart of cool water while the
blender is ON low with the top off. Continue blending until the mix is slurpy for about
30-60 seconds... Pour this into a LARGE container (big prezel plastic jars with lids work
well...) and then add a quart of PLAIN cool water. Continue to do this 1/2 and 1/2 mixing
until the jar is almost full to the top. Put the lid on and shake gently to mix the mixture.
Then OPEN the jar and let the mixture "cure" overnight in a cool place. NOTE: this
one 1/2 pound jar will make somewhere in the neighborhood of 20-30 GALLONS of
the caragheenan... That's enough for me to work with a class of 20 students TWICE
with 12 vats going for 3-4 days. Caragheenan only lasts for 3-5 days depending on
the heat... HEAT is its enemy and when it goes BAD it will smell like cat urine...
THE COLOR that we used in a recent workshop was Golden High Flow Acrylics-
straight from the bottle… You MAY want to experiment with thinning them,
especially the Black as it kept running… These give GREAT bright colors!
What I usually used in the classroom for COLOR is Dick Blick acrylic, Blickrylic,
which you can again buy online or by phone (ASK for a bid price on everything if you are
ordering for a school or institution because it will lower the price significantly!) You can order it
in pint squirt bottles (approx. $3) 1/2 gallon jugs (approx. $11, AND cheaper if you're
doing a lot of marbling or paste papers...) I mix the paint in film canisters for 35 mm photo
film which I can usually get free from camera stores after they have developed the film...
I put a very small amount of the paint in the bottom of the film canister -- about the
THICKNESS of a quarter (the coin) -- and then fill up almost to the top of the canister with
cool (NOT cold) water and put the lid on TIGHT and shake vigorously. NOTE: it is important
that the ink (paint and water mixture) and the caragheenan are at similar temperatures or you
will get streaky colors that won't hold your patterns well. I usually make up this mixture the
night before, but I have also mixed it (or had the students mix it themselves) the day we
TOOLS that I make available to the students in a plastic bin include:
A. Broomstraws (made from real broomstraws, cut off about a 3 to 4 inch length
bunch of the straws about 1/4 inch in diameter and twist a rubber
band around the whole bunch about a 1/2 inch down from one end).
They will need ONE broomstraw per color. These can be rinsed
off and re-used MANY times! Some of mine are probably 5-10 years old.
They need to DRY though or they will mold…
B. One Rake - I made mine from flat wood about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick,
by simply screwing 3 inch drywall screws through the wood down
the center, 2 inches apart and about 10-12 inches long in total.
The size of this Rake CAN be varied depending on the size of your tank...
As you need to be able to go down the tank in one direction leaving a "trail"
through your colors and then move the rake over HALFWAY in between
your last pass and go back in the OPPOSITE direction... without hitting
the walls of your tank... THIS TOOL CAN ALSO BE PURCHASED -
PROBABLY FROM BOOKMAKERS OR COLOPHON...
C. One Comb - I make mine from a 1/4 inch piece of PLASTIC corrugated
material*, about 2 12 inches wide by about 10 inches long. Down the
center of this piece of plastic I mark off 1/4 inch increments and then
push skinny T-pins (from the sewing department) through the plastic
so that the top of the T is resting tightly against the plastic. Work the
long ends of the pins into as straight and even a row of "teeth" as you
can and then put DUCT TAPE over the T part of the T-pins and then
COMPLETELY cover the plastic with the DUCT tape, including putting
it over the sharp (long) side of the T-pins. Seal the whole piece of plastic
as much as possible with the duct tape so that the caragheenan won't
loosen the tape so fast. Again, the size of the Comb CAN vary according
to your tank... THIS TOOL CAN ALSO BE PURCHASED - PROBABLY
FROM BOOKMAKERS OR COLOPHON… *US POSTAL boxes… OR
order from Blick, or find at some art supply stores too...
D. A COUPLE OF 2-3 INCH LONG NAILS... to do "Nail Pulls" -- a great
technique that should also be in the Chambers book…
E. A COUPLE OF INEXPENSIVE PLASTIC HAIR "PICKS" -- to do variations
on standard patterns.
F. A FILM CANISTER OF SOAP MIXTURE -- mix water with a VERY small
amount of liquid dish soap (Dawn, etc.). A drop or two should be enough.
By applying ONE drop at a time by dipping a clean & dry nail into the Soap
mix and then GENTLY touching the surface of your pattern -- this makes
open areas or blanks in the marbling patterns. Useful for stationery, writing in
a book format, OR doing nail pulls INSIDE this open area… It is important
to DRY the nail after using it — otherwise if it is put into the mixed colors
in film canisters the colors will mix with the soap and be spoiled (They’ll
spread WAY too much!)
G. 4 FILM CANISTERS OF PRE-MIXED Acrylic INKS (Mixing explained above)
using CONTRASTING colors - Cobalt Blue, Magenta, Yellow, Orange
and eventually adding Black, White, Purple, etc.
H. 20-30 Strips of NEWSPAPER -- cut on paper cutter about 3 or 4 inches wide,
and the FULL width of a FOLDED newspaper... about 30 inches wide.
These are used to CLEAR the tanks -- before starting and after EACH
pattern is printed. Hold the two ends stretched TAUT across the width of the
tank. TOUCH the sides of the tank and SOWLY lower the strip onto the
TOP surface of the Caragheenan and slowly pull toward yourself across the
tank, angled toward you like a silkscreen squeegee. This strip of paper will
“push" the color down to the end of the tank and start to absorb and collect
this leftover color... As you get near the end of the tank continue to pull UP
THE SIDE at the END of the tank and OUT into a waiting trash can.
Do your best to NOT ALLOW the colors to drip back into the tank...
Repeat if there is still color on the TOP SURFACE of the tank. If color has
sunk to the bottom LEAVE IT ALONE as disturbing it will mix it with the
Paste (Caragheenan) and speed up the process of the Paste (Caragheenan)
PREPARE THE TANK(S) OF PASTE/CARAGHEENAN - I use clear plastic storage trays
that are probably about 5-6 inches deep and about 16 inches wide by about 22 inches
long.(Available in Home Depot, hardware and department stores -- watch for sales...)
I use the lids to cover the caragheenan when we aren't using it and so I can stack the
tanks in my art room out of the way. This seems to keep the Paste / Caragheenan good
LONGER than pouring it back into the big plastic jars each day -- & saves time....
COVER your tables/work area as the colored inks are going to fly around... Put the trays
down on your tables. I usually put two trays on each art table (about 48 inches by 60
inches in size) so that four students can work at the table, two alternating at each tank.
Put a plain white piece of 12x18 inch white paper UNDER each tank to help SEE the
colors as they are VERY faint when applied to the surface of the Paste (Caragheenan.)
Fill each tank with your pre-prepared Paste (Caragheenan) to about 2 inches of depth —
it CAN be LESS deep, but sometimes students will start scraping the bottom and ANY
jiggling of the tanks can disturb their patterns...
STUDENTS / PARTICIPANTS SHOULD BE WEARING APRONS to protect their
clothing as much as possible. You are using acrylic "inks" which will be VERY HARD
to get out of clothing if it dries, EVEN in this diluted state.
READY FOR MARBLING - Basic Patterns
The next day (after prepping Paste & colors) we are ready to do the marbling.
It is helpful to learn some of the basic patterns* so I teach them:
A. Stone (looks like a marble "pudding" stone, simplest pattern,
AND 1st part to the other basic patterns)
B. Feather (looks like a feather with the correct stone pattern...)
C. Non-Pariel (FANCY pattern, developed by the French, you do THIS one
after making a good Feather pattern...)
*ALL should be described in the Chambers & Maurer books... Nail pulls too.
The Stone Pattern is made by simply applying with a broom straw quarter size
circles of 3-4 colors on the surface of the caragheenan. Dip the broomstraw (ONE
broomstraw per color, LEAVE it in the film canister...) into the color and STIR the color,
then WIPE off the excess color on the edge of the canister, then FLICK the color onto the
caragheenan surface by tapping the broomstraw like you are flicking a cigarette, OR,
tap it against the fingers on your other hand...DEPENDING on how thick the paste (caragheenan)
is, and how well you have MIXED your colors and APPLY them correctly -- what you WANT
to get is quarter sized circles of color fairly evenly applied over the whole surface of the tank...
NOTE: you will find that you need to apply quite a LOT of the first color onto the surface
of the Paste (Caragheena)n -- be patient, don't try to rush or you may put too much of the color on the
surface and no other colors will "spread" after that. This will make it VERY hard to make patterns...
NOTE: HEAVIER application of color will sometimes lead to BRIGHTER / STRONGER /
MORE VIBRANT COLORS... This is usually achieved by NOT wiping off the broomstraw after
dipping and stirring, AND, by "throwing” (not TOO hard…) the color at the Paste (Caragheenan) surface...
UNFORTUNATELY, this will also cause your Caragheenan to go BAD much quicker. The
Paste & Caragheenan go bad quicker because often-times when the color is applied too heavily it
hits the surface and SINKS, then the color MIXES with the Paste (Caragheenan) and speeds up the
breakdown of the Paste (Caragheenan)... SO, if you are only marbling for one day, and you want brighter
colors, it may not matter so much... But, if you are marbling for 4-5 days as I do in my classroom
this will probably cause problems the last few days because the Paste (Caragheen) won't work as well,
the colors will streak and not hold to the paper surface very well, the patterns may not hold as
you are working on them...
The Feather Pattern is made by making the Stone pattern with 3-4 colors, ALL of the circles
about the size of a quarter or smaller, and then passing the RAKE across the surface of the
caragheenan. Position the Rake perpendicular to and near one of the long sides of the tank.
Barely break the surface of Paste (Caragheenan) (1/4 to 1/2 inch down is fine) and SLOWLY in one
direction straight across the whole tank. GENTLY lift the Rake out of the tank, Re-Position it
so it is now HALFWAY between the last row that you have pulled and pull SLOWLY in the
OPPOSITE direction to the end of the tank. You have gone "down and back" and that
SHOULD produce a pattern that LOOKS like a Feather...
The Non-Pariel Pattern is made by first making the Stone and Feather patterns.
Now,taking the COMB -- Gently put the Comb onto the surface of the Paste (Caragheenan)
(1/4 to 1/2 inch down is fine) and SLOWLY pull in a perpindicular direction on top of
the Feather pattern you have already made. PULL VERY SLOWLY as the close proximity
of the T-Pins creates a LOT of resistance and pulling too fast will ruin your Non-Pariel pattern.
FAST movement of the comb will "push" the colors instead of pulling THROUGH the colors
and making the pattern.
I DEMONSTRATE ALL of these basic patterns on the first day and require that my
students do a WHOLE 12x18 page of each pattern. I also demonstrate how to use the
Soap techniques, using folded papers, using cut or torn paper stencils, over-marbling,
marbling on top of colored and pre-printed (xeroxed) patterned papers, "wave" pattern,
By the way -- I use 12x18 white sulphite drawing PAPER from Dick Blick. (NOTE —
EXPERIMENT with papers as Blick changed their supplier at one point and it no longer
worked so well…) I also use Fadeless color construction papers, and a variety of other smoother
papers that I can put through the Xerox machine. I copy fabrics, full size patterns from my students’
work, textures that are woven, textures from objects, etc.... Sometimes I copy these in different sizes,
overlap or cut them apart and re-construct with the various sizes…
Students should put the papers UNDER the table or to the side until they are ready to Marble them —
this is to avoid dripping Paste or caragheenan on the paper (which then acts as a resist) or accidentally
spilling or splattering ink on the paper.
Sheets of mat board (or cardboard) 14 x 20 inches or so are used to put the papers on while
they are drying AND BEFORE putting them on the drying rack.
NOTE: PAPERS SHOULD BE THOROUGHLY DRAINED by holding by one diagonal
corner and allowing them to drip back into the tank until VERY dry... Otherwise the colors
WILL RUN while the paper is drying and may ruin part of the pattern they made.
NOTE: I do NOT have students rinse off their papers — and even with the paste being used
instead of caragheenan this seems to work OK… However, with the paste there IS
even more likelihood that the papers will stick to the mat board supports so I’ve had
students put an additional sheet under their papers if they were wet on the bottom or
back of the marbled papers… So — you MAY want to rinse — even if it is ONLY the
back of the marbled papers to remove the paste...
TROUBLE SHOOTING TIPS are in the Chambers / Maurer books... I teach my students
to mix the colors so they can do this when / if they spill the inks or run out of a color / OR / want
to mix new colors. I have found that SOME colors don't work very well, so it is GOOD for students
to NOTICE what works well and in what order. Generally, the FIRST color applied is the LEAST
visible at the end of making a sheet, unless you apply it AGAIN while working on the paper.
Phthalo Green (Blickrylics) is a color that pushes / and overpowers other colors VERY quickly,
so I warn students to use it first or they may ruin a pattern they have been working on...
Experimenting is GOOD!
I have my students make about 20 sheets of marbled paper and ALMOST ALL OF THEM
have VERY GOOD pieces of paper when they are finished with 20 sheets! We go on to use
these marbled papers (AND paste papers) to make books, boxes, folders, portfolios, frames, etc.
Another Helpful Tip is HOW PUT THE PAPER DOWN on the surface of the Paste (Caragheenan…)
After making your pattern, pick up the paper by diagonal opposite corners, lower ONE corner
you are holding onto the surface, and then STILL holding that corner slowly lower the paper
down onto the surface so that the Caragheenan moves across the underside of your paper
diagonally until the last held corner is down. HOLD the paper steadily there for a second or
two which allows the color to be absorbed by the paper. MORE color on the surface of the
Paste (Caragheenan) results in MORE COLOR / BRIGHTER colors on the paper... AGAIN, THE
PAPERS SHOULD BE THOROUGHLY DRAINED by holding by one diagonal corner and
allowing them to drip back into the tank until VERY dry... Otherwise the colors WILL RUN while
the paper is drying and my ruin part or all of the pattern they made.
PREPARING THE PAPER OR NOT... I HAVE applied alum to the surface of the paper with
a sponge and then let it dry between blotting papers before marbling... However, this slows
down the marbling by at least a day or two... And, I find that the acrylics GENERALLY are good,
rich color without the alum anyway.
Happy Marbling! By the way -- I teach Marbling workshops, Paste Paper workshops, Book
Arts workshops (traditional, and my specialty, Experimental Book Arts...) if you are in need of
those services... I HAVE A BLAST teaching these things! Call me or email or write -- if you are
interested in having me teach at your school or inservice. I taught at Haverford High School near
Philadelphia for 25 years, but am retired and relocated to the San Francisco area… I’m there now,
had a recent SOLO exhibit at Risk Press Gallery (www.RiskPress.com) where I ALSO taught
a marbling class, book class, writing class! Check it out!
PLEASE CALL, EMAIL, OR WRITE IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS
Marbling Book References
The Ultimate Marbling Handbook, Diane Maurer-Mathison, go to www.dianemaurer.com and order direct
as it has just been reprinted… $80 + shipping
Marbling Internet Links
1.* Go to Yahoo Groups and join the marbling group there. The Turkish book came from them.
2.* Also go to www.youtube.com there are LOTS of marbling videos on there.
Just put things like "marbling, ebru or cloud painting" in the search box. In particular,
put in "Just Colour" spelled the English way to see a wonderful one from Southern Australia,
where they marble huge pieces of cloth.
3.* A GREAT site for the Society of Marbling is >>> http://www.marbling.org/internet_links.htm
It lists suppliers, marbling artists, etc. and has LINKS to them!
*THANKS to Sue Cole in Alaska for these sources!
Some additional Tips/Notes to the elementary teacher who did marbling in her classroom in Michigan:
The ox gall makes colors spread, it is NOT necessary with acrylics if mixed properly. The gall is usually used when using
watercolors as the paint because otherwise the watercolor just mixes or sinks into the caragheenan. IF you want to use it
make sure you only add a DROP at a time as it makes the colors spread like crazy otherwise...
In the classroom I mix 3-5 colors ahead of time for each table, and each table has two tanks so usually only 1 or 2 people
are sharing a tank. That cuts down on the "waiting" time, AND they can really learn from each other by noticing (even
taking notes) on which color was put in first, and how the pattern was created. The other thing is that the second person
can hold the board to put the wet paper on after it is dry, and then "skim" (clean) the surface of the caragheenan with the
newspaper strips before they start making their own pattern. I give each table a plastic box that has the color, paper strips,
a rake (wood and drywall screws) and a comb (recycled postal box waffle plastic & small T-pins & duct tape...), broom
straws, and nails for nail pulls, later I add a mix of soap (tiny bit of Dawn dish soap & water / like paint is mixed),
and sometimes a hairpick (like for an Afro style...) to mix it up a bit....
Let me know how the plastic broom straws work out -- I've always used natural broom straws by just buying a
cheap broom and cutting the straws to lengths of about 4 inches long, & tying about 15-20 together with a rubber band.
IF you have the kids simply rinse off the broomstraws and then dry them on paper towel stacks they seem to hold up
Note: ALL the tools and tanks should be cleaned off with water when finished and then dried by hand so
nothing rusts. The tanks I use are simply big clear plastic tubs (about 5-6 inches deep) with plastic lids. I use the tubs
that are slightly bigger than 12x18 inch paper (probably about 20 wide by 22+ long) as that makes it easier to use the
standard 12x18 inch paper, and color (fadeless best) construction papers... A rack and some mat boards (I have about
150 boards that are cut down to about 20 x 16 inches) to support the papers completes the setup. I also have aprons for
each student so they are LESS likely to get the color on their clothes (the acrylic is VERY permanent unless they wash
off, keep wet until washing at home...).
I use Dick Blick drying racks, two sided, that hold 50 sheets (on the mat board to support during drying…)
The drying racks I use are ANGLED in toward the center \ | / and this REALLY helps the papers drain
as students often don’t drain them enough before putting them on the drying rack… The drying rack
WE USED AT LAURIE’S workshop was ordered from School Specialty, under $100, came unassembled
and took about 3 hours to assemble & make ready for use...
Hope it all works WELL for you! I do suggest TRYING it all on your own before doing it with your class as it will help
you see "issues" that may arise & help your students avoid them... I DO a demo of the three basic techniques with all
my students (stone, feather, non-pariel) before they start so they see HOW it's done, AND that it requires some care
(AND takes time...) in applying the color, using the rake & comb, letting the paper drain quite completely, etc...
[log in to unmask]
Studio 28 at 28 Rich Street,
Greenbrae, CA 94904
"It's always because we love that we are rebellious; it takes a great deal of
love to give a damn one way or another what happens from now on: I still do."
Kenneth Patchen, Poet & Painter
On Apr 13, 2015, at 7:49 AM, WILLIAM DEAN MINTER <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> I am looking for a simple technique to allow a basic demonstration of marbling to a student who is heading to library school.
> In the past, I have used carrageenan moss and watercolors with ox gall, but the setup requires time and special materials. Apparently diluted oil paints can be used on a methylcellulose base. I searched the archives, but could not find a simple recipe. Do you have a suggestion?
> Bill Minter
> William Minter
> Senior Book Conservator
> Digitization and Preservation Department
> The Pennsylvania State University
> 402 Pattee Library
> University Park, PA 16802
> Phone: 814-863-2885
> Email: [log in to unmask]
> BIND-O-RAMA 2015: Celebrating the Arts of the Blook
> For message archive and all your subscription questions, go to the
> Book_Arts-L FAQ at <http://www.philobiblon.com>.
> NOTE: Postings for all events being held at a physical location including exhibits,
> lectures, workshops, ... MUST include city/state in the subject line to be approved:
> No requests for more information will be made.
BIND-O-RAMA 2015: Celebrating the Arts of the Blook
For message archive and all your subscription questions, go to the
Book_Arts-L FAQ at <http://www.philobiblon.com>.
NOTE: Postings for all events being held at a physical location including exhibits,
lectures, workshops, ... MUST include city/state in the subject line to be approved:
No requests for more information will be made.