This is not a project, but it is an information page for those who might be interested in learning about marbling.

Marbling is a process of putting interesting designs onto cloth or paper. The above picture is an example of a design that was transferred to cloth. The great thing about marbling is that even if you have little artistic talent, you can still make very beautiful designs.

The process is simple in concept, but it may be difficult to obtain the necessary tools and materials.

First, you need a container that will hold a liquid. A flat pan of at least page size or larger is needed.

Second, you fill the container with a suitable liquid. There are several mixtures that can be used.

  • Methyl Cellulose (MC) – MC is a powder that you mix with water. Add 4 tablespoons of MC into 1 gallon of water and stir until there are no lumps. Add 2 teaspoons of ammonia and stir until the mixture has thickened. Then add 2 teaspoons of white vinegar to adjust the pH and stir.
  • Cellulose wall paste – Wall paste is more readily available. Mix 2 to 3 tablespoons into 1 gallon of water.
  • Starch – Fabric starch is another choice.

Each of these mixtures require you to let the mixture age so it has the correct consistency. It is necessary that the mixture be denser than water and have a high enough surface tension so that paint will float on the surface.

The designs at right were done on paper.

marbling sample
marbling sample
marbling sample

You also need an acrylic paint. You start by dropping a single drop of paint on the surface of the liquid mixture. If everything works correctly, the paint will spread out into a large circle. Place several drops in different places around the surface of the liquid. These are called “stones.”

Then drop another color of paint in the center of each expanding circle. You can do this with different colors forming concentric rings of color.

You may use the design that you have created or you can gently distort the circular shapes by using a thin stick or a “comb” (a comb is a device similar to a hair comb but with the teeth more widely space.)

Once you have created a design on the surface of the liquid, it may then be transferred to cloth or paper. The cloth or paper needs to be mordanted first. Alum is used to mordant cloth or paper. The purpose of the mordant is to assure that the paint adheres to the cloth or paper. To mordant cloth, stir one-half cup of alum into 1 gallon of water. Place the cloth in the alum solution (wear rubber gloves) for about 10 minutes and then hang the cloth to dry. Iron out any wrinkles with a cool iron (a too hot iron may produce noxious fumes.) For paper, mix 1 tablespoon of alum in 1 cup of water. Sponge this solution onto the paper; then press it with weights for about an hour.

To transfer the paint to the paper or cloth, hold the paper (or cloth) at opposite corners and gently lower it onto the surface of the liquid in your container. Let the entire surface of the paper contact the design and then lift the paper. Place the paper on a flat surface and gently rinse the surface with clear water to remove any of your liquid mixture. Let the finished product dry. After it is dry you may use it for various other projects.