Marbleizing is a method
of decorating paper or fabric through the manipulation of floating
colours. It is a process whereby colour is applied to the surface
of a thickened liquid and fashioned into artistic patterns. Paper
of fabric prepared with a mordant is then briefly laid down upon
the surface to print. The paint adheres to the paper or fabric
upon contact and the design is transferred.
The first known use of marbleizing was in the eighth century in
Japan to produce writing paper with delicate designs in the corner.
The art progressed to Persia and Turkey and reached Europe in
the fifteenth century. It reached its high point in the late nineteenth
century art style known as Art Nouveau.
Classic or Turkish marbleizing is done with water-based colours.
This method yields vivid patterns, offers many design options
and is very easy to clean up. Oil colour marbleizing is easier
in the initial preparation but tends to offer a smaller range
of effects and is much more difficult to clean up.
Pebeo Marbling Colours
These professional pigments produce unrivalled colour in an easy
to use non-toxic system.
It involves a thickening powder for the preparation of the bath
with 9 colours and with heat fix. Colours are intermixable but must
be pre-mixed prior to be being used in the tray with the thickening
for other Pebeo
The Extender may be applied to obtain clear areas in the pattern
or it may be mixed with the colours to pastel them. It may also
be applied to the surface of the base under the first colour to
prevent rapid spreading, or it may be applied at the edges of the
tray after the colour is laid to force the colour away from the
A much simpler mixing alternative than using Carrageenan. This
base mixes up in 1 hour. Simply mix with water, pure ammonia and
vinegar and it is ready to use. Twenty five grams of base will make
approximately 4 Litres of size.
Also known as Aluminum Sulfate or Potassium Aluminum Sulfate.
It is mixed with tap water as mordant to make the colours adhere
to the fabric or paper. The former is preferred for paper marbles
as it is less acidic and therefore does not cause deterioration
over a long period of time
MATERIALS AND EQUIPMENT
Fabric or Paper
Most plain woven fabrics
are suitable for marbleizing. Cotton, silk, linen, wool and most
cotton/polyester blends may be used with the Marbleizing Colours.
Synthetic fabrics and leathers may require experimentation. If
using paper it should be firm enough to prevent tearing. Do not
use paper with glazed or sized surfaces.
Also known as Aluminum
Sulfate or Potassium Aluminum Sulfate. It is used after mixing
with tap water as a mordant to make the colours adhere to the
fabric or paper. The former is preferred by paper marblers as
it is less acidic and therefore does not cause deterioration over
a long period of time. Use a plastic dish pan or bucket to soak
the fabric OR a sponge brush and smooth surface to evenly coat
There are a few brands
out on the market; Pebeo Marble, Liquitex, Setacolor Pearl, and
our own G&S Marble Colours. All brands have their own advantages
Size bases are made
from vegetable matter which is added to water to thicken it and
form the suspension mixture upon which the colours float. Advanced
Marbleizing Base or Pebeo Base are ready to use in approximately
1 hour. Carrageen Moss or Sodium Alginate may also be used. Both
are extracts of seaweed and must be prepared the day before using.
Carrageen Moss is usually cooked, Sodium Alginate is not.
A great variety of
containers may be used, they should be 1/2" to 1" larger
all around than the fabric or paper to be printed. The classic
marbleizing tray is 3" deep, an average size would be 20"
x 26". It is easier to print from a shallow container and
easier to see the floating designs if it is a light colour. Ready
made containers such as plastic dish pans, cat litter boxes, photography
trays or rating pans may be used. Base containers may be made
very simply from a cut down cardboard box slopped into a white
garbage bag. Very large trays may be improvised by nailing 2"
x 4" boards at the corners, use a plastic drop cloth draped
over the center and edges of the boards and filled with base.
Use a stylus for free
style marbleizing and for drawing colour into patterns. The stylus
can be a thin wooden stick, a T-pin, a Knitting needle, a stick
Rakes and combs are used to form other types of patterns. These
may be purchased or made. Ordinary hair combs or hair pick work
well. Combs may be made by pushing nails, Straight pins or T-pins
into the corrugation of a 1" wide strip of cardboard and
taping over the top. The teeth should be evenly spaced and long
enough for easy manipulation. A row of straight pins stapled and
taped to a narrow piece of wood also makes a good comb. The comb
cannot be wider than the tank and must be a couple of inches shorter
to make a zigzag motion.
Whisks and drop brushes are used to apply many drops on the size
at one time. W
hisks to splatter paint may be made by putting a rubber band around
one end of a bundle of broom bristles.
Eyedroppers or plastic applicator bottles can be used to apply
colours. The applicator bottles can be resealed and used to store
Cut strips of newspaper
into 2" wide strips as long as the width of the tank. Use
them to scrape excess paint from the surface of the size. Newspaper
may also be used to cover the work area and to dry printed fabric.
Garbage bags and rags or paper towels also come in handy.
Alum Mordant - Do this the day before Marbleizing
First wash the fabric
to remove dirt, oils and finishes to allow for good colour pick-up
and penetration. Dry and iron or iron dry to remove wrinkles.
Next prepare the alum mordant solution. Use 2 Tbsp. of alum per
litre or quart of warm tap water. Stir to dissolve. Add the fabric
and soak for 15 minutes, (20 - 25 minutes if you are reusing the
solution), with intermittent stirring. Remove fabric allowing
alum solution to run back into the container for future use. Do
not rinse. Hang or lay flat to dry. If there are wrinkles in the
fabric iron it lightly, but do not use steam.
Mordant may also be applied to the fabric with a foam brush or
sponge. Wear rubber gloves. Lay the fabric on a firm surface,
make sure the solution penetrates the fabric and is applied evenly.
Allow to dry flat. Seal excess solution and store in a cool place.
Fabric may be cut to size before or after applying the mordant.
Paper may either be coated using a sponge or soaked in the solution.
Paper is usually weighted down while drying to prevent wrinkling.
An overly concentrated alum solution can cause colours to flake
off the paper.
Mordanted fabric or paper does not need to be printed all at once,
it may be stored out of direct light for several days.
Sodium Alginate must
be prepared the day before using. Mix 1 Tbsp. of Sodium Alginate
per litre or quart of lukewarm water, stir very well or use a
blender to mix and set side overnight to dissolve. Reduce with
lukewarm water to the consistency of heavy cream before using.
Sodium Alginate must be stored in the fridge, it may be reused
until it either becomes too thin or grows mold.
Advanced Marbleizing Base M112 is ready to use in about an hour
and a half. Dissolve 1 tablespoon of the powder per litre of warm
water. Mix until all powder has been dispersed and then add now
and NOT BEFORE 1/3 tsp of clear household ammonia for each litre
of water. Stir until the solution has slightly thickened. Allow
to stand in a sealed container for an hour and a half. It is now
ready to use. Do not make batches of 8 litres or more in one container
at one time.
Pour the base gently into a marbleizing tray to a minimum depth
of 1 inch. Surplus base should be covered and stored. The base
and the tray should both be at room temperature. Skim the base
with a strip of newspaper to reduce surface tension and to remove
dust and air bubbles. Hold the strip at a slight angle to the
surface of the base bath and gently move the paper toward you,
do not agitate the base. Repeat 6 times. It is helpful to know
that if the base mixture is too thin the colours will sink. If
it is too thick the colours do not spread out enough. Thicker
bases are used for designs that require greater control.
Application Of The
Begin with just two
or three colours. Apply the paint drop by drop holding the applicator
tip close to the size. The colour will spread into a round shape
and then stop. The circle of colour is usually about 3" in
diameter. Add other colours until the entire surface has been
covered with paint. The more drops of colour, the more intense
the colour yields as the later drops will not spread as much.
It is not unusual for a little colour to sink below the surface
of the base during application. Once you notice that the colour
has sunk, do not add any more colour. Pour a small amount out
and thin with colourless extender. Continue to applying colour.
If colour still sinks refer to "Trouble Shooting".
Certain colours may spread too quickly and wide. The main causes
are the base being too thin. You can add a few drops of anti-spread
to slow the colour spreading.
Take a stylus and begin to manipulate the colours to form patterns.
Pull the colours until the desired design has been produced. Move
the stylus tip on the surface of the paint. Wait until the colours
stop moving before printing the fabric.
Printing The Fabric
Hold the fabric right
side down with one hand at each end and let it droop in the center
to form a U shape. Lower the drooped center to the surface of
the base and then release the sides in a continuous smooth motion
so no air is trapped underneath. Do not force the cloth or paper
under the surface of the bath. Allow the paint to saturate a few
seconds. Lift the fabric up by the far corners in a peeling motion
and lay it face up on several pieces of newspaper or a plastic
Rinse gently in cool bucket of water to remove excess size and
place on clean newspaper to dry, paper should be placed on a smooth
Sometimes there is enough colour left on the base to make a second
print but it will be fainter than the first. Sometimes more colour
can be added and manipulated to make another print.
Skim the surface of the size with a lean strip of newspaper to
reuse size. Repeat until the size is clear of colour. You are
ready to print again.
The Colourless Extender
The Extender may be
applied to obtain clear areas in the pattern or it may be mixed
with the colours to pastel them. It may also be applied to the
surface of the base under the first colour to prevent rapid spreading,
or it may be applied at the edges of the tray after the colour
is laid to force the colour away from the tray sides.
After the fabric is
dry iron it on the back side for one minute at the hottest setting
for the fabric. Wash in Lissapol detergent and lukewarm water.
Rinse in cool water and dry.
may be used for greeting cards, book bindings, box covers, earrings,
broaches and scarves. Also for pillowcases, lamp shades, wall
hangings, appliques, quilts, clothing, purses, sneakers and so
To marbleize large pieces of fabric either hold the ends straight
with shinshi (thin bamboo strips with pins at both ends) or roll
the fabric on two wooden rods from opposite ends toward the center.
Fasten the ends of the fabric to the rods for easier manipulation
If the colours appear
grainy on the surface of the size either the base or the colours
are too cold, both should be about 70oF.
If colours sink into the size the colours might be too cold, the
base might be too thin OR the colours might require a little thinning.
To make the base thicker, mix separately a very thick solution
then add it to the thin solution. Do not add powder directly to
the thin solution since it contains the ammonia and the powder
will not dissolve properly. To thin the colours, add a little
colourless extender before applying to size.
If the colours are too pale on the paper of fabric, use a stonger
mordant solution. Add up to three tablespoons of alum to one litre