How to Marble Paper, or My May Marbling Adventure

Update — November, 2015

I’ve been thinking about updating this page for a while and am finally tackling it.  I have changed many things in the past three years; brand of paint, type of trays, paper and some techniques. I also wanted to add information that would try to answer some of the many questions I have gotten. The complete original post is at the end of this update.

The most frequent questions I am asked are about the basic physical components of marbling – alum, carrageenan, paint and paper.  I haven’t changed the first two at all. Marbling carrageenan (not the food variety) mixed at 2.5 Tablespoons per Gallon of water (I use distilled, bottled) and marbling alum (again, not the food kind) mixed at 1 to 2 teaspoons per cup of water. I mix my alum a bit stronger than some recommendations just because I find it works better for me. The carrageenan is mixed in a high-speed blender and allowed to sit overnight.  I usually mix the alum at the same time just because it’s one less step to do in the morning! The alum just needs to be stirred a bit to dissolve.

Paints can be tricky and you need to be willing to play a bit to find the brand and type that suits your purposes best. I have been converted to Golden’s Fluid Arcylics. I think they are easier to balance, have great pigment integration and provide intense colors. However, like all paint, they can be highly individual in the way you mix them. I start my paints with 1 part paint to about  1/2 part water and add water gradually to find the right balance. Colors vary a lot – blues & greens need more water, reds and yellows need less.  Unlike the paints I used to use, even the toughest of the Golden colors needs only 20 to 30 stirs to create a good suspension and most need way less.  I took a class where the paints had been pre-mixed and even though they were the same base paint that I use all the time, the water ratios were very different and it took a few papers for me to adjust my style to the paint. The moral is play, test, try and play some more until you find what suits you and how you plan to use your paper.

I use a piece of dowel to mix the paint.  It’s tempting to just use the eyedropper, but not wise.  I used to use plastic spoons, but find that the dowel provides a better surface for reintegrating pigment that has fallen out of suspension. Some paints, especially yellows and reds, rarely fall, but blues and ultramarines have to be stirred frequently.  Metallics need stirring before almost every drop and the dowel provides a pestle-like action that works well. I much prefer using cups to leaving the paint in the bottles. Bottles will develop a thick sludge of pigment on the bottom, but with the cups you can see and control the sludge formation. I’ve used both snap lid and twist on cups and prefer the twist closure. It gives a tighter seal and avoids the splash episodes when I try to open a stuck snap-on lid! You do have to take care that the twist is fully sealed if you are leaving the paint for any period of time.


What paper you use depends entirely on what you plan to do with your marbled paper.  Always keep end use in mind.  Most of my paper ends up in my books; that’s why I started marbling in the first place.  Therefore, I use a lot of drawing weight paper (70-80lbs, 100 – 130gsm). I also use a lot of card stock (65lb., 167 gsm.) for cards and for some book uses, but it is too heavy for endpapers.  I have some beautifully marbled sheets of very heavy weight paper and even watercolor paper (400 lb.) that I love, but have yet to figure out what to do with them.  Many marblers love Texoprint paper, but I am not a fan, partially because I don’t like the way it pastes down.  I have tried marbling everything from paper napkins to mat board. So try, experiment, play!  If you are just beginning, I suggest either a 70lb. drawing paper or card stock as they are both easy to handle and have many uses.

Fun sources of marbling paper are everywhere – discarded books, maps, old magazines, sheet music,  junk mail, community flyers.  Just look around.  Slick and glossy papers are harder to marble since both the alum and paint tend to slide off, but you can have fun trying!


Trays – I have been using acrylic photo frames for marbling for a while now. They come in an array of sizes, are about one inch deep and, best of all, inexpensive. Look for frames that wrap around the sides with no seams or edging. Here are mine:

Quick closeup of the combs made by inserting roller pix into drywall corner bead.

to be added ….. ….



Everyone has different way to set up a work space.  Here’s mine. I work at a large bright yellow  kitchen table in my basement.  There is a large sink a few steps away to my right. Just to the right of the marbling table is a card table that I use to prepare my paper with alum. Six to eight pieces of alumed paper are stacked there under a light piece of press board. The board prevents the paper from curling and help keeps it slightly damp.  The marbling table – from right to left –  has paint cups, marbling tray, rinse tray.  Combs and rakes start out above the trays, short on right, long on left. By the end of a session, they are wherever I dropped them. I also have a little red rolling cart that fits under the table which holds newspaper skimmers, wiping rags, shims etc.  Most importantly, there’s a big trash can for used skimmers right under the table.  I have double lines for drying the paper a few steps to the left.  Even being in the basement with a concrete floor,  I keep a dropcloth under the drying line.  Carrageenan is very slippery!

Starting to Marble

Now that I have everything set up, I can start having fun. First move is to skim the carrageenan. No matter how carefully I skim, the first tray usually has some contamination and my first paper is a mess.  I expect that. I also use the first tray to check on the paints – how they are spreading, if they are dropping out at all, basic colors, etc.

In the photos below, please note: the table is yellow and showing through the carrageenan, no yellow paint was dropped; the two horizontal white bars are reflections of my overhead lights; the brown rectangle on the left side is a shim under the tray to level it.

The first color I dropped was black. I like to do that for two reasons, I can see the paint more easily as it spreads (a light color tends to disappear) and it results in a fine black line that helps define the pattern on the finished work.  As usual, there was some contamination at the bottom of the tray causing the jagged outlines on the circles. You can follow the results of the initial problem throughout the photos.  As each succeeding color is dropped, it pushes the previous colors, concentrating them into smaller areas and making the paint denser and brighter. It’s important to plan ahead: the first color dropped will be the strongest on your finished paper. It may also have the narrowest line.

At one point a bit of the blue “dropped out” ending up as a glob of paint on the bottom of the tray. In this case, I think it was just a bit of pigment that hadn’t been thoroughly mixed. If the same color had dropped out in all the circles, I would have gone back and added a few drops of water and tried again. If the paint had continued to drop out, I would have added a single drop of Acrylic Flow Release.  On the get-gel photos, I used a stylus rather than rakes and stopped halfway across the tray to take the photo.  At the very bottom of this page there are two photos  of me making the get-gel pattern with rakes. After the get-gel was completed, I raked the pattern once horizontally and once vertically. After laying down the paper, I stopped to take a picture. I don’t normally leave the paper sitting on the paint as the paint is transferred to the paper as soon as it touches it. Anything done after the first touch doesn’t affect the print. When I wash paper, I place the paper on the water face down and then gently swish until the entire back of the paper is wet. If the back remains dry, the paper tends to curl and dry unevenly which can cause problems. The paper is taken out of the water and hung on my line. In this case it is upside down as you can see from the placement of the white spots that were caused by the contamination in the tray. Those are areas of white paper showing through because the paint couldn’t float into that area of the tray.

Second try
Before dropping any paint for the second sheet of paper, the size must be skimmed.  I use narrow ( c.2″ wide) strips of newspaper, but there are other ways to skim. To use a newspaper strip, hold a piece of  newspaper the width of the tray between your hands. Place the ends (you can fold over any excess paper) in the two top corners so that about 1/4″ of the newspaper is on the size. Gently pull the newspaper towards the bottom of the tray, keeping it taut, but not tight enough to tear, by pressing the newspaper against the tray sides with your fingers. Your fingers should not have to enter the size. It’s harder to explain than to do!  Here’s a photo of what I’m trying to say:

Using newspaper strip to clean carrageenan

Using newspaper strip to clean carrageenan

Another way of skimming is to lay a larger sheet of newspaper down on the carageenan, as if you were “printing” and lift it off.

Using large newspaper as skim

Using large newspaper as skim

Before and after skimming.

The first photo shows the paint left in the tray after the paper is printed. Ignore the straight silver line. It’s part of the table. After skimming, you’ll be left with some paint that has already sunk into the size. It will not affect your next paper and will cause more problems if you try to go deep enough into the size to capture it. The photo of the skimmer shows that there is no color left on the surface.

Dropping paint for my second sheet.

On this tray, I made the get-gel pattern using  rakes instead of the stylus. This needs two rakes with the same distance between the teeth. One rake is an inch or so shorter than the width of the tray, the other is a bit shorter than the tray’s length.  That’s in an ideal world! Since I’m using tools from disparate sources, they don’t quite match up. You can comb either direction first. If you are good at planning ahead, try to have the length of the pattern match the grain (not necessarily the length) of the paper you are using.  To make the get-gel, place the short rake at the top of the tray with the tines about 1/4″ into the carrageenan. Don’t drag the tines along the bottom!  With one hand on each end of the rake, slowly pull it toward you. When you reach the bottom, slide the rake over so that the tines are between the lines you have just made and slowly push the rake back to the top of the tray.  Moving the rake too quickly can create a “wave” in front of it. Take the long rake and repeat, going from side to side. For this paper, I finished off with combing a vertical nonpareil pattern and then a wavy, side-to-side rake.    The important thing here is to compare the raked get-gel to the free-hand stylus get-gel. The former makes a grid-like pattern that underlies any further raking or combing. The stylus method is freer and gives more of a stripe than a grid.  I use both methods, depending on my mood and what I want for my final piece.

Third time pays for all.

After skimming, I started my third tray in my usual way, but ran into a bit of a problem when I wanted to drop some white.  Yellows tend to be very strong colors in that they spread a lot and don’t let other colors spread.  I was trying to drop white, but it wasn’t strong enough to spread against the yellow. I could have added more water or Flow Release, but if I did that, the white would be too strong when I went back to using it with the blues. I could have mixed two cups of white, one strong and the other normal, but that was too much work.  I capitulated and just used another yellow instead of white.  You really need to be flexible while marbling. The paints do have their own personalities.

I proceeded with the get-gel, nonpareil, and finished with a waved Gothic.

Laid down the paper, but as I lifted it I saw those tell-tale rings that I hate! Those rings on the size are the remains of an air bubble that formed as I laid down the paper. The bubbles created the white spots a trails on the finished piece.  So much for a wonderful paper.  At least there’s quite a bit of pattern that I can use.

Starting with Stones
Instead of using circles or eggs to get your paint onto the size, many marblers like to throw stones. It is a bit faster and much more fun!  I like to use circles in the beginning because it’s easier for me to judge how the paint is spreading and the balance among the colors. Some patterns work better with the colors being more ordered, others with the randomness of stones. It’s all what you like and what works for you.

I did two similar black and white pieces.  The first was just stones, the second combined circles and stones. I apologize for the bad photography. Several are out of focus and you can see my reflection on the bottom left of some.  I need to go back and take better shots some day.

In spite of the lack of clear focus, I think you can see the results of using the stone technique of getting the paint on the size.  There are several other ways of doing it – shaking bottles, blowing, using an atomizer – the goal is covering the surface of your size with paint that floats on the surface.  As with so many things in marbling, whatever works for you is good.

Odds and Ends

Here are some more pictures of other pieces I did in this marbling session as well as shots of what my tray looks like after three days of marbling.  Not quite as pristine as when I started.  Some marblers have the ability to keep a really clean tray throughout, but I don’t!

Many thanks to all of you who have already responded with questions and comments. I hope this update has been informative and useful.  If you have further questions, please ask.  I’ll try to answer even though I’m not an expert on many phases of marbling.  I just try to share what has worked for me.


Original post — May, 2012

My studio is in my basement, as you can see in the photos by all the shelves of stuff in the background.  What you can’t see is the other wall which opens at ground level and has windows the full length of the basement.  It gives great natural light and makes a very pleasant working space. Fortunately, I have a good sink, a washable table and a floor that I don’t worry about.

There’s a lot of prep work for a marbling session.  The first task is to make the carrageenan which provides the “size” on which the paints float.  Carrageenan must be made at least 12 hours before you want to start marbling.  I make it the evening before in a high-speed blender and it takes that long  for the foam and bubbles to dissipate.  At the same time, I mix alum to act as a mordant so the paint will bond with the paper.  I also like to mix the paint the evening before as it seems to provide time for the paint to have a more even consistency and eliminate flecks and spots. I use acrylic paints and they need to be thinned just a bit to float properly.  I have well water which is chock full of interesting minerals – iron, sulfur and more – so when preparing the size or paints, I use bottled distilled water.  Most municipal water can be used as is.

The trays I use are photographic developing trays, rather than true marbling trays. The largest size paper that I can use is about 14″ x 17″.  The carrageenan is in one tray and plain water in the second.

First step in the morning is to coat several sheets of paper with alum and let them rest under a light weight, just enough to prevent them from curling.  While the paper is curing, I hang up my line and spread a dropcloth under it, cut newspaper for skimming and make sure all the paints are ready to go.

During this session, I used eye droppers to drop paint onto the size.  Sometimes I use broomstraw whisks which creates a “stone” pattern    rather than the egg pattern shown in the photos.  Using the eyedropper creates a more regular pattern and I find it easier to control.  The whisk is more fun and gives more free form results.  It is also faster.  It depends on my mood as well as the results I’m trying to achieve which technique I use.  I rarely use both just because there’s twice as much cleanup involved – both droppers and whisks can be a pain to clean!

Photos of the process

Added January 2015

I’ve found some photos that were taken last year by a student in my marbling class which show some of the processes that I couldn’t photograph while I was working.

The combs and rakes are home made from corner bead (from the hardware store) and pins for hair rollers from a beauty supply house. Invented by Pat Thomas and directions are on her blog.

There are many more posts about how I marble in my blog.  You can find them all by clicking on “Marbling” or “Marbled Paper” in the list on the right-hand side.

Here are links to some of them:

Identifying Problems
 New Paint
Metallic Paints   More on Metallics
Marbling Workshop
Overmarbling   More

35 Responses to How to Marble Paper, or My May Marbling Adventure

  1. Sue

    What ratio of paint to water do you use the dilute the golden fluid acrylics? Do you add anything else to the mixture so they don’t spread too much?

  2. Sue,
    I don’t measure the water or the paint, but go more just by “feel”. I would estimate that it’s about 1/3 water to 2/3 paint or a bit more. Somewhere between chicken broth and tomato soup! The first few sheets of the session are used to balance the paints so that they spread at about the same strength. If one color is too thick, I’ll add a bit of water or just one drop of Golden’s Acrylic Flow Release. It is much easier to make paint spread more than it is to make it spread less, so I start very conservatively. Yellows and reds spread more than other colors and I sometimes start with them full strength and only add water as needed.
    Good luck with your marbling. It’s great fun!

    • Sue

      Thank you for responding. That helps a lot. What papers do you use?

      • As for paper, I’ve tried most everything! I’ve settled on Strathmore or Canson drawing weight paper as my standard for most bookbinding uses. I also marble a lot of card stock for cards and some folded crafts. I love marbling vintage or antique papers, but I have to be very careful with those as they can be too fragile to hang to dry. I usually have some towels laid over a flat surface so that if I run into a fragile paper, I can dry it flat instead of hanging it. I also love marbling road maps. Many people recommend textoprint for marbling, but don’t care for it. The only paper I’ve learned to avoid is anything glossy, like magazine pages or slick brochures.
        One thing I’ve learned is that paper that is very slightly acidic seems to marble better than acid-free, but it’s almost impossible to find in quality papers.
        It really depends on what you want to do with the paper afterwards. I have some wonderful sheets that are super heavy that I just can’t find a use for. I wish I had used a lighter weight paper. My advice would be just to try everything and see what suits you best.
        Oh, envelopes and writing paper are fun. Just keep the gummed flap out of the water!

  3. barbara shaw

    Thank you for your helpful instructions, I have Carrageen Moss from Donegal Ireland, I’ve boiled it and filtered it but don’t know how set the jelly should be have about 2 litres of this jelly and could boil up more moss to stiffen it if need be, You have made very beautiful papers, my son lives in Seattle Wa. and will come to England in April he would bring me some of your paper, are you near Seattle?
    Barbara Shaw

    • Barbara,
      I’m afraid I can’t help you much with the carrageenan! I’ve only used it already processed in powdered form. I use 5 tablespoons to 2 gallons (US) of water to reconstitute it. It sounds like what you have is too thick. It needs to be quite liquid, easy to pour, with a slightly slimy feel. If you’ve ever made wallpaper size, it’s about that consistency, like a very thin gruel, but not quite consomme! I think it is great that you’ve made your own. You might try putting a small amount in a saucer and placing just one drop of paint on it. If the paint floats and spreads, you’ve got it right. Just keep adding water until it works.
      I live on the East Coast, about 6 hours from New York City and 4 hours from Toronto, no where near your son. If you want to purchase my papers, I can mail them to him easily.
      Thanks so much for reading here and let me know how your carrageenan works out.

  4. Sonia

    That all looks great, thank you for posting this!

    I was wondering if I could I ask for some advice please?
    I want to start marbling and I’m experimenting now, but whenever I remove the paper from the painted size the paints sort of smear and and ooze off…
    I use alum for the paper, I mix carrageenan for the size and I use acrylics mixed with water and marbling gal, so I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong?
    The size I mix is quite thick but if I use less carrageenan the paint sinks…

    • Sonia,
      Thanks for stopping by. Paint not adhering to the paper is usually an alum problem. What is your proportion on the alum? I use 1 to 2 teaspoons per cup. However, because you are also having problems with the paint sinking, I’m thinking it might be the paint. What brand and weight are you using? When I first started marbling, I bought some heavy-body acrylics because they were on sale. Total waste of money! They are just too heavy no matter how much water you add. I use Golden Fluid Acrylics now and they are wonderful. You don’t need gall with acrylics, only if you use watercolors. I don’t know if that might be your problem or if it doesn’t make any difference. I don’t have much experience with gall. I use Golden Acrylic Flow Release when I need extra help in spreading paint.
      Carrageenan mixed at 2 to 2.5 Tablespoons per gallon should give you a good consistency for your size.
      What happens when you rinse your paper? Does all the paint wash off or just some? Do you rinse under a faucet or use a bath? I prefer a bath as it is gentler, especially on vintage papers. If you can post a picture of what your paper looks like as it comes from your marbling tray, I might be able to help more.
      In my latest blog, I’ve been trying to show common problems and their causes. There are so many factors in marbling that it is sometimes hard to see what is going wrong.
      Good luck!

  5. Betty

    hi I just found this site and I just started marbling this year. I have been using the texoprint with no problem. But the past two times I have tried marbling the paint is not sticking to the paper very well. I am using some older alum that I used to use for yarn. Could it be that my alum is just too old and I need to get a new batch? I would love to try a gentle water bath but right now if I tried that all the paint would come off. I am using a mister. If I get the new alum do you think I could have success with the bath method?

    • Betty,
      Glad you found me! Nice to know that people are reading my jottings. I don’t know a lot about yarn mordants, but I know you can use many different types to acquire different colors – tin, copper, iron etc. Aluminum sulfate is necessary for marbling and most experts recommend using only alum that is made specifically for marbling. Yes, it can get old and if the paint is sliding off the paper it is definitely a problem with the alum, not the paint or paper. I use a slightly stronger mixture than usually suggested – 1 1/2 tsp. per cup and it works for me. How are you applying the alum? With a sponge or a mister?
      Marbled paper should be rinsed to remove excess paint, carrageenan and any contamination. I don’t think just misting the paper after marbling would be very effective in this process. How do you dry your sheets, by hanging or lying flat? Can you hang your sheets without the paint moving? Sorry for all the questions.
      I would advise that you get some alum that is designated for marbling. First do a trial paper and just hang it directly from the carrageenan. If the paint doesn’t move, on the next sheet try using the bath to rinse and hang it. The rinse water will change color if you have used more paint than the paper can absorb, but that’s normal.
      Good luck with your marbling.

      • lil mena

        hi Nancy
        love you article thanks
        I amin Costa Rica I understand that carageena does not work on hot days how hot is that?

        • Thank you for reading my blog. In my experience when the temperature is above 80* F, the carageenan seems to break down more quickly. You can still marble on it for a day or two. If you can store it in a cool place overnight, that will help extend the life. In summer, I sometimes put half of the carageenan in the refrigerator until I’m ready to use it. In the winter, it just stays in the studio, under my table.

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  7. Nicholas

    I’ve been trying to do marbling but am struggling with the thickness. I’m using gouache paints, to which how much water and oxtail to mix in I have no idea. Also, you said 2-2.5 tablespoons per gallon would work, which is a bit vague… Could you please help me?

    • Nicholas,
      Thanks for visiting my blog. I’d like to help, but you have confused me! I’m not sure if the thickness problem is with the paint or the sizing. The 2.5 TBS per gallon is for the carrageenan, not the paints. What are you using in your tray as the size to float the paints? Carrageenan or methyl cellulose are the two recommended media.
      I use acrylic paint (Golden Fluid Acrylics), not watercolors. Gouache may be just to heavy and thick to float well. For regular watercolors or acrylic paints, you can start with 75% paint – 25% water. If that doesn’t float, add water, just a drop or two at a time until you get the right balance. On this page you can see photos of my paints that may help you see their consistency.
      Good luck with your marbling and ask again if you are still having problems.

  8. Alisa

    Hi there, thank you for this helpful blog post! I was wondering what size tray you use for the paper marbling process and where can I purchase one (like that clear acrylic one in your picture above)? Did you have yours custom made? I can’t seem to find one anywhere that is large enough for marbling paper…

    • Alisa,
      Thanks for you kind words about my blog. I started it just to keep track of what I was doing, but I’m glad I’ve been able to help some people.
      When I first started marbling, I also hunted everywhere for an inexpensive tray, but then I took a class that used these. They are really clear acrylic frames! Michael’s and other craft places carry them in a number of different sizes. I use a 16″x 20″ for most of my marbling, but they make larger ones – I think 18″ x 24″. Michael’s doesn’t list them online, but most of their stores carry them. The brand I have is Studio Decor Basic, but there are others. Be sure to test that it holds water before using! A little sealant, caulk or super glue in the corner will fix any leaks.
      I can’t figure out how to add a photo to this message, so I’ve added some to this blog under “Tools”. I didn’t realize that I never finished that section. Will have to get back to it.
      Have fun marbling and please ask if there’s anything else.

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  10. Sabina

    Hi there! I’m trying to do marbling paper but I can’t find carrageenan in any place of Manchester. I’d like to know if can I use another kind of gelatine?

    Thank you so much

    • Thanks for checking out my blog.
      You can also use methyl cellulose, but it doesn’t work as well. Easiest thing to do is order it online. You can find it on eBay, Etsy, maybe on Amazon and from bookbinding supply houses like Talas.( ) There’s a place in Israel that sells it both on Etsy & eBay that’s very reliable. Sorry, I can’t think of the name right now. Just Google “Marbling carrageenan”, but be sure to get the kind that’s produced for marbling, NOT the food additive.
      Good luck and happy marbling!

  11. Jess

    Hi Nancy,
    Great blog, you make some really lovely stuff!

    A question about reds. I also use Golden fluids as they have such good pigment loads, but I am having some issues with my red, namely Quinacridone Crimson. I love the colour but when I use it, it seems to just run off the paper leaving a faded look. All the other paints work fine, so have I just got the ratio wrong (ie too much water) or is it something to do with the pigment in the paint itself?

    Kind regards

    • Jess,
      Thanks for the compliment. I haven’t done any writing in a while, but I do try to keep up with any comments.
      I’ve never used Q. Crimson so don’t have direct knowledge. I have used and love Q. violet, but I tend to stick with alizarin crimson for my red.
      There are a couple of things that might be causing the problem that I can think of. Is the paint really washing off the paper? Is the rinse water turning red? If so, then it might be a mordant problem. I assume you are using marbling alum. I’ve found that very occasionally, one specific color doesn’t “take” with the alum. For some reason the chemical bond isn’t formed with the paper. I don’t have enough background in chemistry to explain it, but it seems that is what is happening. I had that happen with Mars Black and nothing I did could fix it.
      If the paint is just turning pink when it dries and is not staining the wash water, then it is probably a question of too much water added to the paint. Reds and Yellows need very little thinning. In fact, I usually start with them at full strength and only add water if they aren’t spreading.
      You can try making a series of test strips with different strengths of alum. The first with 1 tsp. per cup. 2nd with 2 tsp. per cup and so on. Don’t forget to mark the strips with the strength! Then just dropping the crimson, put all the strips on the same tray and see what happens. To test if it is the amount of water, mix tiny amounts of paint with differing amounts of water. In a small tray with small sheets of paper, sample each strength separately using only the crimson. Again don’t forget to label each sheet with the strength so you can compare results. Be sure to play with the patterns on these mini tests. Marbling with only one color can give some interesting results.
      If all that seems too bothersome, just switch the Q. crimson for another red!

      Good luck and let me know if any of these experiments work. I’m sure that other marblers may have had similar problems.


      • Jess

        Thanks for your thoughts Nancy. It seems that a stronger concentration of alum was needed to help fix the red. It still isn’t quite as strong as I’d like on the paper so I will experiment with alizarin crimson as well as trying the Q. Crimson in varying concentrations.

        I’m pretty new to marbling so it’s all part of the learning experience! It is addictive fun though!

        • You are right. It is definitely addictive!
          Two hints to remember: the first color dropped will always be the most intense, so if you want strong black or red lines, drop them first. Second the intensity of all the colors depends more on the amount of total paint floating on the carrageenan, than on the intensity of the individual colors. This means that 4 drops of an intense red will always look pink, 40 or 400 drops will be red.
          To see many shades of a specific color, try doing what I call minimalist marbling. Drop the color, then white, then the color again and repeat several times until you have a full tray. See Minimalist
          Have fun!

  12. Conda Puckett

    You have the best directions and information I have seen anywhere …thank you so much…. I am enjoying marbling but there are certain things that I do forget from time to time

  13. Joseph M Aviles

    Thank you for you blog. I have just stumbled on it as I am just doing the research and trying to learn all I can about paper marbling. You have answered so many of my questions in one shot that I am ecstatic!
    Tried to get to your friends site to learn about how you to make some combs, and the site was no longer there. Would you have someplace that may direct me in the right direction?

    Sincerely seeking,

    • Joe,
      Glad you found my blog useful.
      I’m sorry that Pat has removed her blog. I sent people there all the time for her instructions on how to make combs/rakes. Here is her FaceBook page. You might send her a message asking about them.
      The combs are made from the plastic corner bead used on drywall, available at most hardware stores. The cheapest kind is the best as you have to bend one edge in. The points are made by sticking hair roller pins (available at Sally’s Beauty supply) through the top and bottom holes on one side of the corner bead. The bead can be cut to the length or width of your trays. The bead can be tough to cut, strong scissors or tin snips are needed. Combs can be made with the pins in every row of holes or with any distance between that you want.
      I’ll try to post a few quick photos on this page since I can’t seem to insert them here.

      PS. I added the photos under “tools” in the beginning of the post.

  14. Mary

    Thanks so much for this! I’ve been trying to marble and keep having problems and google just hasn’t been helpful. I’ve tried the Jaquard marbling paints and the golden fluids. With both some colors don’t spread evenly and just look like specs of color, like flakes. Once i did one drop of purple and it started nicely, but then one side started flaking and the other side was fine… White, black, yellow, blue, not the same ones at the same time. I thought it was the jaquard paints at first, but the golden fluids are doing it too. Also, I had another weird problem today. I would put my first layer down and everything spread great, then I’d put another layer down and it would sink. If i then used that second color first it spread great and then the first color from before would sink and a third color would be ok! So for example, I put black first, spread beautifully. Second color was blue, it sank. Third was yellow it spread. So I took that off and then I put blue down first and it spread beautifully, then yellow and it sank…. any ideas? At this time my yellow was also doing that flaking thing when it spread.

    • Mary,
      Thanks for stopping by my blog. I hope I can help. Let’s eliminate the easy part first. I’m assuming you are using carrageenan for your size and that you skim carefully between each application of paint. Contamination of the size can be a major cause of problems. That is a common cause of flaking. Another cause can be that the paints are not in even suspension and need to be thoroughly stirred. This is very common with Ultramarines and metallics.
      Paynes’ gray and black also tend to need more stirring. This is one reason I don’t like using bottles to drop my colors. I use small cups so I can stir and check to see if the paint is settling into a sludge on the bottom of the cup.
      Paint laid down on the size drops out when it is too thick/heavy for the size to support its weight. It happens if you put too much paint on the size or if the paint hasn’t been thinned to the correct consistency. It’s not unusual for the 5th, 6th or 7th color laid down to start to drop out, no matter the order of the particular colors. It’s like putting weights on a balance scale, you can put them on in any order, but when the total reaches a certain weight, the balance will move. With your problem, the size seems to be able to carry only one paint. I suspect that the paint hasn’t been thinned enough. Even Golden’s Fluid Acrylics need to be thinned by 1/3 to 1/2. Alternatively, the size may be too thin, but that’s a less common problem.
      As an experiment, use a small tray for the size and use two colors that have been stable for you (don’t use red or yellow) and drop one drop at full strength, mix a few drops of water with the paint and drop again, mix a few more drops, drop the paint and continue. This is just to watch what happens as the paint becomes thinner. The more water is added, the more the paint should spread. At some point, the size won’t be able to hold more paint and the paint will stop spreading and begin to drop out.
      Good luck and let me know how your experiment works out. Marbling is really an exercise in balance.

  15. Hi!!

    Thank for all of this detailed information. I used to marble with utrech acrylics, but now I’m going for Golden fluid. However I realized that my blues, and purples turned out quite dull and not opaque enough. Any suggestions? I’m using Cobalt blue, diozaxine purple, cobalt turquois and ultramarine violet.

    Thanks in advance!

    • Roxana,
      Thanks for stopping by my blog.
      As far as the colors go, there are two factors to consider: first is the paint itself and second is your marbling technique.
      Some of the Golden colors are transparent, not opaque, and you have to be careful about those. I did a quick check and the only one I saw was the ultra. violet which they call “moderately transparent”. Here’s the best information on individual colors I have to remind myself that these colors are developed for painters and marbling is secondary to them! I’ve also found that certain colors just don’t work well for me, but I tend to forget which ones! I think the Cobalt blue was one of the “baddies”. I usually have half a dozen blues on the table and just grab without checking the name of the color.
      The second possibility is that you are diluting the paint too much in your initial mixing. All paints need some water added to be the correct density for marbling, but I have found that the amount to be added varies by color. The way to check this is tedious, but useful in the long run. With a very small tray (you don’t want to waste too much carrageenan, paint or time) start with a color at almost full strength drop just that color multiple times and print. Add a measured amount of water, five or ten drops, or whatever seems right to you and repeat. Keep doing this until you think you have the color you want. BE SURE to mark the papers 1,2,3 etc. and keep notes on number of drops etc. If they are all too pale and wimpy, you may simply be dropping too little color. The intensity of your colors depends on the total amount of paint on your size. If you’ve done a bit of marbling, I’m sure you’ve seen red turn to pink. That’s just because the red has been able to spread over a large area and thinned out. It’s also why the first color you drop is always the most intense. It has been pushed together by all the following colors.
      Hope this helps some, if not let me know.

  16. Sue

    Thank you for a very informative site. I’m in the uk and have ordered after much toing and froing on Google Iota Carrageenan. You mention it shouldn’t be food grade but I have searched high and low and have not seen non food grade anywhere. Is this going to affect my marbling?
    Also I am in a hard water area so have purchased spring water to mix. Can you help please? Do I still mix the same ratio of carrageenan to water and how long will it last?

    • Sue,
      Thanks for reading my blog.
      I’m not sure I can give you more help with your carrageenan. I’m not a chemist and have never gotten into the lambda vs. iota discussion. My understanding is that most carrageenan that you can buy is food grade, including that used for marbling, so that shouldn’t be a problem. I always buy carrageenan that is labelled specifically for marbling. Of the hundreds of batches of carrageenan that I’ve made, I’ve only run into problems a couple of times, so I suspect it was something I did, like mis-measurement or contamination, rather than the carrageenan itself.
      Correctly made carrageenan should last three to five days and may go as long as seven, especially in cool weather. In really hot weather, 90*F and above, it will break down faster.
      One caution, spring water may contain minerals so I prefer distilled water. In the US, even the generic bottlers make gallons of distilled water at the same price as their regular water. Try the spring water, though, it should be fine.
      Good luck with your marbling!

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