The Marbling Experiment

Jul 27, 2015 | The Publishing Industry


I wish I had more photos to show, but honestly, it was so messy I didn’t dare pick up my phone! I tried marbling some paper over the weekend, and I picked two different ways: using shaving cream, and using cornstarch. I treated some paper with alum before starting on the actual marbling.

The Shaving Cream

I attempted this in a pan using a method you see around quite a bit. Really all you do is fill a pan with shaving cream, dump blobs of acrylic paint into it, and swirl them around to make patterns. Then you lay the paper onto the pattern, lift it up (and it’ll be covered in shaving cream, mostly) and then scrape it off to reveal the marbling.

This went completely wrong when I scraped the stuff off. It looks like you have to get every last inch of the paper covered in shaving cream or paint, and it needs to be left to dry for a while before scraping. The end result for me was that the scraping smudged the paint all over the place, and it looked absolutely horrible.

I decided not to mess about with that any further.

The Cornstarch

This is messy. VERY messy. So messy I can’t even describe it. The shaving cream was messy, yes, but this was gooey crap all over the place.

The basic idea of marbling paper, okay, is that you have a medium – like water, or cornstarch – on which paint or ink floats and you can move around to make designs. The issue I had was that getting the consistency of the medium (called the size) to match the actual paint is almost goddamn impossible. I tried several different recipes, and ruined a lot of paint, paper and cornstarch, and I just couldn’t get it right!

The size has to be thin enough to allow the paint to spread out, but thick enough to keep most of it floating on the surface. It’s honestly very hard, and nothing I did got it right.

I think next time I’m going to try it with heavily watered down gouache paint and plain water. For now, I’m going to have to come up with something else to decorate my end papers.