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Home > Topic > Art and Design  > Marbling Paper Patterns - How To Do It

Marbling Paper Patterns - How To Do It

December 21 2005

Have you ever heard of marbled paper or 'marbling'? It's called that because it's a way of making a pattern on paper which looks a bit like a type of rock called marble.

Marbling has been used to decorate paper for centuries. The Victorians were particularly fond of it. You may see it used on the inside covers of old books.

Marbled paper from a Victorian photo album, in shades of yellow and grey.

Here's a piece of marbling from the inside of a Victorian photo album, from the collection at the National Library of Wales.

Photo: © Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru: The National Library of Wales

Fancy trying it yourself?

Here's the Show Me guide to making your own marbled paper.

You will need:
* Lots of old newspaper to protect your table
* A large tray with deep sides (we used a foil roasting tin)
* A large jug of cold water
* Some marbling paint or marbling ink in different colours (you can buy this in craft shops)
* Pieces of paper or card (small enough to fit in the tray)
* A pencil

A foil roasting tray, jars of marbling paint, a packet of tissue paper and a roll of brown parcel paper.

Water being poured from a jug into a foil roasting tray.

Here's what to do:

First, pour water into the tray until it's 1-2cm deep.

Next, add some drops of paint to the water a few at a time. Here we started with blue and added drops of silver, red and yellow.

Blobs of coloured paint floating on the surface of a tray of water.

Paint floating on the surface of a tray of water being marbled using the tip of a pencil.

Using the tip of the pencil, move the paint around the tray until all the colours mix round each other in a feathery pattern.

Choose a piece of paper which is small enough to fit into the tray.

We're using a white envelope here, but you can try all kinds of paper and card, and experiment to find out what works best.

Place your paper into the tray by rolling it down on to the surface of the water.

A white envelope being placed onto marbled paint in a tray of water.

A white envelope being floated on the surface of water in a tray.

Make sure the paper is completely flat, floating on the water.

Don't let the paper go under the water.

Next, gently lift the far end of the paper and roll the paper back from the water.

You should see all the paint in the tray coming away onto the paper.

A marbled envelope being removed from a tray of water.

Wet marbled paper being held over a tray of water.

And here's the result! Beautiful.

Leave your marbled paper lying flat on some newspaper until it's completely dry.

Once it's dry, you can use it for all kinds of things - wrapping paper, gift tags or greetings cards.

Detail of some marbled paper

Detail of some marbled paper

Here's some marbling we did on white paper with red, green and silver paint.

And here we made a colourful sunburst pattern on a brown envelope.

You get this effect by dripping each different colour of paint inside the previous one, then dragging the tip of the pencil from the centre of the paint outwards.

A marbled brown envelope

You can get different effects by changing what you use to drag the paint with - why not try using the handle of a teaspoon, a plastic comb or a feather?

Click here and here to see some beautiful examples of marbled paper from Manchester Metropolitan University's Special Collections.

If you try marbling, we'd love to see your creations, so Get In Touch - we'll put our favourites up on Show Me.

Kristen Bailey