The Marbling Process
Marbling is a delicate dance of floating paint on water. By using the simplest of tools, sprinkled dots of paint on the surface of the water can be transformed into a captivating pattern before transferring it to paper or fabric.
Marbling is magical; it’s mesmerizing. It’s also time consuming and ultra finicky. Marbling is just as much an art as it is a science although it’s not an exact science. We can somewhat influence the outcome of a design through the careful selection of tools, paint colors, paint types, and paper choices, but environmental factors play an important role in the process. For example, temperature and humidity can directly affect the process making for a great marbling experience – or not. Achieving a balance between water, paints, and the environment is crucial to the marbling process and it takes a skilled artisan to understand the science behind the art. Marbling can be unpredictable and because of this, every marbler’s journey is different. We celebrate the process, embrace the journey, and savor each step along the way.
This is our process...
There's no such thing as marbling on a whim. Meticulous preparation begins roughly 24-48 hours before a marbling session. We use carrageenan, a seaweed extract (often referred to as "size"), to create a thickened water that will help paints to float. The size must be prepared in advance so it can acclimate to the studio environment. Time will also allow any air bubbles that have formed to dissipate.
During this advance prep, each sheet of paper is individually coated with a wet solution of aluminum sulfate, or “alum”. This creates a chemical bond between the paper and the paint. Without the use of alum, the paint will not properly adhere to the paper. Treated paper is hung to dry then pressed flat until ready for use.
Marbling Day Preparation
Next, we set the stage by preparing the workstation with all the necessary tools, paints, papers, etc., that will be used for that particular marbling session. Paints are tested on the surface of the water. Proper preparation results in paints that float and spread beautifully without sinking.
Ready, Set, Marble
This is when the real fun begins! Drops of paint are sprinkled or flicked onto the surface of a water. Various tools, including custom-made "rakes" and "combs", are used to manipulate the paint and create a unique pattern. To capture the final design, a sheet of paper is carefully placed onto the surface of the water while trying to avoid capturing air bubbles that would distort the image. The moment of anticipation is next- when we lift the paper off the water to reveal a beautiful new design.
The fresh print is gently rinsed and hung to dry once it’s lifted off the marbling tray. When all papers are dry, they are pressed for several days and stored flat until they are ready for use or prepared and packaged for shipment.