Paper marbling with Ink

Hi guys! It’s Riet here and I’m so excited to show you a very easy technique to marble paper! I love marbling so much that I always look for easy ways to achieve it! Until now marbling with shaving cream was my favorite but I found something even easier and a lot less messy than with cream! I was inspired by the ancient Japanese form of paper marbling called Suminagashi. Suminagashi literally means “floating ink” and that’s basically all we will do. While this is a true art form and can’t be compared to my cheap brushes/ acrylic inks marbling I promise it will be fun nonetheless!

Supplies

  • Acrylic inks in two different colors (I used Liquitex). You could also use Indian ink, mostly common in black but since it’s the Season of Color you may look for something more colorful
  • Two round brushes, approximately the same size
  • A plastic container such as a lunch box. Please use it just for your art.I bought mine in a dollar store and use it just for creative work
  • Water from the tap
  • Printer paper. Don’t use watercolor paper for this. You’ll need paper that absorbs very quickly. Cheap printer paper is just perfect for this which makes this even more affordable

Step One – Preparation

You want to make sure that everything is prepared before you start. Check if your paper fits into the plastic container. Cut it if needed. Fill your container with water and wait until it’s calm and still otherwise the movement of the water will affect your marbling. At this point we don’t want this. Open the ink bottles. Put some paper towels aside in case you need it and I suggest that you lay down some newspapers where you put your marbled papers to dry.

Step Two – Floating Ink

Now take you two brushes in every hand and dip it into your inks. (You see me just holding one because I’m taking pictures with the other 😉 ) Don’t load it with too much ink otherwise the weight will drag it immediately down to the bottom and won’t float. You can always dip it again if you need more ink. Start to dip the brush one at a time in the water, don’t push too much, you don’t want to touch the bottom of the container, just the surface of the water. Hold your brush very straight, in a 90° angle. You’ll see it creates a circle. It may be faded but it’s there and it will get stronger when you continue. Now dip the other brush into the circle, and go on and on. Soon you’ll see many circles.

Step Three – Patterns

Decide when to stop, this is up to you. You can fill the entire surface of the water or just a bit. Now you have to options:

  1. You can take a toothpick or the end of your brush and drag it – slowly!- through the circles, creating a pattern
  2. Or you can blow a bit of air or wave air with your hands. The air makes the water move and creates a pattern on its own

Step Four – Printing

Now gently lay your paper on top, it only takes 2 seconds until it absorbs the color. Lift it up and put it on your newspaper. As you know paper warps when it dries, I find it helps the best if you lay it really flat. That’s your first saturated print. Now put another paper on top of the water, there is still ink left, that’s your ghost print. This is more faded but somehow it’s always my favorite one, it’s more subtle but because of all the movement more intriguing. One setting always gets you two prints. One strong, one faded.

Step Five – Repeat

You can now start all over without changing the water. If you notice that your ink starts to sink to the bottom it’s ok if it’s not too much. Otherwise it’s time to change the water. My absolute favorite is to make dots all over the surface and then slowly dragging the end of my brush though the dots. It creates the most beautiful patterns! This also works just with one color! Play around and have fun!

KEEP IN MIND

  • If your ink sinks to the bottom it can be that your water from the tap is very “hard” where you live. You can try distilled water. The water from my tap is somewhere in the middle and it works well.
  • If you want to make circles just with one color you can mix a bit of soap with water and use it as your second ink. This way the soapy water separates the circles
  • Construction paper works really well, too, if you want to use heavier paper

IDEAS

You can use your marbled papers now for making covers for your hand bound journals, as a background for your spreads or for collaging! The possibilities are endless!

Action Steps

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making circles in two different colors

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dragging a toothpick through your circles

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making a pattern with only one color

Riet

Riet lives with her husband near the coast in North Germany where she enjoys capturing her memories and feelings in journals and albums. If she isn’t covered in paint and glue she writes stories or photographs the nature outside her door.

15 Comments

  1. Jennifer

    Marbling paper is so fun because it’s so uncontrollable but yet still so easy to make beautiful work. Love the colors you’ve got. I’ve only got real sumi ink i got for marbling, but now I might have to get colored inks too.

    • Riet

      I found it so funny that we made it at the same time! I remember your posting on Instagram! It was when I finished my tutorial! 🙂
      Your results looked amazing!

  2. Misty Granade

    I love this! I’ve done it with shaving cream a lot but never inks on water! So good!

  3. Clare Davis Etheridge

    Oh my, I cannot wait to try this tomorrow, I also have done shaving cream marbling and it gets messy! The effects you create are so beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

  4. EmK Wright

    I will be giving this a try with some India ink asap! I only have the liquitex muted inks, so I’m going to be the India ink guinea pig! 🙂

    • Riet

      I’ve done it with black India ink and it was almost my favorite! Something about black and white marbling is just amazing!

  5. Sasha Zinevych

    This looks like pure magic, Riet! This is the time for me to start regretting only having gold and white acrylic ink! 🙂

    • Riet

      Ah! Maybe you have colored printer paper? 😉 At least the white would work there! Sadly the gold doesn’t show up, I tried! Haha!

  6. Tanyalee Kahler

    You made it look so easy Riet – mine did not turn out quite so pretty – just a wash of colour on my paper. But I didn’t have any copy paper so used sketching paper which could be why. I’m definitely trying again when I have some copy paper though. Thanks for sharing.

    • Riet

      Yes! I’m sure that’s the reason, Tlee! When I made my first runs I used sketch paper and watercolor paper and it didn’t turn out at all. Like you said, it was just a wash a color. Printer paper absorbs the color immediately which is a big factor to make this work!

  7. Gilly Welch

    Going to try this straight away…looks fabulous and I have plenty of coloured inks to play around with, thanks Riet!

  8. karen davis

    This was so much fun….. I don’t know (yet!) what I am going to do with my papers… but for now I am enjoying just seeing them on the floor where I left them to dry overnight.

    I also had a play with shaving foam last night…. much messier!!!!

    Great tutorial … thank you 🙂

  9. Heidi Lilley

    OMG, I do not think I have posted on any of the tutorials, or anything much here, but THIS. This looks so cool. I am even going to go leave my coffee to get cold while I go try this NOW. I will post pics on Instagram when they are dry. Or maybe even while doing it! I love it and am anxious to see what color combo’s I can come up with. Thanks for this tutorial.

    • Heidi Lilley

      Hints : A 9X13″ glass baking dish fits a full size printer/copy sheet perfectly and is very easy to clean up. Definitely use the brush to put the ink into the water and not the dropper that comes with the ink as the dropper will make it sink to the bottom too fast (although some will stay at the top and it will still work, just more wastage).
      SO much prettiness.