>Sketch Every Day: 4.9.11 and DIY Project With The Kids: Marbled Paper

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Today the boys and I marbled paper. It’s something I tried on my own, back in my crafty younger years in high school and college. I had forgotten about the technique until I found an old marbling kit I’d purchased from a stationery store in Taipei (back in 1993). The instructions are in Chinese, but it’s a rather simple process…so it wasn’t too difficult to show my boys this interesting craft. 

It’s a great project for kids to do because it’s intriguing, creative and fun…involving a little bit of science and magic, some experimentation with color and pattern, and a whole lot of “easy-peasy-lemon squeezy”, as Isaac would say. My four and six year-olds got the hang of it right away and really created some beautiful papers.


Here’s what you need:

1) Drop cloth, newspapers or paper grocery store bags. We used an old sheet to cover the workspace and paper bags/paper towels to blot and dry the marbled papers.

2) Put the kids in painting smocks (because it can get a little messy). We used old “car rag” t-shirts.

3) Assorted colors of acrylic or tempera paints (metallics work great too), thinned out (to the consistency where you can squeeze drops that will float onto the surface of the water). Put them into squeeze bottles. Eye drop bottles and similar, small squeeze bottles are perfect for this. But if you don’t have one for each color of paint, use those liquid medicine droppers you get from the drug store (you’ll need to put the paints in little bowls or cups).

4) Shallow trays like cookie sheets or aluminum baking tins.

5) Water (enough to fill the trays with about 1-2 inches of water).

6) A thickening agent. We used the Methyl Cellulose powder that came with my marbling kit. But you can substitute with tapioca flour, pectin or cornstarch. Or you can try dish washing liquid. Basically, you’ll need something that will turn the water into a more viscous, sort of gel-like solution, so that the paint will float at the top longer.

7) Paper: thin, rice paper works best…but we just used regular uncoated printer and copier paper.

8) Toothpicks, chopsticks or small brushes….to swirl the paint droplets and create the marbled effect.



Here are the steps:

Mix the thickening agent (methyl cellulose) with water and stir until dissolved.
For this tray, we tried just water and dish washing liquid.
Add a drop of dish washing liquid.
Lightly squeeze drops of color onto the water so that the color floats/forms at the surface of the water.
Drop different colors within other colors. 

Using a chopstick or toothpick, lightly swirl the colors, dragging through the droplets of paint, but be careful not to mix or the water will become muddy/cloudy and the colors will mix completely, defeating the purpose of the marbling.
Carefully lay the paper over the water so that it absorbs the top layer of marbled paint.
Here the paper is floating on top of the marbled paints.  Then, remove the paper and lay onto newspaper, paper bags, paper towels to blot excess water/paint and allow it to dry.

Here are the boys making marbled paper all on their own…
Adding droplets of paint (the water is already pretty muddied with paint because this is after they’ve already made many sheets of marbled paper).
Even four year old, Isaac, got the technique down of lightly floating the paint droplets.
Isaac is still adding paint while Mason begins to swirl the colors.
Here’s a picture of the water tray earlier on in the process, when they had only marbled a few sheets…so it’s still somewhat clear.
Swirling the paint to create interesting patterns. Check out how many sheets they’ve marbled already.
Mason really enjoyed floating the paper onto the water. He said it was like magic to see the pattern absorbed by the paper.

Here Mason is blotting the paper between paper towels (the texture of the paper towels almost makes the paper look like fabric).  You can do this with fabric too…and of course, Easter eggs!

And here are their finished marbled papers. Aren’t they FANTASTIC! They had a blast doing this. It was super easy to do, with items we already had around the house…and not too bad to clean up. Now we have some beautiful papers for making cards, wrapping small gifts, folding origami or just to put in a frame and admire.



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This entry was posted in About Me, Blog Series, Color, Cool Stuff, DIY, easy how-to, Fun Stuff, Just Because, Paint, Paper, Paper Crafting, Patterns, random projects, Sketch Every Day. Bookmark the permalink.

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