It was very common in the 19th century to have marbled paper as the endpapers of books. These days the endpapers usually tend to be either a photograph or are just left white.
While I personally have never made marbled paper, I would love to learn how to do it. Therefore this lens is my attempt to show you how to make marbled paper.
History of Marbled Paper
The art of Marbling paper is thought to have begun in China and Japan around 1000 CE. Eventually this art moved along the Silk Road into Persia (Iran) and later to Turkey around 1500 CE.
When the art of EBRU (cloud art) was discovered in Turkey by the Europeans around 1600 CE, it was taken up by european bookbinders, and became the most common artwork displayed in new books for well over 200 years.
Ebru or marbled paper was most commonly displayed in books as endpapers (inside the front and back covers of books). Original antique endpapers are now highly prized in antiquarian books and are added to the projected price of the book when it is up for sale.
For centuries, paper marbling masters worked in secrecy to maintain a shroud of mystery to prevent others from mastering the craft and going into business for themselves. Eventually in England, in 1853 a man named Charles Woolnough wrote a book called The Art of Marbling and greatly upset the artists for exposing their secrets.
In the 20th and 21st century, marbled paper designs are now most often used as greeting cards, wedding invitations and I have also seen them used on photo frames.
Marbled Endpapers in a Book
This is how marbled paper would look inside an antiquarian book.
The Bookplate identifies who the book once belonged to.
And yes bookplates were very common.
How to Make Marbled Paper — Method 1
- Shaving Cream (plain white cream - no gels, no scents)
- 9 by 13 inchaluminium foil pan
- Tempera or oil paints, or food coloring
- Paper towels
- Toothpicks, combs, skewers
- Squirt out a layer of shaving cream about one inch thick all over the bottom of the pan
- Add water to the paints to make them more fluid.
- Paint the top of the shaving cream with tempera or oil paints or Food coloring. You can mix paints or put one colour on top of another and swirl.
- Using a toothpick, comb, or skewer, run the pointer through the color, creating swirls and other patterns in the shaving cream. Don't mix up too much or you will just get one large brown mess.
- Carefully place the paper directly on top of the shaving cream. Use opposite corners to hold the paper. press down lightly and try to remove all air bubbles. Air bubbles leave round blank areas where the original colours of the paper stock show through. You want to pat the paper down gently so that the entire sheet comes into contact with the shaving cream. Then you pull it up gently again.
- You can either wipe off the shaving cream immediately using a paper towel (a bit of a mess) or you can leave it on for a few hours and when it's dry, it is much easier to remove. The colours then become "fixed" to the paper.
- Set the paper aside to dry. If it starts to bend or curl, you can either use a heavy book or iron it to straighten it out.
Instruction Source - Homeschool Art
How to make Marbled Paper — Method 2
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
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.
- 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 or thin cardboard, which is small enough to fit into the tray.
- Place your paper into the tray by rolling it down on to the surface of the water
- Make sure the paper is completely flat, floating on the water. Do NOT 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 with the paper
- Leave your marbled paper lying flat on some newspaper until it's completely dry.
Source - Show ME UK
How to make Marbled Paper — Method 3
What you'll need:
- Marbled Paper
- What You Need
- Baking pan
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- Mortar and pestle
- Six sticks of colored chalk (all different colors)
- Six paper cups
- Six tablespoons of cooking oil
- Half sheets of white paper
- Paper towels
What to Do:
- Cover the kitchen counter with newspaper. Fill the pan with water, add the vinegar, and place the bowl in the middle of the newspaper.
- Using the mortar and pestle, crush a piece of colored chalk to a fine powder, then pour into a paper cup. Repeat for all six pieces of chalk, using a different cup for each piece. Add a tablespoon of oil to each cup, stirring thoroughly with the spoon. Pour the contents of each paper cup into the bowl of water. The chalky colored oil will form large pools on the water's surface.
- Gently lay a piece of paper on the water's surface for a moment, lift off, then set to dry on a sheet of newspaper for twenty-four hours. When the marbled paper dries, gently wipe off any surface chalk grains with a paper towel.
- Swirling patterns of colored oil stick to the paper.
Why It Works
- The molecules of chalk (calcium carbonate), vinegar (acetic acid), water, and the surface of the paper all chemically combine, causing a chemical bond that makes the swirling colors stick to the paper.
Marbled Paper Resources
- Fine Books and Collections Magazine article
Article about Marbled Paper
- Joan Ajala - Marbled Paper Artist
Australian designer of Marbled Paper
Quick tutorial on making marbled paper designs
Your turn to sound off on this Marbled Paper craft lens - Have you ever made Marble Paper?
susan369 on February 10, 2014:
I used to do this with my son - it's so much fun. Thanks for reminding me - I gotta get some marbling inks!
KathyZ1 on October 15, 2013:
Cool, nice lens. Thanks for your sharing.
sharadkgupta lm on October 14, 2013:
TeacherSerenia (author) on September 21, 2013:
@geosum: Thanks geo
TeacherSerenia (author) on September 21, 2013:
Thanks for sharing your insights Colin
Colin323 on September 21, 2013:
Good lens, great to see it on Squidoo. I am a bookseller of fine press and limited edition books and the publishers of these make extensive use of marbled papers. I really like the myriad of colours within them and admired the creativity of the paper makers. Ann Muir, sadly deceased now, was a brilliant marbled paper artist.
geosum on April 16, 2013:
Nice lens. The results are really nice.
anonymous on December 30, 2012:
I think marbled paper is cool...and now its something we can all do thanks to you and this wonderful DIY....hope you get around to doing it!
ismeedee on November 28, 2012:
I'd really like to make it and I think it would make beautiful wrapping paper!
Sherry Venegas from La Verne, CA on August 01, 2012:
I am thrilled to know that with these techniques, I could try this without even going to the craft store first. Using shave cream is fantastic.
Barbara from USA on July 06, 2012:
I have been doing this for years and I love it!!
Barbara Isbill from New Market Tn 37820 on June 26, 2012:
Beautiful and cool!
Virginia Allain from Central Florida on June 13, 2012:
Since I love old books, the marbled endpapers have strong appeal to me. I'd never read about the shaving cream technique. I might have to try that myself.
AlleyCatLane on June 09, 2012:
So cool! I love the look of marbled paper.
SimplyTonjia on March 15, 2012:
Good lens, thank you. Your papers look great.
Mary from Chicago area on March 08, 2012:
this is very cool!!
Delia on January 09, 2012:
I took a class in making Marble paper, I loved it and made many beautiful sheets...it's a lot of fun and easy to do...Thanks for sharing!
ViJuvenate on December 12, 2011:
I love learning simple new crafts like this; fun, not only for me, but to show kids something new. Thanks!
JenaleeMortensen on December 11, 2011:
Sounds like a lot of fun to make marbled paper. Thanks for sharing how to make it.
Ben Reed from Redcar on December 11, 2011:
Peggy Hazelwood from Desert Southwest, U.S.A. on December 08, 2011:
I love this! I love the look of marbled paper and will try the shaving cream method with my grandkids.
Ellen Gregory from Connecticut, USA on October 16, 2011:
Beautiful. I think I will try it.
anonymous on August 20, 2011:
Wow! Really fascinating art! Thanks for sharing.
NoYouAreNot on August 11, 2011:
Awesome! I was aware of the technique, but I've never tried it. I think I'll try the recipe with the chalk -- I'll get back to report what happened!
jlshernandez on August 05, 2011:
This sounds like so much fun to do.
Tolovaj Publishing House from Ljubljana on July 01, 2011:
Beautifil. Just perfect for next kids project!
sorana lm on May 28, 2011:
I love marbled paper. It looks awesome.
Senora M on April 19, 2011:
Sounds pretty cool. Might be something we would be interested in trying!
Ricardo Montrose on March 31, 2011:
You made it!! You submitted this lens for the top Arts & Design lens section and you made it to the top 5 ... Be sure to go check this page: http://www.squidoo.com/top-5-arts-design on the first of the month to see what your position in the top 5 is and donât forget to tell your friends and visitors about it too
John Dyhouse from UK on March 30, 2011:
I lve it, I often use it as a backing for my art and craft projects. I tend to make my own by the simple shaving foam method ( not too much mess?). Love the lens have lensrolled to my lens on using shaving foam.
hayleylou lm on March 08, 2011:
I never even knew that this existed, but it looks stunning
GiftsBonanza on March 07, 2011:
I'm definitely going to have to try this - it looks like so much fun!
JanieceTobey on March 05, 2011:
Making marbled paper is so much fun! We made some just this past week in our homeschool co-op!
julieannbrady on March 05, 2011:
Well, I've actually used subtle marbled paper for a former resume ... and a former employer. It added a bit of creativity to the project(s). Love it.
ohcaroline on March 04, 2011:
This looks really interesting. I think I may try it sometime.
LissaKlar LM on March 03, 2011:
Wow this is really cool. Not too complicated - your directions are really easy to follow. Great crafting lens!
Melody Lassalle from California on March 03, 2011:
I have never attempted this, but it looks really neat.
Julia M S Pearce from Melbourne, Australia on March 01, 2011:
I love marbled paper,something esles to get into.It looks wonderful!
Cynthia Sylvestermouse from United States on March 01, 2011:
Wow! What a really interesting craft idea and I love having a choice of methods. Wonder if my husband would miss his shaving creme tomorrow morning :)