Paper Marbling Techniques

    by Jenny Harrington

    About the Author

    Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications. Previously, she owned her own business, selling handmade items online, wholesale and at crafts fairs. Harrington's specialties include small business information, crafting, decorating and gardening.


    Paper marbling is used to add a painted design onto plain sheets of paper. These papers can then be used in craft projects ranging from stationary making to book binding. Suminagashi is the oldest known paper marbling technique and was first done in Japan using water and calligraphy inks. Marbling can be as simple or as complex as desired, and all ages can participate.

    Shaving cream method

    Shaving cream is the most popular tool for beginning crafters. It is easily available, inexpensive and easy to work with. It can be messy, but that is part of the fun especially if kids are doing the creating. Put foam-style shaving cream onto a tray or paper plate and smooth to form a flat surface. Squirt liquid paint such as tempera onto the the shaving cream base and swirl with toothpicks into pretty designs. Place the paper on top the cream so that it adheres to the paper, then scrape the excess cream off, leaving the swirled pattern behind. The soaps in the shaving cream help the ink adhere to the paper.

    Paint method

    The paint method is the most traditional home marbling technique. Any type of paint can be used, as long as it has been thinned to a watery consistency. Fill a shallow tub with water and add a squirt or two of dish soap to help the paper absorb the colors better. Pour or squirt paints onto the surface of the water and swirl into the preferred design with a toothpick. Heavy paper works best with this technique as it does not wrinkle quite as badly as lighter papers or fall apart when wet. Place the paper on top of the painted water, then remove quickly and set painted side up to dry. Iron heavy papers flat if they wrinkle during marbling. The same paint tub can be used for several sheets of paper before you need to add more paint to the water.

    Crayon method

    Crayon marbling is a project that is well suited to kids. While this technique creates attractive designs, the paper cannot be used as stationery or written on because of the waxy surface. The paper it is still useful for other paper projects such as scrapbooking. Crayons give bold colors and the designs are easy to manipulate, even for small hands. An adult should shave crayons with a knife or vegetable peeler. Let the kids sprinkle the different colored shavings onto the paper. Alternately, the kids can draw directly on the paper making thick, bold strokes. Place a piece of wax paper over the paper with the shavings in between, then an adult runs an iron, set on high heat, over the papers. When wax paper is removed, the crayons will have melted to the paper in bold designs.