Paper Marbling

Are you looking for a fun activity to keep your kids entertained during lock-down? Why not give Paper Marbling a go!

While paper marbling can often involve expensive materials such as marbling inks, we’ve found a way that’s cheap, easy and fun.

 What you’ll need:

  • Paper
  • 1 Tub (big enough to fit your paper in)
  • Food Colouring
  • Shaving Foam (cheap is fine)
  • 1 Dropper
  • Water
  • 1 Icy Pole Stick (or similar)
  • Gloves (to prevent your hands from getting stained by the food colouring)

What you need to do:

  1. Shake the shaving foam and spray a layer of it into the tub.
  2. Drop food colouring onto the shaving foam.
  3. Drop water onto the shaving foam. (This will make it easier for the dye to mix and transfer onto the paper).
  4. Use the icy pole stick to swirl and mix the food colouring around.
  5. Place your paper onto the shaving foam mixture and allow it to sit for 30-60 seconds. This will transfer the food colouring and shaving foam onto the paper.
  6. Lift up the paper and use the paddle pop stick to scrape off any shaving foam. Your pattern will have transferred onto the paper. Set aside to dry.

What’s the difference between this and traditional paper marbling?

Instead of water we’re using shaving foam as the medium for the colouring to sit on. Instead of marbling inks, we’ve used food colouring. Both of which can be found in your local supermarket.

Can you do this without dropping the water onto the shaving foam?

Absolutely however the food colouring won’t mix together as well and you won’t get as much of a pretty marbled effect.

Now that I’ve made all this marbled paper, what can I use it for?

Whatever you want! Cards, wrapping paper, paper bunting, decorations, scrapbooking, covering books etc.

Some fun facts about paper marbling:

  • While there’s no definite place that paper marbling originated in, it’s believed to have been first created in either Turkey or Persia (Iran). After that, Europe discovered the secrets of this art.
  • Traditionally, the technique of paper marbling was a closely guarded secret, and considered to be approaching alchemy. Techniques were kept secret, and there are stories about marblers who would work in rooms that had been completely sealed of every crack and crevice to avoid spies stealing their secrets.
  • Traditional paper marbling is notorious for being temperamental and creating consistent patterns requires a lot of time, patience and practice. This was important if the customer was a book binder, who would want to use the same pattern for not only the end papers, but also the edges of the pages of their books

Want to know more about the history of paper marbling? Victoria and Albert Museum give a great run down here. Or you might want to take a look at information from University of Washington Libraries here

Once you've finished this activity, you might like to try some other paper crafts. How about paper planes?

Paper Planes 25

Another great source of craft activities is Mollie Makes Digital Magazine which you can access free with a library membership. Not a member yet? Join here.

For more information on YPRL's services and programs visit Your Library at Home.

Kathryn Healey, Library Officer

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