How to Make Marbled Paper for Colorful DIY Art
This simple marbling technique uses basic household supplies to create colorful works of art. Follow these steps to make your own marble paper, and learn how to apply the technique to other objects.
Take advantage of supplies you have on hand (or pick some up at the store for about $10) for an easy paper project. This affordable marbling technique uses crafts paints diluted with water (about 2 Tbsp. paint to 3 Tbsp. water). It's a perfect project to do indoors or out, plus it's kid-friendly. You can also use items you have on hand in your kitchen to spread the diluted paint. Small spoons, drinking straws, and toothpicks are all perfect options.
This marbling technique is all about experimentation, so have fun! "With marbling, the process is so fluid and unpredictable that no matter the experience level, the end result is beautifully unique," says Heather Hale, teacher and creative director at Craft, an open studio for makers based in Austin. Her secret to success is confidence: jump in and try different techniques. "During a trial run, I had an ingredient off by 1 tsp. and got a completely different result," she says. Follow this simple technique to make your own marble paper art.
How to Make Marbled Paper
Basic crafts paints ($1, Michaels) can be used in this marbling technique. We recommend having six to eight colors in a mix of cool and warm hues. The paints are diluted with water, so they're easy to mix and apply. Marbling inks are also available at crafts and art stores if you want to dig deeper into the technique.
What You Need
- Crafts paint in at least two colors
- Disposable cups or glass jars
- Two shallow trays
- Liquid starch
- Alum (find it in the spice aisle at the grocery store)
- Tools for swirling paint
- Cardstock, construction, or printer paper
- Paper towels
- Clothes hangers
Step 1: Set up your marbling supplies.
Protect your work surface with newspaper or a drop cloth. Dilute 2 Tbsp. of each paint color with 3 Tbsp. water in cups or jars; stir to combine. Create the starch bath by mixing 4 cups liquid starch (about $4 for 64 ounces in the laundry aisle) with 1 tsp. alum (about $1 in the spice aisle) in a tray larger than your paper. Fill the second tray with water. The trays should be glass or aluminum pans at least 2 inches larger than your paper (do not use plastic). We purchased a two-pack of disposable cake pans for $1.
Step 2: Drip paint onto mixture.
Use cocktail straws, eyedroppers, or spoons to gently apply diluted paint to the starch mixture, limiting the palette to two or three colors. Start with small drops and random patterns, then layer additional colors. The paint should cling to the surface. Continue adding paint until the surface is nearly covered; you can add more later if needed.
Step 3: Make marbled patterns.
Play with paint drops, combs, and swirls to create patterns. Manipulate the colors by swirling a straw or chopstick through the painted surface. Drip new paint inside other colors to form concentric circles. Go slowly to let the paint spread organically for the best effects.
Step 4: Marbleize the paint.
An improvised rake is a great way to create a feathered effect. Make one by taping toothpicks spaced 1/2 inch apart on a piece of cardboard. Try multiple pulls, different directions, or zigzags. Paint will continue to shift, so have paper ready for the next step.
Step 5: Transfer paint to the paper.
Once you are pleased with the design, carefully place one piece of paper on top of the painted starch to evenly coat the surface. Avoid submerging paper in the starch mixture so it doesn't get waterlogged. Peel paper slowly off the surface and rinse in the tray of water. Lay flat to dry. Use a paper towel to mop up pooling water on the paper. Repeat with additional pieces of paper, creating patterns in the paint between applications, until the starch is murky (we could do four pulls). Pour used starch down the drain, running water for a minute after to avoid clogs.
Step 6: Finish your DIY marbled paper.
Once the paper is dry, iron it on the unpainted side to get a smooth surface. Hang the finished works on a clothesline to create a gallery of your work. Use the finished projects as framed art, origami, gift wrap, or gift tags.
How to Make Marbled Containers
You can also use a similar technique to apply a marbleized look to clear glass jars. You'll need a bucket and various colors of nail polish for this DIY marble container project.
What You Need
- Disposable container
- Nail polishes
- Glass container
- Paper towels
- Decoupage medium
Step 1: Pour nail polish.
Fill a disposable bucket with water. The water should be high enough to submerge the glass container you're planning to work with. Slowly pour various colors of nail polish into the bucket. Be sure to drizzle the polish around the surface; do not dump it all out at once. Work fast so the polish doesn't dry.
Editor's tip: The better quality polish you use, the better your project will turn out.
Step 2: Swirl paint.
Use a wood skewer to swirl the colors in the bucket. To get the best result, dunk the skewer into the water straight up and down, not at an angle. Slowly move the skewer around until you see your desired marble look. Draw the skewer straight up and out of the water when done.
Step 3: Dip glass container.
As soon as you remove your skewer from the bucket, hold the glass container by the top and slowly dunk it into the water. Stop when you're about 3/4s of the way down and pull the container back up. Hold it over the bucket for a few seconds to let the drips fall back into the container. You should make the dip as smooth and controlled as possible. Swishing the glass container in the bucket can ruin the design.
Step 4: Dry and finish.
Set the glass upside-down on a stack of paper towels to dry. If desired, you can paint a layer of decoupage medium over the marble effect to protect it from scratches.