Ebru is a longstanding and elegant art form often used to decorate papers for calligraphy, binding, collage and stationery. Every paper created with traditional marbling techniques is unique, meaning no two marbling papers are exactly the same.
One of the beautiful aspects of marbling art is that it allows you to have control over the composition of the design and at the same time enjoy the spontaneous flow of colors over the water. It is up to you to choose colors, marbling techniques and placement. At the same time, you lose some of your control over the composition when the colors are spread out, creating designs that we wouldn't have been able to deliberately create otherwise.
Here, we'll go over some of the different origins of certain marbling techniques, and then talk about some fun techniques you can try in your own home.
A Brief History of Ebru Art
Many cultures have developed their own styles and techniques for paper marbling, including Chinese marbling, Japanese Suminagashi or 'floating ink' marbling, Turkish marbling, marbling for Middle Eastern and Islamic calligraphy, and European marbling, which began as a borrowed technique. Turkish marbling is traditional. In Western art, marbling papers became popular during the renaissance period due to their use in bookbinding.
European marbling and Ebru tend towards vibrant and saturated pigment-based colours, while Suminagashi and other Eastern styles tend towards a more minimalist color transfer, using Sumi inks to create delicate and subtle designs. The difference between ink and paint for water transfer requires careful formulations and special techniques. For example, because Ebru is mostly created by floating dense paints and pigments used in gouache, it requires a stabilizing medium that allows the paint to float.
There are many design techniques developed for marbling. Suminagashi techniques spread the ink on the surface of the water by aerating or gently blowing the ink. This means there is a very limited amount of control over how the ink will spread and flow, creating elegant and organic designs. European marbling often uses dye dropping, combing and dragging techniques to achieve swirling designs.
Ebru techniques were carefully guarded secrets, which the masters were careful not to tell anyone, especially in Europe for a long time. This gave rise to marbling guilds that kept the secrets of the craft closely during the Renaissance. It has also allowed for an increase in innovation and creativity, both collaborative and competitive. These glazes include the formulas used for paints and media, as well as the special composition techniques used to create their eye-catching designs.
Now that the time for secrecy is over, we are here to give you five techniques to help you start your own unique marbling.
5 Fun Marbling Techniques You Can Try
Every marbling technique requires a willingness to experiment and experiment with different styles and consistency.
In some cases, you may need to thicken the water to ensure your desired medium stays on top. Many marbling artists use water-soluble methylcellulose to thicken the water and prevent the pigments from sinking.
The paper is also an important factor in how well the color transfers to the paper. For best results, using a spray bottle to coat the paper with water-soluble alum will help transfer the vibrant colors.
Remember, if your marbling is not as clear or colorful as you would like, the problem may be with the paper. Some papers absorb ink and pigment better than others, so don't be afraid to experiment with paper and your favorite techniques.
1. Marbling Ink
Using ink is a good option if you want to create very light marbling effects similar to traditional suminagashi styles. This technique creates a soft, light marbling on which you can easily draw, write a letter or calligraphy on.
For best effect, thicken the water before pouring the ink on it. Release the ink slowly and then spin it either by venting or by some kind of spoon. Work slowly. Because the ink is likely to bleed and bleed, too much degradation can paint the paper rather than marbling, so be careful not to over mix it.
2. Nail Polish Marbling
Nail polish marbling is a good option for marbling on a variety of surfaces and surfaces, as it tends to be more permanent than other home marbling methods. However, the nail polish method tends to have a distinctive odor and requires adult supervision.
Most nail polishes will float on water automatically, but the key is to work quickly and finish the marbling before it sinks to the bottom. When you're ready, gently press the item you want to polish into the nail polish, then remove it and let it dry.
3. Spray Paint Marbling
Marble large sheets of paper with eye-catching colors using spray paint. This is also a good way to add some vibrant metallic colors like gold and silver to your marbling. Outdoor or well ventilated, as spray paint has a strong odor. Make sure you are working in a contaminated area.
It is best to work quickly with this technique. Apply spray paint to the water surface to make marbling. Then, mix or edit the colors. Quickly apply the paper to the surface and remove it.
4. Oil Painting Marbling
Oil painting marbling is one of your best choices for creating a vibrant piece of marble art. Not only do the colors stay vibrant, but oil paints give you the most control over the design or image. Note, however, that you may not have the freedom to draw or paint over the design as the oil paint will remain on the surface of the paper.
This technique requires original oil paints and thickened water. Make sure you do some tests before you start. Because oil paint can be intense, your test should make sure that the pigments float on the water. Dilute the paint to the point where it is thick enough to be vibrant but not too thick to mix colors. Then use the tools to mix and shape the colors the way you want.
5. Food Coloring and Shaving Cream Marbling
This is a great technique if you have children who want to join the marbling fun.
This technique is as simple as rolling the food coloring into a layer of shaving cream, creating the design you like, then pressing the paper over the shaving cream layer and popping it out on the go. And you have to scrape off the shaving cream after removing the paper.