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Paper marbling
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Paper marbling

Paper marbling is a technique for producing colorful patterns on paper (or, rarely, on other surfaces) by swirls of oil-based paint floating on water. The resulting marbled paper is a popular decorative material, especially as endpapers in book binding and stationery. Part of its appeal is that each print is unique.


The basic process needs only blank paper, a shallow tray filled with water, and some free-flowing oil-based paint. The paper must be strong enough to whithstand being immersed in water without tearing.

First a few drops of paint are placed on the water, just enough to create a thin layer. The paint is slowly and carefully stirred with a thin rod to create the desired pattern. Then a sheet of paper is carefully placed over the water's surface, so that the paint adheres to it. The sheet is then pulled out and laid on a flat surface to dry.

Often paints of two or more colors are used; however, by playing with the thickness of the paint layer, one can obtain good results even with a single color.


The art originated in China over 2000 years ago. It became popular in Japan in the 12th century under the name of suminagashi ("ink-floating"), first as a divination tool of Shinto priests, later as a decorative art. In the 15th century a similar art, called ebru (Turkish for "two-toned marbling") and now known as "Turkish marbling", developed in Turkey and Persia, but using a rather different technique. In Europe, marbled paper became popular in the 17th century, especially for book endpapers. At first a secret art exploited by few professional makers, it became a popular handicraft in the 19th century after the English maker Charles Woolnough published his The Art of Marbling.

Marbled paper is still produced in large quantities in Venice.

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