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Marbling Paper at the San Francisco Center for the Book

Posted by Michelle Chandra on

As an artist, it is always exciting to learn a new craft especially under the instruction of other artists! Recently, I was lucky enough to take a paper marbling workshop with Italian marbler Pietro Accardi at the San Francisco Center for the Book.

If you are new to paper marbling, take a moment to watch this mesmerizing video of the famed English marbler Cockerell and his mechanized paper marbling:


Pietro grew up exploring the paper filled workshop of his dad's letterpress shop in Italy and wrote his undergraduate thesis on classic marbled paper. Pietro shared many tips on marbling paper that I hadn't seen demonstrated elsewhere, I highly recommend taking his workshop if you are based in the bay area!

What is Paper Marbling?

Marbling paper is a centuries old decorative paper craft in which ink is dropped on a thickened water solution (known as a size) stored in a shallow tray. Fanciful patterns are drawn through the ink resting on the surface using a variety of tools such as combs and rakes. Then, a piece of paper is laid down on the size to transfer the ink design to the paper. 

Rakes and marbling tools

An element of luck and chance is part of marbling paper as it is difficult to control how the inks flow on the thickened size once dropped on the surface. 

What is the Science Behind Marbling Paper?

The inks rest on the thickened size a molecule deep. As additional ink drops are added to the surface of the size, the surface tension pushes the other ink molecules away so that each ink has its own space on the surface. The ink droplets never flow into each other, rather, they rest next to each other on the surface, never overlapping. 

Here is a sampling of some of the lovely designs I created as part of the paper marbling workshop:

The Classic Stone Pattern

turkish stone marbled paper

All marbling patterns begin from this classic design. Ink is dropped onto the size randomly using a pipette or broom whisk. As more ink is added, the first color ink that was added is pushed farther apart creating the appearance of veins (blue in the sample print). Adding too much ink to the surface can cause the surface tension to break and the ink to drop to the bottom of the tray, it's a difficult balancing act!

The patterns that follow were created using various combs, and rakes to created combed patterns. Additional instructions on how to create some of these designs can be found on Galen Berry's website, or the Ultimate Marbling Handbook.

Bouquet / Peacock Peacock marbled paper

chevron marbled paper

Palm Fern
fern marbled pattern

Spanish Wave
spanish wave marbled paper

Abstract SwirlsAbstract Swirl marbled paper

Spiral marbled paper 

artist process paper marbling

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