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Marbelized Paper How-To

Source: Martha Stewart Living, February 2005


Making Marbelized Objects

To create marbleized designs, you'll need some specific supplies. They are inexpensive and readily available at art-supply and crafts stores.

Three Techniques

For a "stone" pattern, speckle paint on solution. Move the paint in spirals using a knitting needle or skewer for a swirled design.

To make arches, draw the rake through the paint, first along the width of the tray, then across the length.

To make a rake, sandwich toothpicks taped at 1/4- to 1-inch intervals between layers of corrugated cardboard.

Learn more about marbelizing


  • 1/4 pound alum (a mordant; makes paint adhere to paper)

  • Paintbrushes

  • Uncoated (nonglossy) medium-weight paper, or wooden objects, such as boxes

  • Clothesline and clothespins

  • Iron

  • 1 bottle absorbent ground gesso (for priming wooden objects only)

  • Liquid acrylic paints

  • 1/2 pound methyl cellulose (a thickening agent)

  • Whisk

  • Two shallow 14-by-16-inch baking pans (use larger pans if you are using larger sheets of paper) or Trays (such as photo-developing trays)

  • Knitting needle or skewer


  1. Dissolve 2 tablespoons of the alum in 2 cups of warm water. Use a pencil to mark one side of the paper, then brush that side with the alum mixture. (The pencil markings will indicate which side you prepared, as the solution will dry clear.)

  2. Hang on a clothesline (about 1 hour) to dry; when dry, iron sheets on a medium setting to flatten. For wooden objects: It's easiest to marbleize only one side of a wooden object (the top of a box, for example), as multiple dippings can result in messy-looking corners; prepare that side only.

  3. Brush the surface with absorbent ground gesso (if you want to paint the object first, mix the gesso with acrylic paint). Let dry, about 1 hour. Then coat with the alum mixture as described above for paper, and let dry.

  4. Mixing the Marbleizing Solution
In a bowl, combine 1/2 cup of methyl cellulose with 4 quarts cold water, whisking to incorporate powder.

  5. When the mixture is free of lumps, let it sit about 1 hour, stirring at 15-minute intervals until it is syrupy.
    Pour the liquid into an empty pan. Thin paints, until runny, with small amounts of water. Dip a brush into your first paint color, and hold it over the tray; tap on the handle with a pencil, letting the paint speckle the mixture.

  6. Continue to add paint (use up to five colors), covering as much of the mixture's surface as you like. Leave the speckles as they are, or move the paint, as explained above.

  7. Hold the paper by two corners, and lower it (prepared side down) so it floats on top of the solution.
    Let go of the corners, and smooth out any air bubbles with your fingertips. (Air bubbles are inevitable, so don't fret if a few remain.) Let the paper float for a few seconds, then gently lift it from the solution.

    Note: for wood, lower the edge of your object onto the surface of the solution, and coat it in one fluid rocking motion.

  8. Rinsing and Drying
Immediately after removing the paper or wooden object, place it in a pan, and pour water over it. Hang paper to dry; place wooden objects on paper towels to dry, marbleized side up.
    Do not touch the paper or object until it is dry (most objects will dry within 2 hours, depending on humidity levels).

  9. Keeping or Discarding the Solution
The same solution can be used several times. To change paint colors, lay strips of newsprint across the solution's surface, then remove; repeat with clean strips until the solution is clear.

    Note: You can store the solution in an airtight jar for about a week. Don't leave it in the tray, which could rust. If you have excess solution, do not pour it down the sink -- it may clog your drain. Instead, pour the liquid into a resealable bag or plastic container, and throw it away. (There are no dangerous toxins to be concerned about.)

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