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"Marbling is the art of printing multi-colored swirled or stone-like patterns on paper or fabric." "Marbling is sometimes still called by its original Turkish name, ebrū."

Marbling, as it is known to bookbinders, is a method of making patterned paper by transferring colour from the surface of a liquid to paper. These papers are then used for the endpapers, to hide the lumps and bumps caused by leather turn-ins and cords, or to cover the sides of books where patterned papers don't show marks of wear so easily as plain papers.

"Turkish" marbling

The traditional manner of marbling paper is often called "Turkish" marbling or ebru because it originated in the old Ottoman empire of the 15th century. Water-based inks containing ox gall (bile) as a dispersant are floated on the surface of water thickened with gum tragacanth or carragheenan moss (actually a seaweed). The colors are then drawn into patterns by means of sticks or combs, specially-prepared paper is laid gently on the surface, left for a few seconds, and just as gently removed, rinsed (to wash off dirty size or excess color), and hung to dry. Papers used should be fairly hard-surfaced and treated with alum as a mordant to take the pigment and to improve color tone and color fastness.
Marbling with Liquidtex Liquid Acrylics


A traditional form of Japanese marbling is suminagashi, which dates back to the 12th century. It differs from the Turkish method "in that the water is unthickened and the colours actually dye the paper (Japanese papers are usually softer and more absorbent), whereas in ebru the colour pigments become attached to the paper surface. "


Another, newer, technique for marbling paper is called "Swedish" and uses oil-based paint on unthickened water, the paint being thinned and dispersed by means of a solvent such as turpentine. Less preparation is needed for this technique, but control over patterns is limited and the papers take longer to dry. The paper does not have to be treated, nor need it be rinsed.

© Beth LaCour 2001-2003