The art of paper marbling is very old and no one knows for sure it’s origins, but some of the earliest known examples come from the 10th Century in Japan. We at the Frederick Book Arts Center love it so much because the paper can be used to make beautiful books. Oftentimes you will see marbled paper used as an endpaper, which is the decorative leaf of paper found at the beginning and end of a book fixed to the inside covers. Our resident 6-year old (now 7) has even used this technique to create one-of-kind unique covers for some of her books!
Watercolor paper or other thick paper
Spatula or large spoon
Small cups (for the paint and water mixture)
Paint brushes or wooden skewers
Pieces of cardboard
This project can get a little messy, so we started by laying everything out on a large piece of cardboard, but anything you have around the house, like newspaper, will work to protect your surfaces. You will want to make sure that there is enough space to lay your paper down and remove the shaving cream at the end. Once you have everything set up, you will need to mix your paints. Decide how many colors you want and pour some of your paint into the cups, like the picture below; you will be mixing it with water so you don’t need a lot. If you are using cups like we show in the pictures, you will only need to fill it about halfway with water and mix.
We used a 6in x 9in piece of watercolor paper, but you can use any size as long as it fits in your tray. We filled a section of the tray with shaving cream that was just a bit bigger than the paper and then smoothed it out with a spoon.
Now it’s time to add your paint and this is where you get creative! Do you want the shaving cream to stay white, which will give you a white background for your design? Or do you want to give it color? If you decide to give it color, just pour some of your paint onto the shaving cream and mix it all around with your spoon, making sure that it is flat again. Next you will take your paint brush or wooden skewer and dip it into the paint, then knock the skewer or brush on the back of your hand over the shaving cream creating little dots of color. Repeat for all of your colors. Make sure that your brush or skewer is clean of the previous color before dipping into the next one or you could end up mixing up your colors.
Once you have covered your shaving cream with little dots of paint it’s time to make your design! We used a wooden skewer, but you can use anything that comes to a fine point for this next step. Gently put your skewer into the top layer of the shaving cream and start swirling it through the dots, you will begin to see it making a beautiful marbled pattern. We choose to go up and down and then side to side with ours, but you can get creative with this and do it anyway you like!
Once you are happy with your design it’s time to transfer it to the paper! Take your paper and lay it down on top of the shaving cream. This next step is important, because of the nature of the shaving cream creating little peaks and valleys, you will want to apply a small amount of pressure all over the back of the paper to make sure that it is picking up your design. When you have completed that step, simply grab one corner and gently peel it away. As you do this you might notice that there are some spots that did not get covered in shaving cream, just put it back down and apply more pressure in those areas.
This next step will probably be the messiest step of all; now that you have removed your paper you will lay it shaving cream side up onto your cardboard or newspaper and use the scraps of cardboard to scrape it off. Start from the side closest to you and simply scrape the shaving cream off; this is the fun part, because you get to see the big reveal of all your hard work! Then repeat until all of it is gone. You can use a paper towel to get anything off that is still left over.
Below is an example of how we used our marble paper to create a book cover, but you can frame your paper just as it is, or use it to draw on and create a marbled paper masterpiece!