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Colour Projects - Marble Silk and Paper Paint Techniques

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Colour Projects - Marble Silk and Paper Paint Techniques from www.walkaboutcrafts.comUsing oil and water
This is the simplest way to marble and is ideal for creating lively patterns in which accidental colour combinations and patterns contribute effectively to the end result.
The technique involves floating oil paint on water at room temperature. As oils and water don't mix the colours remain on the surface of the water and are then simply lifted off.
The paint is normally dropped onto the surface using a pipette or artists brush. However, you can create a bolder effect by pouring the paint on to the water.
When dropped into the water the paint should rise to the surface and spread out to form a disc. Although you can vary the consistency of the paint, ideally it should be the thickness of single cream. If it is too thick it will simply sink.
Once on the surface, the paint can be teased into a variety of random pattern effects by moving it around with a thin stick or blowing gently across the surface with a drinking straw. A wide toothed marbling comb drawn over the surface gives a distinctive swirling effect.

Using size
For more detailed and defined marble patterns, the paint can be floated on to size (a very thin wall paper paste) instead of water. Although the principal is the same, the thicker medium gives you more control over the finished effect as it prevents the paint from moving around so freely. Size should be used at room temperature.

Materials and equipment


Oil based paints, such as artists oils are ideal, thinned with a little white spirit.
You can buy wallpaper or artists size or make your own:
To make a gelatine size, dissolve a tablespoonful of gelatine powder in 1 pint of hot water. Thin with another pint of cold water and allow to cool. The mixture should resemble a thin liquid, rather than jelly.
You can use any watertight container as long as it is large enough to take your chosen paper. Baking trays or cat litter trays are ideal.
Marbling works well on all types of paper except those that are very thin or exceptionally thick.
The only tools you will need are a palette or small jars for mixing paint, old paint brushes, and a thin stick, knitting needle or wide toothed comb for pattern making

Making a marbling comb

You can make a marbling comb from thin card, pins or needles and glue. Make several combs with different tooth spacing.

1. Cut 2 x 5cm wide strips of card to a length slightly shorter than your marbling tray. Draw a line, lengthways, down the centre of one of the strips. On one half, measure and mark out the position of the teeth.

2. With a sharp scalpel, cut shallow grooves from the centre line to the edge of the card - do not cut completely through the card.

3. Press the needles into the slits so that the sharp ends protrude by at least 2.5cm. Firmly glue the second strip of card on top of the first, enclosing the needles. Finally seal with a coat of varnish or PVA adhesive.

Marbling paper

Colour Projects - Marble Silk and Paper Paint Techniques from www.walkaboutcrafts.comColour Projects - Marble Silk and Paper Paint Techniques from www.walkaboutcrafts.com

1. Half fill a container with water (or size) and place several sheets of newspaper close to it, ready to receive the wet marbled sheet. Squeeze a little artists oil colour into a palette or small jar and mix with white spirit. The colour should be the approximate consistency of single cream.

2. Drop spots of colour on to the water. The colour will spread out to form discs on the surface; the thinner the colour, the further it will spread. If the colour sinks to the bottom, it is too thick. Repeat with subsequent colours taking care not to overdo it; two or three colours are sufficient.

3. With a stick or knitting needle, blend and manipulate the colours. Alternatively, pull a wide toothed comb across the surface to break up the colour into a distinctive feathered pattern.

4. When you have a pattern which pleases you, lower a sheet of paper onto the surface. To avoid air bubbles (which will leave blank areas on the paper), hold the paper at either end and allow the curved centre of the sheet to touch the water first. Carefully lift out the paper and place on newspaper.

5. You will find that some paint remains on the surface of the water and you can often take a second or even a third print from this. Just tease the colours a little to blend them. Alternatively, remove the residue colour by drawing a strip of newspaper across the surface before starting again.

6.The marbled paper will be dry enough to move about half an hour. However, do not handle it too much as oil colour takes a long time to dry thoroughly (leave for at least a day). To flatten the finished work, weight it by covering it with plain paper and placing it between the pages of a  large book.

Seaweed marbling

Unlike simple water and oil marbling, seaweed marbling provides you with absolute control over the pattern and colours. This enables you to create intricate designs on the surface of the size which can then be transferred intact.

Materials and equipment

Carragheen Moss

This is a specialist seaweed available dried from health stores, or in powder form from art and craft shops. For marbling, the seaweed should be powdered, so dried carragheen moss must first be ground in a coffee grinder.

Moss size preservative
This should be added if you intend to keep the size solution for more than 24 hours. Once the preservative has been added, the size can be put in a jar and saved for further use.

Is used to dilute the specially prepared marbling colours and is available from craft shops and specialist marbling suppliers. It should be used sparingly and drops should be measured with a pipette or eye dropper. The amount required depends to some extent on room temperature - the colder it is, the more oxgall you require.

This is a colourless, soluble substance used for treating paper and fabric before marbling. Alum brings out the strength and brightness of the colours and makes them more permanent. It also makes the surface more absorbent and receptive to the colour.

Choose thin cotton or silk fabrics, preferably in pale shades or white. Dark fabrics can be used, but the marbled colours will be affected by the deeper base colour. All fabrics must first be washed to remove any 'finish' or dressing. This makes the material more receptive to marbling colour.

Preparing to marble

Mixing size

To make carragheen moss size, mix one tablespoon of powdered carragheen moss with 1 litre of cold water in a large saucepan. To prevent the mixture going lumpy, mix the powder with a little of the water, then gradually add the rest. Slowly bring to the boil, stirring continuously. Boil for 5-10 minutes, stirring all the time.
Dilute the mixture with 1 litre of cold water and strain through a piece of muslin or old tights to remove any lumps. Pour the size into a large baking tin or other shallow container and leave for at least 12 hours before using. The finished mixture should be the consistency of runny jelly.
If you intend to keep size for more than a day or so, add a few drops of moss size preservative to the cold size before it sets.

Using Oxgall

To help the colour spread easily over the surface of the size, a small amount of oxgall is added to each colour. Put a dessertspoon of paint in a small jar and add four drops of oxgall. Mix thoroughly

Using Alum

Before you can begin to marble your chosen paper or fabric it must first be treated with a solution of alum. This makes the surface more receptive to colour and helps 'fix' it. To make an alum solution, dissolve two tablespoons of alum crystals in 1 litre of hot water, Allow to cool.

To treat paper
Sponge the solution over the side to be marbled. Place the treated sheets under a heavy book or board to keep them flat and use while still damp.

To treat fabric
Soak each piece in the solution for about 20 minutes. Allow to dry, then press with an iron. Use within one week.

Testing colours

Before you begin it is a good idea to try out different colour consistencies on the size.
Drop a spot of colour on to the surface; the colour should spread easily. If it does not spread out or it sinks, you need to add a little more oxgall. If the colour still doesn't spread, it may mean that the size is too cold. The size should be at room temperature, so try adding a little warm water. If your test colour spreads too rapidly and thinly, it probably contains too much oxgall, so add a little more paint.
When you are satisfied with the consistency of all the colours you are using, clear the surface of the size by carefully skimming it with a strip of newspaper.

Making patterns

Patterns are made by dropping colours on to the surface of the size and arranging them to obtain the effects you want. As moss size retains every detail and colours stay clear and separate (no matter how intricate the design), the finished design will be as clear and detailed as the pattern you create. The technique is therefore ideal for making  combed and sprinkled patterns.
To make a dense pattern, with little or no surface base showing, use a lot of colour. For a lighter effect, scatter small amounts of the colour sparsely over the surface of the size.

Marbling Fabric

Lay the alum treated fabric on the patterned size by holding it at each end and lowering it gently in to the tray until it rests on the bottom. Lower the fabric centre first to avoid air bubbles being trapped between the fabric and the paint.
To remove the marbled fabric, pull it gently to the edge of the tray. Keep as much of the fabric in contact with the base as possible as you slide it out. Rinse under running water to remove excess colour, wring and allow to dry naturally. If the colour runs excessively, increase the amount of alum when preparing the fabric.

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