Monday, March 30, 2009

Paper for Marbling

Over the past couple weeks, I have tested several different papers for marbling. I thought I would share the results. I was using acrylic marbling paints on a carrageenan base for all my tests.

First of all, all the papers I usually have on hand were terrible, such as: Strathmore Drawing paper 400 & 300 series, Strathmore Charcoal paper, Canson Biggie Art papers, and several others. With most of these papers, very little paint would stay on the paper - I would just begin to rinse off the size and the colours would start fading. I tried to do less or more gentle rinsing on a few sheets, which preserved the colours better, but the paints are still rubbing off after the sheets have dried. Frustrating. Not good.

But I did find a few papers that work wonderfully.
1. Japanese calligraphy paper from Yasutomo & co.
2. Hilroy Studio Sketch Book, "for pencil and colour markers"
3. Color & Co Art Paper for Kids, "Drawing & Painting" 60lb paper
4. White Kraft paper rolls
5. Canson MiTeintes - I got mixed results with these papers, sometimes they worked and sometimes they didn't

I asked around trying to find out why so many papers are unsuitable for marbling. It seems that most paper is treated to such a great extent to make it acid free, then buffered and polished and shined and whitened or whatever... the paper just becomes unsuitable. Really, I don't know enough about paper making or the processes used by these various companies to know any specific reasons. I just know which papers worked for me. In the list of good papers, numbers 1 & 3 were also the best papers for Suminagashi marbling.

Now that I know what papers to use and I have been able to do quite a lot of marbling lately, I've actually decided to open up a second Etsy shop to sell some of it,


Cathy said...

FYI, I took a marbling class recently, and the instructor (Regina from Chena River Marblers) uses Canson Ingres. I tried several sheets of it, and felt it worked very well. By the way, I assume you're aluming the paper first.

Rhonda said...

Hi Cathy. I didn't try Canson Ingres - I will have to look around for it. I know of a few other papers that will work too, but I can't get them locally, so this was my attempt at finding a local source of paper. Importing paper from the USA is expensive. And yes, I alum'd all the paper first!

UberArt said...

Thank you SO much for posting this. I tried marbling and had the same problem with the colors fading and washing off during the rinse. I thought it was just me not knowing what I was doing!

Carol said...

Rhonda, your marbling looks wonderful. I'm so impressed - hope your Etsy shop goes really well.

Rhonda said...

thanks Carol!

Uberart, it IS very frustrating when nothing works! I was so happy to find a few papers that I could use - the whole process of marbling is very rewarding when it works!

Holly said...

Hi, I've been reading about your marbling trials and impressed by your tenacity! Way to go! In my efforts I've learned that the Japanese paper you mentioned (some in the US market it as 'rice paper') works very well. Also - here's an idea that worked beautifully for me and I have a few treasures as a result - marbling can be done on 100% silk which adds another resource for your work. I did a few "hankies' (small pieces and thus inexpensive) and then went to thrift store for larger pieces. FYI. Great work you're doing!!

Rhonda said...

That's a good idea, Holly! I've never tried using fabric for marbling.

Ruth said...


This was super helpful! I thought that my ink mixture was wrong, which was why my ink wasn't sticking - good tips about the paper. I found that suminagashi on standard "mixed colors" 65lb cardstock that you get from the craft store works fairly well.


Liz said...

Masa paper (the fuzzy side, not the waxed side) works very well for marbling.

One paper that does NOT work well is Canson Mi Tienes---the paint "blurred" after rinsing. Having said that, the blurry effort was quite lovely if you are, like me,developing acrylic paintings on TOP of the marbled paper.

Rhonda Miller said...

Thank you Ruth and Liz!

jessica said...

I just wanted to hopefully add to your knowledge - since you are adding to mine.

In terms of what you mentioned about the chemicals used to whiten paper, any art quality paper should be archival/acid free, meaning that they have the natural color of the original material. I think you will find that any children's or craft paper is not acid free and will eventually discolor and then (in many years) begin to disintegrate. For all the effort you go through for these sheets that would be such a shame!

One side note about 'any artist quality paper' being acid free, though it likely will never apply to your marbling, is that it is nigh impossible to have an acid free black. Antique textiles often have the black areas missing from them because they just rot away - the same is for paper.

As for the reasons your paint is not sticking, the main reason is called 'sizing'. This word refers to any material used in paper, cloth, or leather to fill pores and change the stiffness and absorbency of the material. Ideally, any paper (or cloth) used for marbling should have no sizing. If you do begin to work with cloth, almost all of it is treated, but boiling it (or washing it on 'hot') will take the size right out.

In paper, sizing is also often used in the pulp as a binder, enabling the manufacturer to use shorter fiber lengths in their sheets.

Because of these two factors - 1)sizing fills pores and smooths paper, and 2)sizing binds short staples, here are some general hints about which types of paper will have less/no sizing:

Watercolor paper, or any paper that is meant to be absorbent will have less sizing. This is why your marker paper worked well.

You can usually feel or see the fiber length in a sheet of paper. (feel watercolor paper vs. drawing paper)

Any paper that is meant to have the medium sit on its surface (pencil and charcoal papers with 'superior blendability' or 'erasability', pastel paper, acrylic paper) will have the most sizing present.

'Canson Mi-Teintes Pastel' is gelatin sized, but so is Ingres, which Cathy said works well.

'Canson Bristol 2 Ply Plate' is meant for pen and ink.

'Canson En-Tout-Cas' is made for pen and ink, and watercolor. It is mould-made (slight texture).

'Canson Drawing for Illustration and Manga' is for ink, marker, and pen. It has a smooth finish.

If you want to continue to explore different papers for your marbling, I suggest calling some of the major paper companies. They have sample booklets of each of their papers, with information, including weight, best use, and package size/page size information. I think they will send them to you for free, but if not, for many papers I bet it would still be cheaper than buying an expensive pack. The information on the papers above is all Canson because that is the only sample packet I have.

I hope this was helpful!

Rhonda Miller said...

Thanks so much Jessica, this is great information. I really appreciate that you took the time to share!