The Internet is plenty of DIY marbling tutorials where you can see kids creating the most colourful papers with shaving cream. Yes, there are dozens of ways to marble paper and other surfaces, from glass to wood and more.
At the end it’s all about the time, effort and resources you want to invest in this new hobby, and of course your expectations.
A while ago I shared a DIY marbling tutorial on my Instagram account where I used nail polish to marble paper and a glass jar. So, yes, if you have nail polish you can also create your own psychedelic marbling designs.
But when it comes to a high-quality finishing and learning all the tricks of the traditional art of paper marbling, you have to let the shaving cream and nail polish on the side and invest in good marbling paints.
What is Marbling and How Does It Work?
If you landed on this post, you probably already know something about marbling. Quickly explained: marbling is the art of painting on water. All you need is a tray filled with water (eventually mixed with a thickening agent), and paints.
The traditional way of marbling, practised for hundreds of years in Europe and Turkey, is mostly based on what is known as “size”. This is basically water mixed with a thickening agent that used to be carrageenan. Many marbling masters use oil or acrylic paints, but also watercolour paints and gouache.
While this technique allows for a wide range of possibilities, like mixing your very own colours, it isn’t made for the modern crafter or people who want to experiment and try a new hobby without spending a lot of time and resources.
Lucky us, there are many other ways of marbling that honour the high-quality finishing of the more traditional techniques, but still are much easier and faster to apply.
Testing 3 Different Brands of Marbling Paints
Many of you have reached out to me and asked about the difference between my DIY Marbling Kits and other kits and marbling paints available on the market. And since I have tried and worked with many of them, I want to share my impressions, pros and cons of each of these 3 brands with you. Ready? Let’s go!
Test #1: Easy Marble Marabu
This was one of the first marbling paints I used, and actually my 2019 Marbling Stationery Collection is based on these paints.
For almost 2 years I worked with Easy Marble from the German brand Marabu, until I switched to Deka Marble at the beginning of 2020. There was time for me to take my work and art to the next level, and that wasn’t possible with Easy Marble.
Easy Marble from Marabu is a good start, especially for small DIY projects at home, which not necessarily have to include paper, but other objects like the typical Easter eggs. Since it’s pretty easy to use, you may think it is more suitable for children. But here comes one of its biggest cons: this paint is solvent-based, so it smells a lot and not particularly nice. Maybe if you work outside in the garden the smell doesn’t come too strong.
The colour palette of Easy Marble Marabu is bright and you can get intense tones with less paint. Next to the fact that you just need a tray filled with water to start marbling, the beautiful colour palette is one of the most relevant pros of Easy Marble.
However, as you can see in the video below, the paint is less malleable and it sticks to the bamboo skewer. This happens very often the moment you try a more intricate pattern. If you let the paints go with the flow and barely modify the course with a sharper object like a bamboo skewer or a needle, then it gets better. Still, the blank spots on the paper are also very common. In my own experience, this frequently happens when marbling a big surface, like an A4 size sheet of paper.
Test #2: Kreul Magic Marble
The marbling paints of Kreul have more or less the same characteristics than the Easy Marble paints from Marabu. Kreul Magic Marble is also solvent-based and it requires just water to start working with it.
I used the marbling paints of Kreul to complete my colour palette since they have beautiful pastel and metallic colours. However, I kept having the same troubles I faced while using the Easy Marble paints from Marabu and therefore I stopped using all of them.
Pros of using Easy Marble Marabu and Kreul Magic Marble Paints
Cons of using Easy Marble Marabu and Kreul Magic Marble Paints
Both brands of marbling paints are suitable for…
At some point, the bright colour palette and the easy-peasy process weren’t enough for me. I was looking for a high-quality and professional look, more detailed patterns and a technique that could work on bigger surfaces, too. And so I found Deka Marble, the brand I use for my own marbling artwork, as well as for my DIY Paper Marbling Kits.
Test #3: Deka Marble
I had lost track of the Deka Marble paints, but it was this brand I used the first time I marbled paper. It was back in 2016 or so when I attended a bookbinding workshop in Munich and we had one day dedicated to the art of paper marbling. But last year when I started researching for new techniques and marbling paints, I came across Deka Marble again and after testing it, I decided to go for it.
The marbling paints of Deka Marble are water-based (yay!), so they are much easier to clean off and don’t smell as strong as the Easy Marble from Marabu or the Magic Marble from Kreul.
What I like most about Deka Marble paints is that they are very malleable, so you can do the most beautiful and intricate patterns without trouble. This was one of my biggest headaches when working with other marbling paints.
Yet there is a “but”. And it’s basically the preparation time. It’s significantly easier and quicker than using the traditional technique with a size made of carrageenan and your own oil or acrylic paints. But slightly more laborious than working with Easy Marble from Marabu or Magic Marble from Kreul. Yet the time and effort are really worth it!
For a regular marbling session, I need about an hour for preparations, including setting up my workspace (if you work outside this can make things easier), preparing the size for the marbling bath and mordant the paper*.
* Mordant the paper means to treat the paper with a solution of water and alum. This prevents the paint from washing off once you rinse the paper to remove the rest of the size. Deka Marble works without mordant, but it’s still highly recommended when marbling bigger surfaces like paper on A4 – A3 size or when marbling fabric.
Pros of using Deka Marble Paints
Cons of using Deka Marble Paints
At the beginning of this post, I explained that the traditional way of marbling includes a “size”, which is nothing else than water mixed with a thickening agent, usually carrageenan.
If you ever want to try to make a size with carrageenan, know that you should wait at least 6 hours before using it… I don’t have that patience, hehe.
One of the cons of Deka Marble may be the fact that the colour palette is a little bit limited in comparison with the colour offer from Marabu or Kreul. But the good news is that the Deka Marble paints are mixable, so you can easily create more tones and expand your colour palette.
Deka Marble paints come in small glass jars, so you can easily take the paint to mix it in another container. Or just pour it in another container to make sure to stir the paint very well and get better access to it, e.g. when you are using a bigger brush for marbling.
A customer sent me a message some time ago asking about the difference between the Deka Marble paints and the Easy Marble from Marabu. She was disappointed after using the marbling paints from Marabu, because no matter what she did, she couldn’t get a piece of paper without blank spots throughout the pattern.
This is in my own experience the most common and annoying trouble when working with Easy Marble from Marabu or Magic Marble from Kreul. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t mean you will always end up with blank spots on your design. But it’s very likely to happen, especially when marbling paper bigger than A5.
I made peace with it and reuse this “not so perfectly marbled paper” for small projects or cut off the parts completely marbled and throw away the rest. But if I wanted to try more complicated and higher detail patterns and end up with a high-quality look, I needed to switch my materials.
With Deka Marble, I feel confident about my artwork because I know that if I want to make a certain pattern, I won’t have too many troubles or won’t end with a bunch of “B-side” papers that are not good enough for making my art or selling them.
So, if you are also looking for a professional, high-quality look, and want to make astonishing patterns like the ones displayed on this post you may want to switch brands, too.
I hope you find these insights and recommendations helpful, no matter which technique or brand you opt for.
If you want a stress-free marbling experience, you can check out my DIY Marbling Kits, which include everything you need to start right away marbling your own paper.
And if you have any other questions, feel free to drop me a message!
Your crafty fellow,
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