Sunday, April 10, 2011


Don’t let the intricacy and kaleidoscopic beauty of a marbleized design fool you.  These ripples of color may look hand-painted or machine-printed, but they’re actually created by liquid.  Take a close look and you will detect the telltale signs of motion:  tiny waves, graceful swirls, and dappling reminiscent of raindrops falling on a pond.  In fact, all marbleized patterns begin as paint floating on water.  Marbleizing dates to the twelfth century, when it was practiced in China and Japan.  Today, you can follow in this tradition to make your own rich designs.  Marbleize paper to use as stationery or add distinctive swirls of color to simple wooden boxes or bins.  In doing so, you’ll be clued in to an age-old secret.  Although it appears elaborate, marbleizing is actually quite easy.

About The Materials

Alum: Alum is a mordant chemical that makes paint adhere to paper.

Paintbrushes, Knitting Needle, Rake:  These tools are used to manipulate floating paint and create patterns.

Paper:  It’s important to use uncoated paper products, so the alum can bond properly.  For gift wrap, use oversize pieces of paper so one sheet will cover a box.  Use card stock or other heavy paper to make cards.

Clothesline, Clothespins, Iron To minimize warping, clip alum-coated paper to a clothesline to dry (this will take about 1 hour).  Once it is dry, iron the paper on a medium setting to flatten it.

Absorbent Ground Gesso:  Wooden objects are brushed with gesso, an art supply used for priming canvases and other surfaces, before being marbleized.  If you are marbleizing a painted wooden object, combine the gesso with acrylic paint (follow package instructions), then apply the mixture to the area you’ll be marbleizing.

Liquid Acrylic Paints Speckle paints onto the surface of the marbleizing solution-they’re what add color to your paper or objects.

Methyl Cellulose:  When mixed with water, methyl cellulose, a thickening agent, forms a syrupy liquid on which the paint floats.

Pans and Trays Use shallow pans, which will allow you more control.  For most projects, baking pans will work.  If you’re marbleizing larger sheets of paper, use photo-developing trays.

Basic Supplies
  • Alum
  • Pencil
  • Uncoated (nonglossy) medium-weight paper, or wooden object, such as boxes
  • Paintbrushes
  • Clothesline and clothespins
  • Iron
  • Absorbent ground gesso (for wood projects)
  • Methyl cellulose
  • Whisk
  • Shallow baking pans or trays
  • Liquid acrylic paints
  • Knitting needle or skewer
  • Rake
  • Plain newsprint
How to Marbleize

To create marbleized designs, you’ll need some specific supplies.  They are inexpensive and readily available at art supply and craft stores.  To start the process, first coat the object with a liquid mordant, such as alum, which gives the paint something to hold on to.  After it dries, fill a tray with water and a thickening agent; then speckle the surface of that liquid with paint.  By slowly moving the paint around, you manipulate the pattern.  Finally, slip the object onto the surface of the water, then lift it up to capture the design, and hang to dry.
  1. Prepare the Surface  For paper:  Dissolve 2 tablespoons of alum in 2 cups of warm water.  Use a pencil to mark one side of the paper, then brush that side with the alum mixture.  (The pencil marks will indicate which side you prepared, as the solution will dry clear.)  Hang the paper to dry, then iron it flat.  For wooden boxes and bins:  It’s easiest to marbleize only one side of the three dimensional object (the top of the box, for example), as multiple dippings can result in messy looking corners.  Brush the surface with absorbent ground gesso (or gesso mixed with acrylic paint, if desired).  Let it dry about 1 hour.  Then coat it with the alum mixture as described above for paper, and let it dry again.
  2. Mix the Marbleizing Solution  In a bowl, combine ½ cup of methyl cellulose with 4 quarts cold water, whisking to incorporate the powder.  When the mixture is free of lumps, let it sit about 1 hour, stirring at 15 minute intervals until it is syrupy.  Pour the liquid into an empty pan.  Lay down wide strips of painted newspaper to lift out air bubbles.  Thin the paints, until they’re runny, with small amounts of water.  Dip a brush into your first paint color, and hold it over the tray; tap on the handle with a pencil, letting the paint speckle the mixture (this will produce a stone pattern).  Continue to add paint (use up to 5 colors), covering as much of the mixture’s surface as you like.  Leave the speckles as they are, or move the paint by drawing a marbleizing rake through the paint, first along the width of the tray, then across the length.
  1. Embellish the Surface For paper: Hold the paper by two opposite corners, and lower it (prepared side down) so it floats on top of the solution. Let go of the corners, and smooth out any air bubbles with your fingertips. (Air bubbles will leave while spots, so try to eliminate them.) Let the paper float for a few seconds, then gently lift it from the solution. For wood: Lower the edge of the object onto the surface of the solution, and coat it in one smooth rocking motion.
  2. Rinse and Dry  Immediately after removing the paper or wooden object, place it in a pan, and pour water over it. Then hang paper to dry; place wooden objects on paper towels to dry, marbleized side up. Do not touch the paper or object until it is dry (most objects should dry within 2 hours, depending on humidity levels).
Project:  Marbleized Pencils

Take poetic license with a box of ordinary pencils, and dress them up in shades of pink, orange, and red.
Project Supplies:  Basic marbleizing supplies, ruler, scissors, white craft glue, small paintbrush, plain wooden pencils.
How-To:  Begin by marbleizing paper following my instructions above, then cut dried paper into strips (about 1 by 6 ¾ inches).  Brush the back of a strip of marbleized paper with white craft glue; affix one long edge of paper to the pencil, then roll it against a hard surface to warp the pencil and remove air bubbles.  Sharpen the pencils once the glue has dried.

Saturday, April 9, 2011



This sweet, crunchy root contains more carotenoids, the antioxidants that give carrots their yellow-orange pigment, than any other veggie. That’s why they are so good for you! Carotenoids may protect against certain types of cancer, heart disease, and cataracts. What’s more, beta-carotene is converted by the body into vitamin A, essential for healthy skin and a strong immune system. Other virtues of carrots: soluble fiber, vitamin C, and bone strengthening calcium.

Buy & Store: Choose firm, deep orange carrots without splits or cracks. If the leafy tops are attached, they should be bright green. Trim them down immediately to one inch; otherwise the roots will go limp and lose nutrients more quickly. Compost or discard the greens, or toss them into a salad (they taste a bit like parsley). Stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, carrots without their tops will stay fresh for about two weeks.

Preparation Tip: Since beta-carotene is fat soluble, combining carrots with a little healthy fat-for instance, tossing them into a salad with a vinaigrette-will help your body absorb the antioxidant more fully. If you’re cooking carrots, try steaming them: put carrots in a basket or colander, cover, over simmering water until crisp-tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. Just be sure not to reduce them to mush-overcooking carrots can destroy all that precious beta-carotene.