Marvelous Paper Marbling (+Gold Leaf! )

Marbling & Gold Leaf // Boots and Cats

No matter how many times I try it, how many colour combinations I make, marbling is just like…the coolest. After my very successful attempts at marbling with fabric, I decided to try something a litter different and go back to the roots of this craft- marbling on paper.

I knew immediately the challenges of paper would be different than fabric – but seeing as people have been marbling with paper for centuries it had to work…right? The biggest hurdle for me was dealing with the paper getting wet. With the technique I am using the paper would be wet multiple times (when preparing it with alum before marbling and rinsing off the carageenan after) and post-water wrinkled paper is my biggest pet peeve. (I had one of those Wreck this Journals when I was younger and loved destroying it until one page said put it in the shower. It was the worst experience ever and even though it was the point of the book to get over things like that, I pretty much stopped using it because of its crinkled, stiff state. But I digress)

Marbling & Gold Leaf // Boots and Cats

When doing research, it was actually pretty difficult to find out specifically what paper would be best to use actually use. Pretty much all the resources said to use the smoothest surface possible to ensure the paint stuck, but I couldn’t find any info about weight. Ideally you’d be working with something thin enough to bend when marbling, but thick enough not to wrinkle and curl into nothingness when wet. I tried two types of drawing paper and hoped at least one would work.

Even though I have marbled twice now, the bath seems to be slightly different each time (and I am even using pre-made kits, what’s up with that?). This time I was crafting with a friend who wanted to experiment with the world of marbling, so naturally it did not work out as well as before. The carageenan size wasn’t as thick as previous, and most of the pigment sank to the bottom or bled after being pulled. No bueno.

Marbling & Gold Leaf // Boots and Cats

Between my two papers, I found the heavier weight one worked better. The lightweight paper curled almost immediately after touching the marbling surface. However the thicker paper meant it was trickier to get a smooth lay along the surface of the size. While fabric will bend and then lay softly as you roll it along the surface, paper is stiffer and I found I would end up dunking the middle underneath the paint as I tried to get the edges to touch. This lead to more of the paint bleeding away when rinsing and it made the pan very cloudy and hard to see the patterns.

Despite the challenges, I did manage to get a few really good pulls. I knew I was making them as gifts, so I picked paint colours that I knew would suit each of the recipients. I am not sure if I will try marbling with paper again, maybe if I get a better paper recommendation. For now, I am way happier with the results I’ve been getting on textiles.

Back to the prints; while marbling is very pretty, it doesn’t have a particular focus and as a pattern felt like it was missing something. In order to give them as gifts, I had to take it up a notch; but how?

Enter the magic of gold leaf.

Marbling & Gold Leaf // Boots and Cats

I recently had the experience of working with gold leaf in some renovation projects at work and fell in love. Basically, it’s metal rolled out as thiiiiinnn as possible. You prep your surface with a special glue, then very carefully lay the leaf on top to stick. It is hecka finicky and SO delicate, but the incredible shine and finish is totally worth it. I had access to a few sheets leftover from the projects and decided to play them up here.

I chose some simple words, phrases and illustrations to accompany my prints. If you’d like to try it yourself, here’s how.

You’ll need:

  • Cardstock
  • X-acto knife/ scissors
  • Pencil
  • Small paint brush
  • Gilding size (glue)
  • Gold leaf
  • Soft bristle paint brush
  • Fine tip permanent marker

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  1. Select your motif for your print, either by drawing or searching the internet and print onto a piece of cardstock
  2. Using an x-acto knife and scissors, cut out your motif from the cardstock
  3. With a pencil, trace the outline of your stencil onto your marbled print. Trace lightly in case of mistakes or if you want to reposition it.
  4. Very carefully, with your paint brush, ‘paint’ the gold leaf glue inside the lines of your motif. The leaf will stick to anything remotely adhesive so be very careful not to get any drips or smudges outside your design.
  5. Once the glue is tacky, carefully lay your gold leaf down on top of your design. Let it set for 30 minutes.
  6. Gently start to pull away the gold leaf. Because it is so delicate, using a very soft bristle brush or muslin cloth is best for this part to keep the leaf from ripping off your design. The leaf with easily flake away (and fair warning, it will get EVERYWHERE. It’s worse than glitter.)
  7. Let your final design dry for 24 hours before putting in a frame. If you feel like you need extra contrast between your design and the marbling, outline with a fine tip pen.
  8. Enjoy your marbled, gold goodness.

Marbling & Gold Leaf // Boots and Cats

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