Step 4: Float the Paint

Float the Paints

Thin the paints to the consistency of whole milk in a paper cup. With an eye-dropper, lay the paint on the surface of the “size” as gently as possible. The drop should spread out to a circle 2 to 3 inches in size. As the paint spreads out on the surface some may sink to the bottom – its OK as long as most of it stays on the surface. If too much seems to be sinking, thin the paint a bit more. If the drop spreads out too far, thicken the paint. Keep adding paint to the surface until they seem intense. As you add new colors, the ones added previously will intensify as they are pushed together. You can add new colors next to, or on top of the ones already there. The colors don’t mix, but rather stay separate. You can remove the paint and start over by laying newspaper on the surface to pick up all the paint from the surface.

Making the Designs

With all the desired colors of paint on the surface, use a toothpick, a comb or straws, etc. to carefully create swirls and design patterns. You can create “negative” areas in the design by placing soapy water on the surface with an eye-dropper or by sprinkling it on. Use 1/8 teaspoon of liquid soap to 1/2 cup of water. Use this like a “clear paint” in your designs. Dip a whisk or a bundle of broom straws to flick drops onto the surface. The droplets give a different effect.

Hard and Soft Water

Most books suggest using distilled water. That could mean a lot of bottled water to buy. Try it first with tap or filtered water. If the water in your area is “hard” (contains lots of minerals) you will need to add some water softener. Hard water will interfere with the process.

Go to Step 5


  • Charlotte Hibert

    I have a Suminagashi marbling kit. It comes with floating papers. I did a demonstration with several art classes the day before. The next day, I tried it with another group of students and all my inks were sinking, even with the floating papers. I didn’t do anything different from the day before… what am I doing wrong, or what is making the inks sink?

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