How to Marble with Acrylic Paint

Updated: Jul 22

This post is all about marbling with acrylics, I've learnt this technique by researching different methods online and a lot of trial and error. I'm going to take you through everything I do step-by-step, so you can give this a try at home. I would advise making the size and preparing your paper the evening before and make sure you prepare lots of paper, you will be amazed at how quickly you go through it!

Here's a few papers I made using this method.

What you will need:

  • Large rectangular tub (I use a large gravel tray from Wilko but you could use a clear plastic box or you can get special marbling trays.)

  • Bucket (for mixing your size, I use my mop bucket. Don’t use anything that you would use for food preparation, this goes for all the equipment in this list)

  • Methylcellulose powder

  • Tablespoon measure

  • Ammonia

  • Whisk

  • White Vinegar

  • Alum

  • Mixing Jug

  • Washing-up Sponge

  • Paper (you can really experiment here with different colours and types but it needs to be relatively sturdy paper because it’s going to get wet. I love using coloured pastel paper)

  • Drying rack or two chairs and some string

  • Pegs

  • Pencil

  • Acrylic paints

  • Jars (to mix your paints in, you could also use cups, a palette with deep wells or an ice cube tray?)

  • Cocktail sticks

  • Paintbrushes

  • Pipettes

  • Sheet for protecting the floor


Firstly you want to get your size ready (this is the liquid you are going to float your paints on top of), preferably you should do this the night before, so all the bubbles can disperse but you could get away with a couple of hours if you wipe the bubbles away with some kitchen roll or a cloth.

Take 3.7 litres of warm water and sprinkle in 4 tablespoons of methylcellulose powder, give it a whisk and then add a capful of ammonia. Whisk really well for a few minutes to make sure all the methylcellulose has dissolved into the water then leave for a couple of hours or overnight.

When you’re ready to use the mix and you’ve got rid of all your bubbles add a capful of white vinegar, give it a stir (not too vigorous, you don’t want to create more bubbles!), then pour your size into your marbling tray.

Next you want to prepare your paper, you should to do this in advance as well. You need to coat your paper with an alum solution, which will help the pigment in the paint stick to it. Mix 2 tablespoons of alum into 1 pint of water and stir until dissolved, then sponge the solution over one side of your paper (the side you’re going to marble) and mark the back with a pencil (this is just so you don’t end up marbling the wrong side!). Lay the paper flat and let dry. You can stack them up and put a heavy board on top to help keep them flat.

Last bit of prep before the fun part! Mixing your colours!

You can use colours straight out the tube or you can mix your own. Just put a bit of paint in your jars and use your pipettes and brushes to mix water into them until they’re the consistency of single cream. Test your paints on your size as you go, to see how well they disperse. If they sink to the bottom, you need more water. Bear in mind that it’s always easier to add more water than more paint.

Right, so you’ve got your paints mixed, your size is ready and your paper is prepped!

Just start dropping paint onto your size and make patterns with your cocktail sticks or anything else you want to use (I recently inherited some plastic forks that make cool patterns). When you’re happy with your pattern, drop your paper on to the size (alum side down) and lightly press down to make sure there are no air-bubbles underneath. Leave for a few seconds, then pick up the corners and drag the paper against the edge of your tray to scrape off as much of the excess size as possible.

Now, you can either rinse your print with water or hang them straight up and let the excess size drip off onto a sheet (make sure to adequately protect your floor). Sometimes the pigment will run when rinsed, I think this is down to the type of paper and how well the alum solution soaks into it.

When you go to do your next print you will still have some colour from the last print on your size, you can either scrape this off with some scrap paper or incorporate it into your next print.

I usually set this all up and then keep everything in-situ for a while so I can make lots of prints. The size apparently goes off eventually but I’ve kept mine for a good few days and it’s been fine. Make sure to cover your paints so they don’t dry out and keep topping up with water as you need.

So that’s it!

Have fun! Let me know how to went in the comments or tag me in your photos!

Instagram - @hand_painted_bindery

Facebook - @handpaintedbindery


Gateshead, UK