I recently saw this post by Lynda at Bloom, Bake & Create on Marbling Fabric. I think her colors are just lovely. Of course I had to try it. I ordered some carrageenan, alum (aluminum sulfate) and ox gall. I was looking at information on alum and worried about possible deterioration (rotting) of the fabrics prepared with alum. That's a bit disturbing... I did find this article about use of alum in papermaking over the centuries, and limited proof that use of alum in marbleing has any significant negative effect on the paper over time. Not that I plan on the papers I make lasting for centuries. I suppose it's just the IDEA of it that's bothersome. Anyway, alum concerns aside, I pushed onward. I followed Lynda's instructions to make the carrageenan mix in a blender and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator. I added 1 tablespoon of powdered carrageenan to 4 cups warm distilled water and blended for two minutes, then poured it into the marbling tray (a rectangle plastic container) and put it in the refrigerator.
To prepare the mordant (alum) about an hour before marbling, I added 1/2 tablespoon of alum to 1 cup of warm water and stirred until dissolved. I used a sponge to wet the paper on one side with the alum/water solution, then allowed to dry and flattened under a tray in between some newsprint. I used less alum than the instructions said because I was worried about the rotting effects of the alum. Next time I'm just going to add the amount it called for. I think that affected the paint's ability to adhere to the paper.
I used a bunch of different kinds of paper, including a cheap mixed media paper from Michaels; printer paper; Arches 140lb hotpress; graph paper; basic blank newsprint; basic sketch paper; and another thicker paper (fine watercolor paper) like the Arches watercolor paper (but I don't remember the brand). I also put alum on some of the pages, 1/2 diluted amount on some other pages, and no alum on others, to see what would happen.
This is the first one I made. I don't like the shapes and there is a lot of white space (the paints did not spread completely) but the colors are the most dense of any of the papers. I did start diluting more and more throughout the process, to try and get the colors to spread more. This is Arches hotpress 140lb with alum.
Mixed media with alum:
Mixed media with alum (but prepared immediately before using, so the paper didn't have time to absorb the alum). Not sure what the white spots are from.
Here are a few more from the first batch. This one is just lovely, in my opinion. It's on mixed media with no alum. It's fairly obvious what the affect of no alum is to the paper - the paint doesn't bind well in the form of the lifted pattern. But look how pretty it is. So this is my nod to the idea that while there may be a 'right way' to do something if you want a certain effect, there really is no 'wrong way' to do something in art because you may enjoy the unexpected result of the 'wrong way' just as much!
Here is another one with the airbrush color. I like the colorful veins on this one but the blue color is still too dilute for my tastes. I need to find a way to make the color more intense. This one was also on newsprint.
Additional resources: Here are some examples of different marbled paper patterns from the University of Washington library. Some of them are gorgeous. I particularly like the vintage 19th century marbled papers in the Turkish pattern. Some even have lovely gold leaf overprinting.
The Golden Paints website has some good points about testing paints for spreading speed. The Daniel Smith website also has some good points and some photos. They sell carrageenan, alum and ox gall.
Lessons learned: Use more alum. Try papers with more exposed fiber (I got some Japanese papers to try). Don't use so much paint (most of it went to the bottom of the size). Put the marbling tray closer to the sink (minimize number of drips to clean up). Lay out more drying areas in advance (this became critical about halfway through and had me daydreaming for the next few days about my fantasy studio layout to include a wet-working area with a huge industrial sink and counters and hanging area to clip and dry works, plus huge windows that look out onto a beautiful garden...