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Marbling with Oil and Food Coloring

by Jean Van't Hul
February 27, 2022
marbling with oil featured

Marbling with oil and food coloring is one of the easiest ways to marble paper and it uses materials you likely already have at home. And the results are beautiful!

Updated March 2022

Marbling with oil and food coloring is beautiful! It’s one of the easiest ways to marble paper with kids and you probably already have the materials in your pantry. 

Since oil and water repel rather than mix, the oil marbling technique creates bubbles of color and white spots. Where there are oil bubbles, the water-based food coloring won’t stick to the paper.

It’s messy, but worth it.

We still LOVE marbling paper with shaving cream, but the effect is completely different with oil.

marbling with oil pin

Marbling with Oil and Food Coloring

Here’s a video showing Marbling with Oil in action! And keep scrolling for more detailed instructions.

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*Baby oil or mineral oil may work just as well, but we used vegetable oil.


  1. Mix oil and color

    Pour a small amount of vegetable oil into a dish and add food coloring.

    Marbling with Oil - Mixing the Oil and Food Coloring

    Stir vigorously with a fork so the big drops of color are dispersed throughout the oil as smaller droplets.

    Repeat with as many colors as you want to use.

  2. Add oil + color mixture to water

    Pour an inch of water, give or take, into a shallow pie pan or baking dish.

    Marbling with Oil - Pouring Water into Pan

    Use a dropper or spoon to transfer the oil + color mixture to the dish of water. Use one color or many.

    Marbling with Oil - Drop the Color Mixture Onto Water

  3. Marble your paper

    Lay your paper on top of the water, and then lift to reveal your marbled paper.

    Marbling with Oil - Making the Print

    Add more colors and repeat!

    Oil & water marbling for kids

    After a couple of rounds, the water may be too muddy or saturated to get a pleasing effect. At that point, you can dump the water and start fresh with a new layer of clean water. (We kept a large pot on the table for each person to dump their used water into.)

  4. Let your marbled paper dry

    Lay the newly marbled paper flat to dry.

    marbled paper

Note: The paper is very oily at first, but as the artwork dries, the oil is absorbed into the paper, and it no longer feels oily to the touch. Which means you can use it for notecards, DIY notebooks, buntings, and other crafts.

What do you think? Are you ready to give marbling with oil a try with your kids?

marbling with oil paper
Photo by Jean Van’t Hul

More Marbling Techniques to Try

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Marbling with Oil and Food Coloring

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