Join our newsletter and get your FREE eBook of the most popular Artful Parent activities!

Marbling with Oil and Food Coloring

by Jean Van't Hul
August 15, 2017
Marbling with Oil and Food Coloring

Marbling with oil and food coloring is beautiful! It’s one of the easiest ways to marble paper with kids and uses materials you likely already have. We did this years ago when Maia was 3 and it was past time to give it another go.

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 - Beautiful Marbled Paper

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

Marbling with Oil and Food Coloring

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.

Here’s how to use the oil marbling technique…

Marbling with Oil - Materials Needed
This post contains affiliate links.


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

**Use the liquid food coloring rather than the gel kind. We tried both and the liquid kind definitely works better. If you have liquid watercolor paint, you can use it interchangeably with the food coloring as we did.

Marbling with Oil - Adding Food Coloring to 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…

    Marbling with Oil - Making the Print

    …then lift to reveal your marbled paper.

    Marbling with Oil - Lifting the Print

    Add more colors and repeat!

    Marbling with Oil - Adding More Colors

    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 in the studio for each person to dump their used water into.)

  4. Let your marbled paper dry

    Lay the newly marbled paper flat to dry.

    Marbling with Oil - Laying Flat to Dry

Finished Marbled Paper on the Drying Wall

And if have 5 people going to town with the oil marbling technique as we did, you may need to hang up some of the marbled paper after they are no longer at risk of dripping.

Marbling with Oil - Finished 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.

See this post for craft ideas and instructions –> 10 Crafts to Make from Kids Process Art

Marbling with Oil and Food Coloring - Beautiful Effect

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

Pin It for Later

Marbling with Oil and Food Coloring

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Artful Parent E-Book image - 10 Most Popular Activities
Artful Parent E-Book image - 10 Most Popular Activities

Join our newsletter and get our FREE Creative Activities

Where can we send you our FREE Creative Activities AND bonus set-up tips?

AND bonus set-up tips eBook as a gift from us

Your privacy is our top priority and we promise to keep your email safe! For more information, please see our privacy policy.