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How to Do Paper Marbling with Oil & Food Coloring

by Jean Van't Hul
February 12, 2023
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Paper 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 unique and stunning!

Updated March 2023

Paper marbling with oil and food coloring is beautiful!  

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. And it’s one of the easiest ways to marble paper with kids.

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

Here’s a video showing Marbling with Oil in action! And we’ve included a detailed tutorial with instructions below.

marbling with oil pin

Paper Marbling with Oil

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MATERIALS

  • Vegetable oil*
  • Liquid food coloring or liquid watercolors
  • Watercolor paper or cardstock, cut into smaller pieces
  • Droppers (optional)
  • Dishes and utensils (pie pan or baking dish, small cups or bowls, forks, spoons)

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

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Mix oil and color

    Pour a small amount of vegetable oil into a dish and add 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 + food coloring mixture to water
    child marbling with oil

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

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

  3. Marble your paper

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

    pressing paper into oil and paint

    Add more colors and repeat!

    marbling paper with oil and food coloring

    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.

    marbling paper with oil

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.

More Marbling Techniques to Try

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Photo by Andrea Martelle
How to Do Paper Marbling with Oil & Food Coloring

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