If you’re looking for a new way to upcycle household items, inject some colour into your decor or learn a crafty new skill, marbling might be just the thing for you. Influencer and textile designer, Zeena Shah, explains how to marble anything, from paper to glass bottles.
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Marble is a classic interiors trend and beloved statement design. But now, marbled interiors have found a whole new lease of life, as pastel-coloured marble items – from pillows and plates to candlesticks – are all over Instagram.
Marble is an intricate design so you might be surprised to find that it’s fairly easy to replicate yourself. Home marbling is a craft that requires only three pieces of equipment and what’s so great about it is that you can marble anything, from coasters, to ceramics to wrapping paper.
Zeena Shah, an influencer and textile designer, experienced the growth of marbling firsthand. Though she has been experimenting with marbling herself for years, she saw lots of new people being attracted to her marbling content on Instagram during the first UK lockdown and so released various marbling kits to help people get started.
Here Zeena breaks down the marbling process for beginners, including the skills and techniques you need to try it out for yourself at home.
What kind of materials does marbling work on?
The great thing about marbling is that it works on almost any material, Zeena explains. “I’ve been making my own wrapping papers and greeting cards for years,” she says. “I’ve marbled eggs [at Easter] and I always make marbled Christmas baubles every year.”
“I really love using it to upcycle things like glass bottles, so I think glassware is one of my favourite things [to marble],” Zeena adds. “But I also love the versatility of paper – it’s so quick so easy it dries immediately.”
To get started, then, Zeena recommends starting by marbling on paper if you’ve never tried the process before, to help you understand marbling techniques and work out what kind of colours you like before branching out into more experimental materials.
What you’ll need to marble items at home
- Two different colour marbling inks (Zeena recommends the Marabu Easy Marbling Inks) or two nail polishes
- Sheets of plain paper
- A tray big enough to hold your piece of paper (a roasting tray will work)
- A waterproof tablecloth to protect any work surfaces
- Cloths for cleaning any drips
- Cocktail sticks (optional)
How to marble paper at home
To marble paper, Zeena advises following the below steps:
- Cover your table with a waterproof tablecloth to avoid mess and have a cloth ready to mop up any drips that may fall on the floor
- Fill your tray with room temperature water two-thirds of the way up
- Grab one of your inks or nail polishes and gently pour a small amount directly from the bottle across the surface of the water, swirling them in a zigzag shape.
- Repeat with your second ink or nail polish, layering the new colour on top of the other
- If you are using marbling inks, you can gently manipulate them in the water with the end of your cocktail sticks to mix the inks together. You can also achieve this effect by gently swirling the tray
- Place your sheet paper on top of the water and ink/polish mix and quickly press it down all the way into water before gently pulling it out. Make sure your paper has been fully submerged in the water covered before pulling it out, but be careful not to leave it too long.
- Leave your paper on a flat surface to dry or hang it up on a washing line (place a tray beneath it to catch any drips). The marbled paper will take around 20-30 minutes to dry.
Zeena’s top tips for marbling at home
“Have fun, get experimental, grab loads of scrap paper, play with the colour combinations and play with the way you drop the ink into the water,” Zeena advises.
Zeena says you can also experiment with the number of inks you use, “Start with two colours - two to three is great to create beautiful, striking, bold patterns. But feel free to experiment with up to five or six.”
Zeena does advise against adding too many colours though as they could end up blending together to create an unsightly brown colour.
Although marbling inks won’t stain surfaces, Zeena recommends removing any marks with washing up liquid. It can be a messy process so do wear gloves to avoid getting ink on your skin.
“I completely forget sometimes and always end up with completely messy hands!” Zeena says.
BE QUICK ABOUT IT BUT DON’T STRESS
Marbling inks don’t take long to set, Zeena explains, so you’ve got to move quickly with dipping. Try not to stress too much about this though as it can be part of the fun. “Embrace the experimental side and don’t worry too much about it being perfect because the joy of marbling is that it’s out of your control,” Zeena says. “That’s why it puts you in this brilliant mindful headspace because you can’t control it and you have to let go and focus on the craft more than anything.”
PICK YOUR COLOURS CAREFULLY
Zeena’s favourite colour combination is pink and green and she also enjoys adding metallic colours into her marbling.
“Contrast colours work best I think and a white always goes a long way to giving your design a bit more depth.”
MAKE NECESSARY ADJUSTMENTS FOR 3D ITEMS
The method for marbling 3D items is much the same as marbling something like paper but there are some adjustments you might need to make, Zeena explains. For example:
- Use a bowl instead of a tray
- It can be harder to make sure you like your pattern if your dipping bowl is opaque so you can double dip if you want to get an even covering and layer the inks
- Leave them for 24 hours to dry
USE ONE MARBLING SOLUTION PER OBJECT
“Once you’ve dunked your object, put your marbled item to one side to dry and then clean up your bowl,” Zeena says, adding that you shouldn’t double-dip different objects into the same marbling liquid.
“Use a little bit of scrap paper to wipe away any residue ink and then you can start again.”
The world really is at your feet with marbling, or at the very least, the items you’re looking to up-cycle in your house certainly are. Whatever you decide to make, remember to have some fun with the process!
Zeena Shah, influencer and textile designer
Zeena Shah is an influencer and textile designer. She studied at Chelsea School of Art and has since worked with various textile companies creating prints and patterns for brands. She creates fashion, arts and crafts and various other lifestyle content for over 64,000 followers on her Instagram page and she has also written a book, How To Print Fabric.
Image: courtesy of Zeena Shah