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How to make your own marbling ink

Updated July 20, 2017

Beautiful hand-marbleised paper is often used in bookmaking or other paper crafts. The marbling pigments sold by most arts-and-crafts suppliers can be quite expensive and are not always readily available. Instead, follow these instructions to make your own inks with old oil paints, that can be used to create elegant marbleised papers.

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  1. Collect old oil paints for the ink. Almost empty paint tubes, small pieces of oil sticks and dried globules of paint on palettes work very well.

  2. Select a well-ventilated area with a sturdy, level table or bench for your workspace. A studio with a large work surface is ideal; however, a carport and folding table are more than adequate. Cover all exposed surfaces with newspaper.

  3. Wearing surgical gloves, prepare the oil pigments in a ceramic bowl. Use scissors to cut the ends off old paint tubes and to remove the labels from oil sticks. Use a fork to grind the paint solids into a thick paste. Mix colours to achieve the desired hue.

  4. Add one to two capfuls of turpentine to the oil paste. With the palette knife, stir the mixture until it is smooth and lump free. Add more turpentine to dissolve stubborn bits of pigment.

  5. Paint a small area of the scrap paper to test the ink's consistency. This should produce a semitransparent colour. If the ink is too opaque, add more turpentine to the mixture. Add more pigment to create a richer colour.

  6. Carefully transfer the mixture to a glass jar with a well-fitting lid. Use masking tape and a fine-tipped permanent marker to label and date the container. These inks have a virtually unlimited shelf life.

  7. Tip

    Tape a piece of the colour test paper to the top of the ink jar for a quick reference. For a cheap alternative to oil paint, try using a cattle marker. Most feed stores keep several colours in stock. Linseed oil or white spirit are an alternative to turpentine.


    Always handle turpentine with care. It is flammable and produces hazardous fumes. To avoid muddy colours, clean all supplies with turpentine before mixing a new colour of ink.

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Things You'll Need

  • Old oil paints
  • Turpentine
  • Newspaper
  • Glass or ceramic bowl
  • Scissors
  • Fork
  • Palette knife
  • Scrap paper
  • Paintbrush
  • Glass jars with secure lids
  • Masking tape
  • Permanent marker

About the Author

Amanda Flocke is a freelance writer and artist based in Houston, Texas. Her broad range of expertise includes green living, interior decorating, woodworking and primary education. Flocke holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in sculpture from the University of North Texas.

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