Top 5 Must Read Books on Marbling Techniques + Reviews

I have done my fair share of marbling in the past for both clients and personal projects but I am by no means an expert in the subject, this may already be apparent by the lack of technical terminology used within this post but probably even more so when you compare my work with that of a true master.

Marbling is easy to pick up and good fun if you don’t mind getting a little bit messy, but when you strive for professional results you really need to be taught by the pro’s.

There are a number of books I have read over the years that have helped me become more competent in paper marbling, some of which have gone out of publish but many of which are still available today. Below you will find a list of what I consider the best books to buy and read on the subject of marbling (+1 on paste papers which is very good).

A few marbling videos from the professionals

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Whilst I don’t necessarily recommend purchasing every book on the subject, I would advise getting at least one, one that you can use in your workroom without having to try and find what you need online, which if you’re reading this post, you’ll probably appreciate that this can be hard at the best of times. There is no substitute for a well written book and even more so on the subject of marbling; the tips and advice given within these books are priceless, I can’t count how many times I have referred back to my own copies even after marbling many hundreds of sheets in my past.

So anyhow, after spending the best part of yesterday and the day before re-reading them all, here is my personal top 5 books on the subject of marbling, many of which are still readily available for purchase online 😀 .

The Ultimate Marbling Handbook

#1 – The Ultimate Marbling Handbook: A Guide to Basic and Advanced Techniques for Marbling Paper and Fabric (Watson-Guptill Crafts)

Paperback – May 1, 1999 | Paperback
by Diane Maurer-Mathison | Rating: 4.9 Stars (4.9 / 5)

This handbook offers a complete guide to methods, styles and levels of marbling. Beginner marblers will appreciate the step-by-step instruction, intermediate marblers can use the troubleshooting guide to solve problems, and advanced marblers will find ideas and techniques from around the world.

Beautifully marbled endpapers are a familiar sight in old books, but few readers have any idea of how they are made. The technique of printing on paper using inks or paints floating on water was originally kept secret, but recent books have revealed the process. Continuing the material in her previous book, Marbling: A Complete Guide to Creating Beautiful Patterned Papers and Fabrics, this guide includes avant-garde images as well as the classic designs using Japanese suminagashi inks, oil-color marbling, and watercolor marbling. Included are troubleshooting pointers and excellent photographs of pieces by the author and other artists. Highly recommended for all crafts collections.
Amazon.com editorial review

Perhaps one of the best marbling books you’re going to find on the market.

The Ultimate Marbling Handbook is the book I find myself going to when I’m looking for information or simply when I’m looking for fresh inspiration.

Diane is a master of marbling and over the years it seems she has developed her creativity and many of her own techniques to produce some of the most beautiful pieces of artwork I’ve ever seen, many of her finest examples are shared with you in her book.

I would say this book is the most comprehensive guide to marbling currently available on the market, suitable for beginners right the way through to advanced levels.

The book is well laid out with beautiful colour illustrations and photographs which makes it a pleasure to read.

Topics the book cover

Suminagashi, marbling with oil and watercolour or paper and fabric, recommended tools, techniques and step-by-step guides on how to make 30 or so traditional patterns along with instructions on how to ‘paint’ animals, fish, flowers and other objects on water. A small section on 3D marbling of objects is also contained within the book.

The book also covers more advanced techniques like overmarbling, compressing, using additives and even using friskets.

My no.1 book, a recommended purchase. A++

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Technical Depth:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Photo/Diagram Clarity:4.9 Stars (4.9 / 5)
Ease of Reading:4.8 Stars (4.8 / 5)
Value for Money:4.8 Stars (4.8 / 5)
Average:4.9 Stars (4.9 / 5)

Marbling Techniques: How to Create Traditional and Contemporary Designs on Paper and Fabric

#2 – Marbling Techniques: How to Create Traditional and Contemporary Designs on Paper and Fabric

Paperback – October 1, 1994 | Paperback
by Wendy Addison Medeiros | Rating: 4.8 Stars (4.8 / 5)

This nicely presented book covers all the basics of marbling paper and fabric, from making your own tools to working with various types of paints to setting up your workspace. The heart of the book explains the specifics of how to create seven basic marbling patterns and how to troubleshoot technical problems, plus ways to achieve seven specialty techniques, including marbling dimensional objects. The concluding section offers ideas for several projects incorporating marbling, as well as a brief explanation about going into business selling your marbled products.
Amazon.com editorial review

Whilst I would agree with most of what the Amazon.com editor has to say about the book (above), I would just add that although the book covers the ‘basics’ of Marbling, it is by no means simply a beginners book and would be suitable for every skill level up to intermediate and maybe even advanced due to the tips and advice given.

The author, Wendy, is down to earth and explains clearly, but in great detail, how to go about marbling in many different styles with simple equipment. Detailed step-by-step instructions help to further clarify her written descriptions and add good value to the book. I’ve found information and tips in this book that I’ve not heard or read anywhere else during my career.

Marbling in acrylics, oils, tempera paints and watercolor are covered in this book along with a section about marbling on fabrics which many will find useful. A supplier list at the back of the book will help those source specialised equipment when needed.

Probably the most useful section in this book is how she goes about providing solutions to common (and not so common) problems that you’ll almost certainly encounter at one time or another during your experimentation. More advanced applications like marbling the edges of a book block are not covered in this book.

All in all, I would highly recommend this book to beginners & intermediates on the subjects. A+

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Technical Depth:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Photo/Diagram Clarity:4.7 Stars (4.7 / 5)
Ease of Reading:4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)
Value for Money:4.8 Stars (4.8 / 5)
Average:4.8 Stars (4.8 / 5)

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Suminagashi: The Japanese Art of Marbling

#3 – Suminagashi: The Japanese Art of Marbling : A Practical Guide

Paperback – February 1, 1993 | Paperback
by Anne Chambers | Rating: 4.3 Stars (4.3 / 5)

An introduction to the Japanese craft of paper marbling, detailing both traditional and modern methods and including step-by-step instructions on imitating traditional designs and adapting them to Western tastes.
Amazon.com

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A good quality book with many high quality images of artwork produced by the Suminagashi technique.

Suminagshi is different from Western marbling in the sense that it uses only a limited number of colours or inks (normally only 1, black) and that it uses no chemicals or substances to thicken the water to hold the weight of normal marbling inks which can be found in Western marbling.

The initial chapters of this book focus on the history of Suminagashi and the works of 4 artists who have developed their own style in this art, great for inspiration when you come to do your own.

Later chapters will discuss what equipment and supplies you might need and the techniques needed to use them correctly.

A great book on the subject but not the best if you’re looking to do traditional Western marbling. B+

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Technical Depth:4 Stars (4 / 5)
Photo/Diagram Clarity:4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)
Ease of Reading:4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)
Value for Money:4.2 Stars (4.2 / 5)
Average:4.3 Stars (4.3 / 5)
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Marbling on Fabric

#4 – Marbling on Fabric

Paperback – April 1, 1990 | Paperback
by Daniel Cohen | Rating: 3.8 Stars (3.8 / 5)

Create elegant marbled patterns quickly and easily with this thoroughly illustrated guide.

A good little book on fabric marbling with much of what the beginner – intermediate would want to know in under 100 pages.

There are many color pictures and diagrams that help guide the user through different techniques as well as a number of different craft projects laid out towards to end section of the book.

The book is quite old, as such the list of sources and suppliers is pretty much useless.

Although dated, Marbling on Fabrics is still probably the best book you’ll find on, you guessed it, fabric marbling. B+

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Technical Depth:3.9 Stars (3.9 / 5)
Photo/Diagram Clarity:3 Stars (3 / 5)
Ease of Reading:4.1 Stars (4.1 / 5)
Value for Money:4.3 Stars (4.3 / 5)
Average:3.8 Stars (3.8 / 5)

The Art of Making Paste Papers

#5 – The Art of Making Paste Papers

Paperback – June 1, 2002 | Paperback
by Diane K. Maurer-Mathison  | Rating: 3.4 Stars (3.4 / 5)

Paste paper designs have been used for centuries to decorate book covers and endpapers. A close relative of the finger-paintings of our youth, the basic paste paper technique involves dampening a sheet of paper, coating it with colored paste, and then drawing various implements through the paste to create deceptively sophisticated designs. It’s simple, fun, and used by crafters everywhere to create one-of-a-kind graphics and colorful patterns.

In The Art of Making Paste Papers, a noted paper artist and author demonstrates, step by step, how to create beautifully patterned papers . . . from preparing the papers and applying the paste to producing combed, textured, stamped, and even hand-drawn designs. The reader will see how to use paste papers to make scrapbooks, greeting cards, picture mats, boxes, and other projects—as well as discover the dazzling work of an international roster of paste paper designers. Paper—making it, decorating it, and creating with it—is wildly popular among paper artists and crafters everywhere. The Art of Making Paste Papers is your perfect hands-on guide to learning and mastering this beautiful and practical art!
Amazon.com description

The Art of Making Paste Papers is a fun book to read and does provide good value to the budget bookbinder or those who do not wish to get into marbling paper.

The process of making paste paper is very simple and not really one I would buy a book on (nb. I’m not sure where I acquired this book from).

It seems to be pretty expensive too for what you get inside. Suitable maybe for a school library or college.

Good for those lacking personal creativity. Definately a ‘beginners’ book.

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Technical Depth:3.4 Stars (3.4 / 5)
Photo/Diagram Clarity:3.2 Stars (3.2 / 5)
Ease of Reading:4 Stars (4 / 5)
Value for Money:3 Stars (3 / 5)
Average:3.4 Stars (3.4 / 5)

So there you have it, my top 5 books on Marbling (and paste papering), if you own or have read any of the books or indeed any others on the subject I would love to know your thoughts on them – use the comments section below. Thank you.