In which Miss Molly and her Mangled Messers become marbling experts.

This past Wednesday was Mangled Messes day! I love MM days. I have such a great bunch of kids who routinely sign up. They are enthusiastic and sweet–the perfect combination!

This week we talked about and made marbled paper! I love marbled paper. It’s so beautiful. When I worked at the Lewis Walpole Library in Farmington, I encountered some really awesome marbled pages in the old books buried in the secret vault. That was such an awesome job; I got to work with 16th-18th century British artwork. They have some amazing things over there. The original prints! The one of a kind artwork! The history!

Anyway…back to marbling!

I set up four different ways for my Messers to attempt marbling; none of these methods are traditional. All of these methods are messy. Some of these methods produce more stunning results than others. All of these methods are awesome.

These are the results:


The paper on the top left was done with a combination of a water bath, dish soap, and thinned out food coloring. Top right was made with shaving cream and food coloring. The bottom left was made with a liquid starch bath and food coloring. Bottom right was made with a water bath, oil and food coloring.

As you can see, the attempts on the left side are rather drab; to me, they look more like watercolors than marbled paper. The one on the bottom right is a little closer to the ‘traditional’ look of older books. But, by far, the kids’ favorite (and mine) is the top right. It’s so vivid! So vibrant! And so easy!

While the other prints are cool, they are not as cool as the shaving cream print.

paper 2I mean, seriously.

paperTo start the program off, I showed the various prints that I had made ahead of time and asked them which method they thought made which print. We talked about density and how the color and vibrancy depended on which method was used. When the color was thinned out so that it could float on the soapy water, or the starch, the colors were not as bright. Since the color did not have to be thinned in any way for the shaving cream, the colors pop much more.

“Yeah, Miss Molly, blah blah blah. Bring on the FOOD COLORING.”

This one was incredibly messy. Usually my groups don’t like to get THAT messy. But, this time, all bets were off and they fully embraced it. There was food coloring everywhere and everyone went away with several pieces of marbled paper and two marbled hands.

Each Messer got two small tin roasting trays; you know, those throwaway kind. This kept the mess somewhat contained, until the paper was removed from whatever color bath it was put in.-then it was mayhem.

I highly suggest using disposable table cloths or newspaper to protect the tables, the floor, the walls….dye seems to travel when kids are involved. But, then again, it’s only food coloring and washes out.

Embrace the mess.

Love the mess.

There are several ways to marble with shaving cream. A basic search of the internet will produce several hits. This is my abbreviated version, since it is fairly self-explanatory.

1. Evenly spread a layer of about 1/8 inch of shaving cream along the bottom of your tray. Like frosting a cake.

2. Drop your color at various internals around the cream. We used both traditional food coloring and pastel food coloring.

3. Using a toothpick, a bamboo skewer, or a fork, gently make patterns in the color. Do not mix the colors too much, as this produces a gross, brown mass that has no pattern.

water bat

4. Lay your paper into the mixture. Press it evenly into the cream/dye mixture, but do not make the paper go underneath.

5. After roughly 20-30 seconds, peel the paper off the cream. A lot of cream will come away with the paper–this should happen.

6. Take a popsicle stick and scrap off the excess cream from the paper. Trust me, the cream will come off, but all the gorgeous color will remain. Repeat the scraping until all the cream is off of the paper.

7. Marvel at your marvelous marbled paper.

8. Repeat.

If your paper curls, you can iron it by placing your print between two sheets of clean paper and going over it with an iron on the lowest setting. Do not use steam, obviously.

What’s really cool about marbling like this, and marbling in general, each print will be a monoprint. This means that each print will be unique, and that even if you use the same bath, the second and third print will come out looking different than the first! The two prints I did with shaving cream, above, are both from the same set up. How cool is that?

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