Have you ever wished to try paper marbling, but were discouraged because you thought it was too complicated? Suminagashi might be for you!

Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend a workshop on Suminagashi, the ancient Japanese art of paper marbling, taught by Winnipeg marbling artist Janet Carroll. Suminagashi requires a minimum amount of preparation and equipment, and is quite unpredictable and surprising. The equipment needed includes a tray of water (as large as the paper or fabric you wish to marble), a chemical agent to make the ink float on top of the water (we used Kodak Photo-Flo), marbling inks (we used the Boko Undo coloured inks and a black Sumi ink), and paper to marble. We did a lot of experimenting and tried a lot of different papers with mixed results, but it was all a lot of fun! There were a lot of "Ooooohhh's" and "wow's" heard throughout the afternoon.

The results were hard to photograph, as the patterns can be quite subtle. Depending how much ink you use, the results can be very delicate:

Or much more vibrant:

We tried Tyvek, a material used in house building and for postal envelopes. While it worked well for some in the class, the ink just slid right off my page:

This next one is a ghost (2nd print) off a tray with black ink, using rice paper. Sometimes the paper is so delicate that it tears when wet. This one tore and then crumpled on me, hence the crumpled marks in the image. I'm going to try to iron it.

This last one was one of my favourites, but it doesn't show well in the photo. I used a very delicate golden coloured chinese paper.

Other papers we tried included coffee filters and the paper used on medical examining tables--both worked well.

I'm still looking for a Canadian supplier for the inks, but here are some in the US:


  1. your workshop sounds like a lot of fun! i've never tried suminagashi, but i've done some marbling before....i think that i prefer the subtle prints that you achieved with the suminagashi! i like it that you tried using so many different papers...even paper used in the doctor's office! i'll be interested to see how you end up using these! :)

  2. There is a spiritual meditative aspect to Suminagashi as well. You can't be too controlling or rigid with it, so it allows you to relax and have more fun!

  3. Hi! Thanks for your sweet comment. I just tried to leave one, but my Internet is acting up...sorry if you end up with two. :)

    I was trying to say that marbling is so wonderful...if you enjoyed that technique, you might want to try the way I do it (found on some website)--involves liquid starch, powdered alum and simple craft paint. Fairly inexpensive, too.

    You're so right about the calming effect of marbling--I love just letting go and watching the colors swirl!


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