Tutorial: Marbling With Splash Inks

Splash Inks are versatile fun in a bottle. I’m on the Yasutomo Design Team, and Splash Inks is one of the products I got to use. As soon as I found out you could marble paper with the inks, I had to try it. Here’s how it works:


In addition to the Splash Inks, you’ll need a flat deep, non-reactive pan about 10 inches long and at least 2 inches deep (25 x 5 centimeters).  Shown  (above) is an enameled meat tray you can buy as a palette in most art supply stores.

Niji1A_StarchThe medium to float the inks is Sta-Flo liquid laundry starch. It comes in a blue half-gallon bottle.  A spray bottle with a fine, misting spray and a roll of paper towels come in handy, too.

Add an eye dropper, a big-tooth comb, a shower squeegee and a group of small containers to mix your favorite color inks and you are ready

Choose a sturdy paper to marble:  I like Strathmore and Canson Mixed Media papers. You can also use Arches Velin, or 90-pound watercolor paper by Bee.  Start by protecting your worktable with newspaper and wearing gloves if you want to keep your hands ink-free. Niji3_smalldotsShake the bottle of starch to blend the ingredients. Pour the starch into the dish so you have at least an inch of fluid in the dish. Stir gently with the comb or a gloved finger to remove the bubbles.

Using an ink dropper, add several drops of ink to the surface of the starch. The first time you do this, the drops will be small and sink. Expect one or two test sheets till the starch is tempered.

Niji_InkmixYou can use colors right out of the bottle, or you can mix inks into small containers. A color blending chart is included along with the four bottles of Splash Ink.

Niji4_stonemarbSave your test sheets  for collage work. When  the ink drops  get larger and float well enough so you can put drops within drops, you are ready for marbling.  The  pattern above, (called ‘stone’, is fine, or you can use the comb and gently drag the teeth through the liquid.


Drag the wide teeth of the comb left to right.


Drag the narrower teeth up and down. The more you comb the finer the pattern. Colors will blend with a lot of stirring.

marbledpaperWhen your surface has the appearance you like, you are ready to place the paper on the surface.


Place one end  of the paper onto the surface then “roll” the paper and drop the other end to keep air from getting trapped under the paper and leaving a white spot. You can see  (above), that the bottom, left-hand corner of the paper is picking up from the surface. That’s a sign to pick up the paper, the marbling is done. It takes about 10-15 seconds for the color to transfer.

Niji6_papermarbCarefully pick up the paper and put it on the newspaper. To get the starch to run off, tilt the paper slightly by putting it on a piece of crumpled newspaper. After about one minute, spray the paper with a mister to rinse off extra starch.  If you like a very crisp look with distinct lines, wipe the excess starch off the paper with the shower squeegee. It will take off some color with it.

Niji8_sinkTo make pastel shades of paper, drop the sheet on the surface, let it absorb color, then use a palette knife (or the comb) to push the paper under water. The back will become marbled in a pastel swirl of color.


Make many sheets at once to have choices. To clean the surface of the starch, float a paper towel on it to absorb the ink, then add more ink. Above, you can see several sheets–upper left is a sheet made with the four colors in the bottles; upper center, a pastel effect by sinking the paper; bottom left is a piece scraped with the shower squeegee.

The papers may curl while they are wet. To get them flat, put them between two sheets of parchment paper and iron them on a medium setting till they are flat.

You can also marble directly onto your looseleaf journal pages, then write on the front or back (or both). Here are three examples of that:

pagemarble This is part of a Robert Jeffers poem. It completes on the back, along with some comments I made about the poem.

WavesmarbleI found this a handy way to use those quotes I save for journaling. And “llustrating” them with abstract marbling poses an interesting challenging.

fishmarbleThis is one of my “fish out of water” pages. It’s an interesting theme I explore–what makes us feel uncomfortable, what gives us community? So the background is blended in blue (water) and green (land) and the fish is adapting.

On the Niji Design Blog, I used the marbled pages to make two different kinds of postcards. You can read about that project here.

dtbutton1Quinn McDonald is a member of the Yasutomo Design Team. She experiments and designs projects for Niji/Yasutomo. She receives free product from the company to complete the projects.

24 thoughts on “Tutorial: Marbling With Splash Inks

  1. When I use a container deeper than 1 inch the paint sinks. If I dip a small amount of the starch mixture from the large container into a small bowl the paint spreads beautifully. This is driving me nuts – can this method be used in deeper containers or is it too dense and water/starch separate?

    • I don’t know, Elaina. I did a lot of experimentation to figure out what worked well. My dishes were pretty shallow. You don’t need a deep dish–it wastes ink and starch. I use the smallest container I can.

  2. Hi QuinnCreative. You stated in your instructions that the first time you drop your inks onto the starch, with will be small and sink, but once the starch is tempered, it will work. What do you mean… Tempered? Does this mean that the inks have to mix with the starch in some way before they can stay on top and be moved around? Why do some of the first drops sink? and when you say… tests, are you saying that you must place paper onto of the starch that appears to have no ink on it because the drops have fallen to the bottom? I apologize for the sequence of questions… I just wanted to fully understand your process. I appreciate your help! Your work is so beautiful! Thanks so much for all the help you provide for us. Donna ;))

    • The first time you drop ink onto the starch, it might sink because the surface tension hasn’t reached a point where it can support the inks. Tempered means the starch may take a few tries to get the ink distribution right. The first drops sink because the surface tension of the starch is not enough to hold them up. This is a new kind of marbling, and takes some getting used to. You might take a bit of practice to get it right. When the ink drops to the bottom of the tray, a trace stays on the surface. PIcked up with paper, it can be an interesting pale design.

    • Great link, thanks! I struggled with so much about marbling (which I also do in the traditional way) and found so few article about suminagashi, that I am glad you have so many links to different techniques.

  3. Let me just say how IMPRESSED I am with this paint!

    I first tried this simple starch marbling methods with top name, pro acrylic inks, fluid acrylics and even some dense, opaque vinyl acrylics. They all either sank to the bottom, or gave such a PALE print it was useless. I figured it was my paper, or this whole method was dubious, so I was very skeptical about trying the Niji product.

    I literally opened my Splash order 20 minutes ago and tried it again, using the same paper. The Splash Ink immediately FLOATED on the water, and made bright, INTENSE prints on the paper! The paper was even picking up tones and colors that were too pale to see in the pan!

    Bravo Yatsutomo!

  4. QUINN! This is a-ma-zing! I love marbling, and got a set of the Splash inks when they came out — I have never seen the liquid starch, tho’ (?) Do you know if there is a way to make that yourself? (or might you have a recommended source for that item?) …looking forward to trying this method 😀 THANKS!

  5. Thanks for this Quinn! I love marbling but the prep (and cost) of carageenan (sp?) and alum is daunting. I am excited to try this with the starch and inks.

  6. Beautiful marbling! My favorite is the “fish out of water”—very thought-provoking. Now I want to see “horse of a different color”!

  7. Funny that you should mention that company. I have been using their paper now for quite some time for my gelatin printing. It is amazing paper. I won’t use anything else. it is thin but actually takes many layers of paint.

    • Wallpaper glue or seaweed thickener (carrageenan) is the usual material for “real” marbling. It takes a lot of preparation, though, and often requires the extra step of painting alum on the papers, which this does not. My next experiment is trying it with another “float” method, to see if I will get different results.

Join the conversation

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.