Hey friends, I've had a lot of people ask about marbling with acrylics lately, so I thought I'd make a little tutorial! It's a pretty simple (and super fun!) process, but you can get some pretty intricate designs the more you get a feel for it.
1) Paints - Golden’s Fluid and High Flow acrylics are perfect for this technique, as both are thin and highly concentrated.
2) A medium that self-levels – GAC 800, Clear Tar Gel and/or Self-Levelling Gel
In terms of levelling mediums, you have a few options. Clear Tar Gel and Self-Levelling Gel are both good for this technique, as they self-level when poured. They have very similar characteristics, but with different thicknesses – Self Levelling is thinner, while Clear Tar Gel is thick like honey. Another option is GAC 800, a specialty polymer that reduces crazing – those crevices and ripples that can sometimes happen with acrylics. I’ve found that when I’m marbling with Self-Levelling or Clear Tar, I do tend to get some of these ripples, but with GAC 800, regardless of how much I manipulate it, it stays completely smooth. Its only downside is that it’s extremely thin – much more than even a Polymer medium – and so can run if not left to dry on an absolutely level surface (sometimes you can get some cool effects that way, but it’s not always desirable.) Mixing either the Self Levelling or Clear Tar with the GAC 800 allows you to take advantage of both the thickness of the Clear Tar/Self Levelling and the anti-crazing of the GAC 800. Currently my favourite custom mix is about 3 parts GAC 800 to 1 part Self-Levelling Gel.
3) A surface to marble
You can do this directly onto a regular painting surface, such as stretched canvas or a cradled wooden panel. You can also buy liquid panels, which are specially made for working with fluid materials as they have a lip around their edge. Another option is creating an acrylic skin by applying your acrylics to a non-stick surface. You can buy non-stick palettes (I really like the large Tri-Art ones), or you can do it on something simple like plastic bags or page protectors for binders.
4) Masking tape and tools to manipulate paint – toothpicks, skewers, combs, etc.
5) Cups to mix in – I buy little plastic shot glasses
1) Make a tape wall. If you are using GAC 800 on anything other than a liquid painting panel, you will need to put a barrier of tape around it. If working with Self-Levelling Gel or Clear Tar Gel, the tape is not necessary or recommended (it can cause crazing).
2) Mix each of your colors with your medium. There’s no right or wrong in terms of ratios; however, if you add a tiny bit of paint to a lot of medium, you will make your color more transparent. I usually fill a shot cup a little less than halfway, and mix a drop or two of paint into it.
3) Start pouring. Start to pour puddles of paint onto your surface, being sure to alternate all of your colors so they are interspersed.
4) Marble away. Take your chosen tool and drag the paint around to create patterns. Try not to overwork as colors can easily become muddy. You can tilt your surface to make the colors run, or keep things flat to have more control. You can also pour or drip more color in as you go. |
5) Allow to dry. Because High Flow colors have a retarder built into them, they take longer to dry than fluids – if using them, I’d say it usually takes a couple days before totally dry.
RECOMMENDATIONS AND TROUBLE SHOOTING
A few tips and recommendations ...
1) Vary your values. I find that the strongest designs I make have a good mix of light, dark, and mid-value colors.
2) Be aware of your pigments. Knowing the difference between your pigments will go a long way in creating the design you want and avoiding frustration. Mineral colors (ie Cadmiums, Cobalts, Oxides) are matte and opaque. Modern colors (ie Quinacridones, Phthalos, etc) are glossy and transparent.
3) Remember the wet-to-dry color shift. Because acrylic mediums are white when they’re wet and dry clear, it is almost as if a Titanium White is mixed in with your paint when it is wet and disappears as it dries. This will especially be prevalent with the modern colors. If you find there’s a color you love when it’s wet but it always dries too dark, try adding a Zinc White to your mixture. This will make your color lighter than you’d like while wet, but will make it so it dries to more the color you’re going for.
If working with Iridescent and Interference colors, be forewarned that when mixed with medium they look very milky when wet, and in some cases it won’t look like you’ve even added any paint to your medium. Rest assured, they will dry back to their shiny selves.
4) Avoid stacking skins. If you’re making acrylic skins, remember never to stack them on top of each other. Like all acrylic surfaces, they will stick to one another. A great way to store them is between page protectors, or layers of parchment paper.
5) Collage your skins. You can cut or rip up your acrylic skins after they’re dry and collage them onto canvas and board, integrating them into paintings or on their own. Soft Gel (Gloss) is a good consistency for gluing your skins. You can incorporate them into paintings, or get sculptural with them like a la Melanie Rothschild or Zoe Kirkwood.
That's it for me - if you have any questions, don't hesitate to get in touch! For those of you in my neck of the woods, I'll be doing more marbling workshops in the new year - stay tuned.
For more information and ideas, check out this great article by the talented Micheal Townsend, materials specialist at Golden.
Happy painting, Andrea xo