Buying marbling paper is a tricky business. As usual there are many variables to manage: how well will it paste up on your projects? What color? How likely is it to work? (some papers have so many additives that they won’t take the alum to make the paint stick) What is the cost per sheet? Etc. I’m still learning and basically go with what seems to work for me and to a lesser extent cost as my prime criteria.

That said I have learned to consider one factor that I wouldn’t have realized earlier in my marbling career: how soft and pliable is the paper? As I have watched other marblers and talked with them about the paper they use I have come to the conclusion that when you pick a type of paper you also pick the time you will apply alum. Here’s my thinking.

To get the paper down on the vat in a single, smooth motion you need soft pliable paper and it also needs to be flat. This is how you get patterns without “hitches” or other hesitation marks on them. The flatness can generally be assured by laying something relatively heavy that is flat across your papers while they are waiting to be marbled. The pliability of the paper can be achieved in two possible ways:

  1. You can buy paper that is “soft” and retains its pliability even after aluming. That has been my answer for most of my “good” marbling and I find Hahnemuhle Ingres Paper works very well. That allows me to alum the paper in advance and start marbling without waiting to alum my paper and then for it to dry a bit.
  2. The other option to achieve pliability is to alum just before you marble the paper. You have to let the alum dry some or it won’t do its magic so that lets you alum maybe 5-10 sheets at a time. Alum them, keep them flat, and when they are still moist marble with them; the chance for good patterns and no air bubbles is greatly improved. This allows me to use less expensive paper such as SAX 80lb paper when I’m experimenting with colors or patterns or just starting a marbling session.