Dropping the paint on the vat is an important component of most good marbling – unless you are using a whisk but that is another post. Most of the time when marbling patterns, you drop the paint one drop at a time and, ideally, you apply the paint only to the surface of the carrageenan. This is much harder than it sounds but it can be mastered with practice.

Here are some basic guidelines:

  • Keep the dropper just a couple of inches from the surface. That gives you more control of where the drops go.
  • Focus on learning to squeeze the dropper head at a consistent pace and move the dropper over the vat at a consistent speed. This will allow you to get to that one drop at a time ideal and to have uniform color across the vat. This is not a natural ability for most of us (kind of like rubbing your stomach and patting your head) so don’t be surprised that you need to practice! Once you master this basic approach to applying paint, the paint application will go much faster. Also, you can vary how you place the color to achieve different effects that you want to experiment with or find more appealing.
  • Remember that when you first apply color and there is no competition for surface space on the vat, the paint spreads quite a bit. But as you put more and more paint on the surface, it pushes the earlier drops around and they get condensed and easier to see.
  • There is no need to take the “fried egg” approach to dropping the paints if you are going to pull a pattern with combs afterwards. I think people may take to doing that because they think it will help the combed pattern have more rings of color. You don’t need to do that! It is the job of the combs to create the rings. Every time a comb crosses the vat a set of rings is created. Some patterns made of just “fried egg” rings are quite lovely, FYI.
  • When doing combed patterns I have found that dropping first light, then dark, then light, then dark colors will make the patterns have more definition.
  • You put on color until the drops do not expand more than to the size of a 25 or 50 cent piece. If the color drops are much bigger your combed pattern will have places where the pattern is all one color and is really hard to see.

These guidelines are for your early marbling career. As you become more experienced you may find that you may prefer a different way of “throwing” paint on the paper but still you will find that these basics were worth developing because of the added control they give you.