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Hidden Corners Behind the Grand Bazaar »« Muradiye, Çekirge and Random Bursa Pics

An Introduction to Turkish Marbling

Marbling, or ebru, is one of the most popular forms of Turkish art. We decided to introduce ourselves to the technique, and joined a workshop offered by Les Arts Turcs in Sultanahmet. By the end of the entertaining session, we had managed to create a few minor masterpieces.

Ebru has been a part of the Turkish art scene for centuries, and has long been a specialty of Istanbul’s dervish orders. Contributing to the technique’s popularity is the fact that it’s easy to learn; even an absolute beginner can create an impressive piece of art. Basically, you drip paint on top of water, use needles and brushes to make swirling designs, and then transfer the finished work onto paper. The paints are treated with ox gall to lower their surface tension, allowing them to float, and the water’s properties result in fluid, hypnotic patterns.

Les Arts Turcs is a small gallery and artspace near the Topkapi Palace that both sells and displays original pieces, and offers classes in Turkish techniques such as ebru and calligraphy. And they let you get right to the fun stuff: within a couple minutes of entering the workshop, we were bent over trays of water, applying our first dabs of color. Marbling is something which doesn’t require a lot of prior instruction.

My first painting was going wonderfully. Having chosen a background palette of orange, blue and white, I had used a comb to swirl the colors into a mesmerizing pattern. But then I screwed it all up by adding giant flowers. Somehow (and perhaps my inner artist should have realized this) red and pink flowers on a blue-orange background don’t look good. My inner artist is an idiot.

Luckily, my inner bullshitter is always willing to step up. “Exactly what I was going for!” I announced, proudly displaying my ridiculous pink-on-orange monstrosity to everyone in the room, daring them to call my bluff.

Flowers were the preferred motive during our workshop. We learned to make carnations, tulips, roses, violets and chrysanthemums. And then, just to mix it up, we did some trees. Since Islam isn’t big on the artistic representation of the human form, plants and flowers are popular themes in Turkish art. Anyway, the colorful and geometric flower shapes suit the technique of marbling perfectly.

We had a great morning at Les Arts Turcs; marbling makes for a fun cultural experience, far removed from visiting mosques and museums. For €60 per person, you’re provided instruction, and the chance to make a number of paintings, which you can take home. A more personal souvenir is hard to imagine.

Location on our Istanbul Map
Les Arts Turcs – Website, Details about the Marbling Class

-Paper Marbling Kit For At Home


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June 20, 2013 at 10:26 am
10 comments »
  • June 26, 2013 at 3:07 amjoel

    this looks like so much fun.

  • August 11, 2013 at 7:50 amjennifer

    Ihave to know what to buy to do this at home, how relaxing and fun.Can you buy the things you need locally in any city or what.

    • August 11, 2013 at 8:38 amMike Powell

      I believe the materials are not uncommon, and marbling has become a pretty popular art form. I would check in at an arts supplies store, or even on Amazon.

  • August 11, 2013 at 12:15 pmjennifer

    Thanks for the reply back.I think I’m going to try it! I will come back and let you know if I do and how it goes. As long as I can find the proper tools etc. It seems like a really enjoyable art form that anyone could feel artful about.

  • December 15, 2013 at 5:50 ammegha

    i just try this art bt the colours are not floting over the water .so ma doubt is what kind of colour is used for this art pls mention the colour name.nd is there any liquids or impurites adding into the water ?pls give a solution bcs im rly intrested in this art

  • February 13, 2014 at 7:13 pmsascha macias

    Hi I’ve been trying this and using acrylics but the pigment is very light and you can barely see the image I heard the water should be thickened how do you do this?

  • February 24, 2014 at 6:53 pmABDULLAH YUSUP RANDIMAN

    I try to pain but my pain do not react… What water solution shall I used and what are the appropriate color to use. Can I use acrylic, water color,dye and paint..Please assist me… tq

  • March 30, 2014 at 10:59 pmRobbie R

    I would like to order supplies and materials but it is hard to find in US.  Can you direct me to the proper place that is not too expensive?  I have been researching for 6months and no luck

  • May 16, 2014 at 3:00 pmGiorgia

    Hello everyone! I tried this technique  a year ago, in order to make special decoration for Easter candles! The colors we used in the workshop were “Easy Marble”. There is a great variety of colors and shades! Try them on, it’s really fun and the result beyond your imagination! Good luck!

  • June 1, 2014 at 3:49 pmChris

    Could you elaborate on how to transfer the paint to the paper. I’m not following that part. I seriously want to give this a try.

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