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.

Turkish Marbling

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.

Ebru Turkish Marbling Istanbul

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

Turkish Marbling classes

This Post Has 24 Comments

  1. joel

    this looks like so much fun.

  2. jennifer

    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.

    1. Mike 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.

  3. jennifer

    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.

  4. megha

    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

  5. sascha 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?


    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

  7. Robbie 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

  8. Giorgia

    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!

  9. Chris

    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.

  10. Anita Holleufer

    I need to know what paint medium to use, as well as paper, and thickenong agent for the water????  Is it necessary to thicken the water???

  11. Avismita Chowdhury

    Hi,I have tried a lot but could not do this paint.If you tell me complete details of materials like water,color,pointer,paper which kind I will use in Ebru art.I need to know all details so I can do that.Thank you.

  12. Sankeerti

    HiCan you tell me how to do this on Canvas…I just got the marbling set from Amazon…I am able to do this on paper and not canvas!Regards

    1. Mike Powell

      We don’t know enough about the art form to offer advice — we just tried it this once. Can any other readers help with advice?

    2. SmokeHillFarm

      Try contacting the vendor who sold you the supplies.  They ought to know more about it than anyone, and be happy to give advice so you’ll buy more supplies.

  13. aaniyah

    I think oil paints are used.  I used to do something similar to this in art class in school, we used oil paints on water.

  14. esl

    I’ve been watching videos like this online and they all look amazing. Especially this Erbu technique. And it looks so easy…but it’s not. I am still trying to figure out the size – the thickened water. If you just use regular water and marbling ink/paint, you can still do some marbling, but it never looks as amazing as this. The trick with this here is the water – and what’s in it. I know they usually use carrageenan or methylcellulose to thicken the water, but how much I am not sure. If you don’t thicken the water, your paint will not float on top of the water, but sink right to the bottom. I am still at this stage trying to figure out the exact ratio and thickness of the water. I’ve had same weak, not good results. And it’s so upsetting how you see all these ebru water marbling videos on line, but no one ever talks about the water and what’s in it exactly.. ooof, oh well, if someone knows, let me know please. Thanks!

  15. wishingwell

    Greetings…I would like to know how to buy a piece from a reputable artist/merchant such as the artists featured here in the video!! This is such a lovely art form! Thanks for sharing this with us!:-)) – 8/10/15

  16. wishingwell

    …Never mind about my question. I found the answer…:-p If I had only just read the article instead of going straight to the comments. Thanks for your time just the same.

  17. Ruchi Pradhan

    Awesome work..I too wanna learn to know a new art..want to create some beautiful patterns. I just wanna know what is the technique of doing this artwork? What do we have to mix with water and colours so that it can float easily. Please mail me the technique.Thankyou 

  18. Achut Bhandarkar

    Hi,I am very interested in Ebru or Turkish paper marbling art. This art has existed in other countries in different forms. In Japanese the art of Suminagashi is popular but requires ordinary water and special ink especially black color.I am making a personal study of this art for my own interest. Here are some useful links in English and Turkish which give a lot of details about this art, the dyes, paints, Ox Gall, paper treatment etc.Hope this helps.–id-110

  19. Alp Aksahin

    Hi Friends ; This is our workshop that you read in the article..  If anyone wants to come for the same class, here is our contact info..   Alp Aksahin – Les Arts Turcs / Bazaar Turkey.Here is our adres : Maps      : Arts Turcs – Art Gallery & StudioAlemdar Mah Incili Çavus Sok. No: 19 Floor : 3 (Behind The Underground Cistern) Sultanahmet 34400Istanbul, Turkey

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