Marble has been used for centuries because of its beautiful swirling patterns. Marbling is a type of faux finish that borrows the effect of marble for walls, floors, and other surfaces. Some marbled surfaces are almost indistinguishable from actual marble, while others use the basic idea of marble as a starting point, then diverge greatly from the aspect of actual marble.
Marbling can be done with either oil-based or water-based paint, but oil-based paint is usually preferred for large areas. To perform oil-based marbling, you need quite a bit of equipment: flat oil paint, undercoat or eggshell paint, a transparent oil-based glaze, artist's oil paints, a small sponge, paintbrushes, clean rages, newspapers, paint thinner, and glass jars with lids.
To begin marbling, paint a base color using your flat paint, eggshell or undercoat. Mix the desired color from your artist's paints into an oil based glaze and use the clean rag to apply it over the base. Alternatively, you can use a paintbrush and brush the glaze on, making sure to use a swirling motion.
Next, use a darker or contrasting shade to add diagonal veins, making sure to blur the marble veins after they are painted. In order to blur the "veins" in the faux marble, use another brush that has been dipped in eggshell varnish, swirling the varnish through the veins. After this is completed, smudge the entire surface with a crumpled newspaper. Soften the marbled effect by using a flat dry brush to give the surface a cloudy appearance. If desired, use a very fine brush to add smaller veins to finish the marbled look. When the surface is dry, apply clear gloss varnish followed by satin varnish.
It is possible to achieve a marbled effect with water-based paint, but much harder to get the depth that can be achieved with oil-based paints. If you choose to use water-based paints, one way to add visual depth is to ragroll the base color. This can be done by painting a base with a slightly lighter was over the base, and ragging the wash immediately after it is applied.
Another form of marbling is called floating color. Floating color uses a wet background and oil paints diluted with paint thinner. A base color is applied and allowed to dry. Then a coat of flatting oil, one part linseed oil to six parts paint thinner, is brushed on. Finally, a runny solution of the main color is applied. While this is still wet, use a small paintbrush to dab on two or three other diluted colors, which should flow together well.
Written by Bronwyn Harris
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