At-home Art Project: Paper Marbling Prints

This is a super fun process-driven art project that can definitely be disguised as a learning activity. It’s an opportunity to talk about the relationship between water and oil (hint: they are not friends), color mixing, counting (for the little ones), and abstract imagery. There’s so much room for experimenting and each outcome is bound to look completely uniquie from the last, it ends up being super fun for parents and kids! From the first drop to the end result, the entire process is actually really fascinating.

Get ready for some woahs!


First, put about 2-3 tablespoons of vegetable oil in each small container. We used some old, empty Blick watercolor bottles for the mixtures. The opening is just big enough to allow for easy pouring, and it seals perfectly for a safe shake! Add about 5 drops of food color or liquid watercolor in each container with the oil. Let the little ones help with this, and remind them to go veeerry slooowly, otherwise they might add too much!


Experiment with mixing colors! If your little artist is learning about primary colors (red, blue, yellow) you could experiment and mix up the secondary colors (orange, green, purple). Or make a blue green, reddish purple, or canary yellow. We also included a metalic silver to give our prints an extra bit of shimmer. Seal up the containers tightly and shake until they’re mixed well.


Now, for the fun part! Fill a pan or two with about a centimeter of water (you’ll have to ignore all the paint on our tray—it’s impossible to find supplies around here that haven’t been used for an art project at some point)! Slowly sprinkle the colored oil over the pans of water. To keep the colors from getting too muddy, it’s a good idea (especially with the little ones) to use one pan for warm colors and one for cool. Using the forks and/or tooth picks, swirl the oil around the surface of the water until you have an interesting pattern covering all of the water.


Lay your paper over the pan and let it float for a moment–don’t let it sink! Can your kiddo count to 30? Now’s a good time to count with them! Gently life it off and–drumroll please–check out that print!

“It looks like the galaxy,” one artist remarked in awe.

If the surface of the water still looks cool, make another print on another sheet! You can always add more oil and/or change out the water if the water is looking a little muddy or the colors have faded too much.


Once dry, you can use your prints as a background for drawing, as stationary for letters, or just as is! Admire the shapes and swirls as abstract art!! Check out some of the prints we made (still wet here), and feel free to post your own prints on our Facebook page!



Philly Art Center has been cultivating creative genius in kids and adults since 2004. We inspire every student to create, play, laugh and learn! Learn more