Painting Ceramics to Look Like Marble

The marbling technique is a classic way to decorate your ceramic pots, bowls and mugs to give them a professional look mimicking the textured appeal of a slab of marble. Get this look using glaze or colored slip, which is liquid clay. The pattern you create with marbling depends on how bold you want your ceramics to look: thicker lines create more contrasting pieces while thin swirls look earthen and natural.

  1. The Effects of Marbling on Ceramics

    • Marbling gives ceramic pieces a veined appearance that looks like a slab of natural marble. The technique is typically done with one light and one dark color and earthen or marble tones, such as coral and brown or black and white, so the pottery looks as though it's cut marble or stone. Some artists use marbling as a way to create bold and eccentric pieces, using highly contrasted colors and creating thicker or swirly lines and patterns.

    History of Marbling

    • The earliest discovered pieces of marbled pottery come from first century Rome and common styles used multiple colored bands of clay slips to make veined patterns. In ancient Egypt, clay pots were often glazed white and marbled with white and black lines of slip or glazed a warm red and marbled with crimson or brown lines of slip. The marbling technique has remained a common style throughout history, re-emerging at industrial strength in 1600s Staffordshire, England. Staffordshire "slipware" was exported globally and continues to inspire modern pottery artists.

    Marbling with Glaze

    • To marble with glaze, paint your ceramic piece the main color of choice and let it dry. Spray a large clump of shaving cream on a sheet of wax paper as large as your ceramic piece and spread it out using a square of cardboard or a butter knife. Add several drops of the second color glaze over the shaving cream and use a paint brush to swirl the glaze through until you get a marbled look. Press your ceramic piece into the glaze and shaving cream marble. Lightly rinse off the shaving cream and let the glaze dry. The shaving cream should wash off easily while the glaze sticks.

    Marbling with Slip

    • Roll out an even and consistent clay disk and set the clay on a board. Pour a coating of slip the same color as your clay over the disk until it's completely covered and excess slip has drained away. Immediately apply a thin and delicate pattern of zig-zag lines using a lighter-colored slip, covering the entire disk. Hold up the disk on the board and tip and rotate it, causing the different colored slips to swirl and create a marbled pattern, for about 30 to 45 seconds. Allow the disk to dry until it's no longer tacky and then mold it into any shape you want. Dry your ceramic piece as usual.

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