digital marbling

What is Digital Marbling?

Digital Marbling is the emulation of paper marbling using a computer simulation. Paper marbling is a traditional craft which has been practiced for centuries.

According to Wikipedia, paper marbling originated in Japan in the 12th century, where it is known as Suminagashi. It moved west to the Islamic world in the 15th century, and it is still practiced in Turkey, where it is known as Ebru. From the Middle East, paper marbling came to Italy and then to other parts of Europe, where it was used to create the endpapers for books..

Paper marbling is carried out by first distributing paints on the surface of a bath, which are then manipulated with various instruments to form patterns, There are several videos on YouTube showing how it is done. Today, marbled paper is used commercially in bookbinding and book restoration, and marbling is a hobby in several countries. Some especially fine pieces are sold in art galleries.

Digital Marbling uses a simulation program on a computer to mimic the steps in paper marbling in order to produce similar patterns. This website is dedicated to Digital Marbling and the images it can produce. Although they are never identical to the patterns produced by real-life marblers, they can still be quite beautiful.

This short video shows the sequence of steps that make the Bird Wing pattern. Starting from a random set of dots, a horizontal Chevron spreads  the colours to the left and to the right. Then, a narrow downward comb with 30 tines is used to generate the Nonpareil pattern. Finally, wavy left-to-right and right-to-left strokes with a large amplitude create the characteristic Bird Wing shapes.

This animation does not simulate the actual process of traditional hand marbling. (In fact, it doesn’t even represent the digital marbling process exactly.) However, it does illustrate how pulling a comb or a stick across the surface of a viscous liquid can generate the colourful marbling patterns that we know.¬†¬†