I love the look of marbled paper like Suminagashi, but have been put off by the unknown chemicals and hassle of getting pre-made kits- I was especially worried that a kit would turn out to be too difficult for the kids.
Then I saw this post on Inner Child Fun, about how to do paper marbling using just laundry starch and acrylic paints!
I have tons of old acrylics laying around, so all I needed to buy was a $2 bottle of starch, which is useful for so many projects we do anyway.
I set each kid up with a small, flat-bottomed plastic container and poured in about 1/2-1" of starch. Then each kid chose their colors, and I let them drip the paint right into the starch. Then they used bamboo skewers to swirl the paint and starch. We lay cut pieces of watercolor paper on the marbling solution, then lifted them up and put them in a large container of freshwater, where the starch washed off, leaving the paint in beautiful patterns. We set them to dry on an old sheet.
- The really old (~18 years old!) ones had often gotten too dry or had changed in some way that caused them to drop to the bottom of the starch, which meant that they would not swirl and could not be lifted off with the paper floating on top- I did try sinking a paper to the bottom, and while it picked up some of the old colors, it was a garbled mess, not pretty and swirly.
- The more liquid, "soft-bodied" acrylics in squeeze bottles worked much better than the more expensive professional paints in tubes.
- Lots of small drops works better, because overzealous preschool squeezing of the paint causes huge glops of paint which immediately sink to the bottom.
- Glitter can be added after the paint and will transfer beautifully.
- We ran into a funny issue which I haven't solved yet: Our first prints came out great and very little of the paint came off the paper in the wash along side the starch. But as we progressed, more and more of the paint came off in the wash. I tried changing to fresh water and changing to fresh starch. The new starch helped with a certain muddiness that was taking over - all preschool art must eventually become Preschool Gray- but even with an essentially new set-up, we had a harder time keeping the paint on the paper in the wash. Eventually I tried just not washing some, which caused them to stick a bit to the cloth where they were drying, but I just peeled them off, re-washed them and lost no paint.
- Note that acrylics do not wash out of clothes, and can permanently adhere to many non-porous surfaces if not cleaned up right away with soap and water.