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Marbling is the one of the more popular finishes today and when done right can amazingly fool the eye into believing that its genuine. It is a gradual process of blending and layering multiple colors by using various tools such as stippling and softening brushes, plastic bags, brushes and feathers.
To create realistic faux marble you must consider placement of color drifts and veins. Analyzing the veining patterns and colors of real marble will allow you to mimic your favorite Travertine or Botticino.
The decorative appeal is to choose a surface that lends itself to a realistic marble look. This would include any surface where you would expect to find marble -- baseboards, moldings, panels, columns, mantels, fireplaces, tabletops, or accessories. The key to successful marbling is knowing what color combinations, medium, and technique will work.
PREPARATION OF SUBSTRATES
The same rules apply to preparing our substrate for marbling as we used for graining, except the work should be perfectly smooth. With graining a small nick or dent would not be as objectionable as with marbling. Marble is usually very smooth and free from even the smallest imperfections, so it is imperative to fill and level our work as if we were working on the finest work.
As with graining, the proper color of the ground should be a bit lighter than the lightest part of the marble we are trying to simulate. In darker marbles you may want to pick the most predominant color of your marble. If using a lacquer system, make sure that several coats of paint are applied to render the surface smooth and with ample thickness. One good coat of enamel will suffice usually. If using an oil color system, then use an oil base eggshell enamel for your ground coat. It is preferable to spray your ground coat if possible.
This is because brush marks leave small crevices where your later glazes flow and thus the brush marks are more noticeable. If unable to spray, the next best thing is to use a top grade enamel which flows out and levels completely. If, after the application of your ground coat, more imperfections appear , don't be afraid to take the time necessary to patch them. Sand and seal with shellac then sand ! and touch up with more ground color.
SOME BASICS OF MARBLING
Most of the tools for marbling you are already familiar with. They are as follows: Badger blender, fiches in various sizes, camel or sable pencils, goose wing or turkey feather;sponges, chamois leather, dry rags, newspaper or tissue paper, touchup gun, for airbrush effect, and rubbing-in brush.
In giving directions for marbling the terms "scumbling" and "glazing" are used frequently. Glazing is done with a clear transparent (or nearly so) liquid applied very thick and capable of showing the figures underneath and the colors to a lesser extent. Obviously, only transparent colors can be used for glazing.
Scumbling consists of the application of color that is rather thick or stiff after or stiff after which it is brushed out evenly so as to show variety of surface. In some places the color is almost entirely removed, in others partially removed, and in still other parts it is left heavy and dense. This produces a mottled effect called scumbling.
The goose wing feather or turkey feather can be used on its side to produce fine veins in the following marbles. Also small artist brushes called "pencils" are very useful for this purpose.
Please keep in mind that the methods described here are not the way we teach you in our classes but are for general use. The methods we use in our classes are much quicker and produce much better results.
CARRERA OR WHITE MARBLE
Carrera marble, famous for centuries as statuary marble, does not show any veins in its finest specimens. At least they are not strong and pronounced as in other marbles. Some specimens do show delicate veining of a reddish-gray tint.
Begin with a pure white ground of an oil eggshell enamel. When dry, begin by applying your oil scumble made as follows: 3 parts glazing liquid, any brand; 1 part paint thinner; universal colors.
In this case we will use lamp black and a bit of thalo blue (equal parts) to color our scumble. Apply liberally on the surfaces and continue to a clean cut off point. It is essential to finish a complete area and keep a wet edge because it does not blend into a dry area well at all. Remove the scumble by blotting and twisting your rag and leave some very strong and other parts completely white. The entire area should have been blotted or mottled with the rag at least once. You can crunch up some newspaper and use it to blot the surface in some areas with good success. Also, tissue paper can be used for a very crisp effect.
Try to create a pattern when you do your blotting. The veins which follow will go over your pattern to some extent. Then let the work dry until tomorrow, if possible. If in a hurry you may proceed, but if you have a problem and want to wipe off some of your veins you will not be able to when the scumble is still wet.
The next day you can wipe off your practice runs without ruining your scumble. If this step is done correctly the surface will already appear very much like marble.
If desired you may now, with the help of an air brush, draw light veins over the panel. It works very good to draw into our panel some very light, airy veins. You will need a source of compressed air to operate it. You may use the scumble used for the first application, but it will need to be darkened a bit with the same colors and thinned 30-50% so it will go through the gun.
Start from the lower right and proceed to upper left. Imagine you have the DTs and let your hand shake as you draw your veins. Badger to bring your veins to a sharp edge in certain places, leaving others softer and wider. This produces a very convincing job if done correctly. If you don't like what you see, and your scumble has dried, simply wipe it off and try again.
Optional: Next prepare a thin glaze of a reddish-gray or tan color. Apply in a few areas with the touchup gun in the same fashion. Limit these to not more than half the amount of veins as the blue-gray ones. These should not follow the same path as the blue-gray ones, except occasionally.
Next, with the same two glazes used above but possibly mixed a bit stronger if needed, use a sable or camel hair pencil to slightly draw in by hand some very fine veins. These will follow the general pattern of the marble from lower right to upper left. Again make sure your hand is very shaky while moving across the panel. Some of these lines will go directly over your airbrushed lines and others die into the lighter portions of the work.
To finish your creation use either a non-yellowing water white lacquer or an automotive finish. Urethane or spar varnishes are much too yellow over any of your white or lighter marbles.
This is one of the favorite marbles for imitating and comes from Italy, as do most fine marbles. It is found in differing shades, but is generally a light buff in color with stronger veins or a reddish-brown to a purple color. Some specimens have almost black veins. The ground color can vary from a raw sienna to a grayer tan color. The scumble which follows is made by the preceding formula using burnt umber and possibly a bit of burnt sienna.
Apply over the entire panel as before and blot in the same fashion or you may choose to apply your scumble in irregular patches on about 1/3 of the area of your board, applied in a continental drift direction. The badger blender can then be used to pull over your patches to create an interesting cascading effect.
Next apply the figures with the touchup gun with thinned down scumble as described. Experiment with the use of the feathers in lieu of the airbrush to create your veining or do both. Make some very large, holding the gun far away, while others are close up and badger some places, leaving others alone. Next apply your fine lines by hand as discussed in the Carrera marble.
Note that it is not mandatory that we use the air brush. It can create a good effect on certain marbles. For those marbles where crisper, more defined lines are needed we would use feathers, fitches, and pencils to draw our veins.
This should be a very easy marble for the beginner to imitate. It is done in a different manner. First obtain, if you can, a piece of this kind of marble and study the colors. The yellow is made from white, yellow ochre, burnt and raw sienna and is a buff color. Lay in your ground colors in patches of yellow and white. Let dry overnight. Then mix a slow-drying black paint, not a scumble or glaze for it needs to cover completely, and apply over the entire panel.
Next take out the veins with a sharp stick or the corner of a rubber comb or eraser. When this has become dry, parts of the work are glazed over with a thin wash of burnt sienna.
Another method is lay ground color in black (drop black color has a hint of white to appear like slate; this is what you want). When dry, make the veins with a color made from yellow ochre and raw and burnt sienna in white paint.
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