example of black ink suminagashi beside a close up of a flower using ebru technique

Marbling: Japanese Suminagashi and Turkish Ebru


How does Japanese Suminagashi differ from the Turkish Ebru?

SHORT ANSWER: Japanese Suminagashi uses black sumi ink, dropped onto water. Turkish Ebru uses natural pigments, dropped onto a "condensed liquid".

LONG ANSWER:  There are many marbling techniques around the world which not only differ in vibrancy and the designs made, but also in the preparation of the water, additives into it, and kinds of pigments, and the paper used.

Suminagashi is marbling with black sumi ink, which is traditionally made from soot, or burnt lamp oil.  The ink is dropped onto clean water with a sumi brush.  The water is clean with no additives to thicken it. 

There is a kit of colours available which is a modern variation of suminagashi and the effect is consistent with using sumi ink in creating what I feel is gentle and soft image.  When printed on washi – Japanese paper – the inks are absorbed into the paper.

I was asked is Japanese paper to light to be used? Won’t the paper fall apart when it gets wet? Isn’t it too delicate?  The answer is happily no! Japanese paper is very sturdy and stable.  It doesn’t fall apart like gift wrap tissue does when wet.  Have no fear using wet mediums with Washi - its strength will surprise and delight you. 

Try it with Kozuke White which will give you lots of beautiful snowy white paper to experiment with giving your ink prints a delicate backdrop.
Frame the prints you love.  Frame multiple prints to create a meditative series.

Images of Suminagashi are © Paper Creek Company 2022

The Turkish art of Ebru is equally marvellous and recognized on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.  Here’s what I pulled from the Unesco.org site about it: “The practitioner uses natural methods to extract colours from natural pigments, which are then mixed with a few drops of ox-gall, a kind of natural acid, before sprinkling and brushing the colours onto a preparation of condensed liquid, where they float and form swirling patterns.”

The colours are vibrant and are often made into floral images.


Ebru images are © Information and Documentation Center of Folk Culture/Ministry of Culture and Tourism

Thanks for asking!

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