Tipster: The Ancient Japanese Technique of Suminagashi Paper Marbling


Many photographers in our community are double exposure shooters. In pure photographic terms, this technique is obtained in camera by exposing the frame twice. Today we will diverge from the classic use and explore a blended mix of artistic craftsmanship and photographic products, coming together to create a hybrid form of double exposure.

You might know the technique of marbling paper called Suminagashi. It is an ancient Japanese technique that has the ink floating on water (which is also the literal translation from Japanese). Through each layer of ink there is a layer of "resistance", a mixture of water and soap that will separate the circles of the ink. Layer after layer, the ink will float, and when moved it will structure itself in an abstract design.

The pattern is transferred on a thick paper, of at least 120gr, by gently dropping your sheet in water and pulling it from the side to let the excess water drip. Then let it dry under something heavy to get a flat surface.

To be able to see the pattern on a photograph, it is advised to print your image first and then use that canvas to transfer the Suminagashi pattern. Or you can make the pattern first and then use the paper and print your images. In both cases, it is recommended to use a picture with strong highlights, to have as much white surface as possible and so achieve a clear pattern.

What you'll need:

  • Kodak-flo
  • Dish soap
  • Water
  • Brushes
  • Suminagashi Ink

Mix 5 drops of kodak-flo with 2 tsp of ink (If the ink falls on the bottom then add more photo-flo). The second bath is 1 tbl of water with 1 drop of dish soap. Fill a tray with water up to two cm high. Then dip the point of your brush in the ink and gently touch the surface of the water, you will see the first circle forming. Do the same with the soap solution and proceed alternating.

Many brands sell suitable ink, but you can also achieve a marbling pattern with regular acrylic color mixed with oil. It is the oil that will function as a resistance and float on water. Here you can use a thicker piece of cardboard, for example over 300gr, with different colors and experiment. We loved to use this as a frame to hang our Instax photos.

Oil is very absorbent so you must pay attention to the penetration through the paper. That's why we recommend using a thicker surface. It will also render the paper non-adhesive so when gluing your Instax photos it is better to use a strong glue. Or simply clip the picture with a fold-back clip (also known as crocodile clip).

This is undoubtedly a very meditative and mesmerizing technique. It is a real pleasure to work with it and gives great satisfaction. We encourage you to try it yourself, use different colors, and experiment with as many creative ideas as possible to expand your photographic practice.

What are your next projects about? Share your ideas in the comments below.

written by eparrino on 2023-03-30 #tutorials #videos #japanese #calligraphy #double-exposure #ink #marbling-paper #suminagashi #photo-flo

Mentioned Product

Fujifilm Instax Square Film

Fujifilm Instax Square Film

One pack of Fujifilm Instax Square Film contains 10 sheets of instant color film. Fujifilm Instax Square Film is the perfect fit for all our latest Lomo'Instant Square Cameras.


  1. papa-attila
    papa-attila ·


  2. why_hailey
    why_hailey ·

    So coool!

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