How to Marble Paint Sneakers

How to Marble Paint Sneakers

Summary: Custom sneaker artist @graure shows us how he used the Turkish art technique of Ebru to create marbled sneakers. 

Ebru - a Turkish Art Form

Ebru painting is a form of art where the painting floats on the surface of the water. This “aqueous” art has a streaked and swirled aesthetic. Combining with the water underneath the surface, the paint can form mesmerizing patterns. Since the paint floats, suspended in a medium, patterns cannot be repeated. Therefore, no two images are ever alike. 

“Ink Floating” It starts with a basin of water covered with a thin layer of motionless, liquid paint, then add one drop of paint. 

How to paint on Water for Paper Marbling and Ebru Art - YouTube

How to paint on Water for Paper Marbling and Ebru Art - YouTube


Paint Chemistry

Ebru painting goes as far back as the 13th century. Back then, paints were made from seaweed and plant extracts. Luckily in the modern era, Ebru paints swim much better on the surface of the water. 

What makes Marble Painting unique?

Ebru paints are not mixable with water. Unlike most paints which combine with water, the paints used in marble painting (or Ebru painting) are hydrophobic. “Hydro” = water & “phobic” = afraid of. Molecules in the paint are repelled from the mass of water. This enables them to combine in interesting ripple patterns on the surface of the water.

Old Technique, Modern Canvas

Marbling is the art of creating colorful patterns by sprinkling and brushing color pigments in a pan of oily water and then transforming this pattern to paper. 

Traditionally, ivory paper is used as the final medium. This paper serves as the parchment on which the paints adhere to. 

Gold Creme colored @graure sneaker customization

Blue Navy colored @graure sneaker customization

@graure was able to turn this on it’s head and use the sneaker as the final canvas.  


Original Post

Nike Air Force 1 Mid "The Marbled Pack"


It was a hell of a journey, it took me almost two months to learn the basics of the technique and bring this pack to life. 
Talking about technique, it is called Ebru (Turkish origin) and involves a liquid similar to a gel on which intricate patterns can be created given the fact that the paint used actually floats on top of the medium. The sneakers are then dipped a few times into the layer of paint to create this organic look. 
A painstaking process nonetheless, the kicks had to be taped up inside out, treated for 24 hours with some certain chemicals after each coat, made in such a way to keep them looking box fresh and covered in a protective sealer, all while making sure that they will be fully wearable. 
It is, without a doubt, my greatest creation to this date and I couldn't be more proud of this achievement. 
Special thanks go to @nadinenadolu for the whole photographical concept, the results are truly stunning.


1. Tell us about the inspiration behind “The Marbled Pack” 

It all started when I reached a point in which simply painting sneakers by hand was not enough for me. Trying out, experimenting in this are has always been a thing for me. I actually came across this technique after seeing some videos of old book covers which were painted using this method.

2. Was there a reason you specifically chose the Nike Air Force One as the sneaker/medium? 

I tend to always go for the AF1 as my canvas, I feel as if it fits my style of painting while offering lots of space to play around. I’ve been fascinated by this Nike all time classic for a long time.

3. You mentioned in your original post that the technique took two months to learn. What materials did you use? 

"Indeed. The materials used were Angelus leather paints dilluted with various compounds and a tub filled with hot water that was previously mixed with an algae based additive, in order to increase the level of thickness. Besides these, masking tape and acrylic finisher."

4. You described the process as “painstaking.” What was the most difficult task to master? Would you do it again? 

"Getting the consistency of the water just right. The paint is supposed to float on top of it in order to get the desired effect. Now, there are paints specifically meant for ebru painting but I was no sure if they would last over time, especially given the fact that all of my works are intended to be worn."

5. #1 piece of advice you have for sneaker artists working with Ebru paint is... 

"This is so simple, just take your time and do your research right. It takes lots of tries but it can be done. Study YouTube, leather creators forums, anything you can get your hands on."

6. Have you looked into Suminagashi? Would you do a sneaker in this marbling style in the future?

"Just did, it seems to me as if it is extremely similar."

Similarities with Suminagashi 

Ebru painting Shimigashi suminagashi

Ebru has a similar marble style with Suminagashi. Suminagashi means “floating ink” in Japanese. The art technique used by Shinto priests and Buddhist monks to commune with nature in meditation. 


"Floating ink" was also used by astrologers to observe the present energy of the universe as well as foretell coming miracles and divine events.  


Marbling starts with mixing water and tagacanth. Tagacanth is a white material derived from a sap-filled plant which grown in Anatolie. This gives the water a greater viscosity, essentially setting down the "canvas" for the while piece. The water/tagacanth solution should coat the top six centimeters of the pan.

In the second part of the process, dyes are crushed from their raw state into a workable powder. This powder is worked into different containers that hold the dye until the time the artists is ready to release the dyes on the canvas. Containers vary by cultural region; some can be made of plastic cups, bamboo sticks, and eye droppers.


The best ebru painters have a clear understanding in the way their water mixes with tagacanth and paint. Since this art is practiced with a wide-variety of teachers, the exact material composition will not be the same everywhere you go.


Super Special THANKS to @Graure

Our experience of him is that he’s a hard worker, a humble man, and a true artist. 

When interviewed by Black Horse Mansion on “What is your biggest fear,” he responded “I’m afraid that I’ll get to a point where I will be forced to do things because of money as opposed to doing them for the creation of the art itself. I’m afraid of being boxed in.” 

@Graure has created sneakers for @zedd (Zedd)

@Graure has created sneakers for @zedd (Zedd)



[Turkish Cultural Foundation] http://www.turkishculture.org/traditional-arts/marbling-113.htm 
[Wikipedia - “paper marbling”] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paper_marbling


@graure collaboration with @leathercaresupply written by @popalex02  Sneaker photos by @nadinenadolu

Thanks again for sharing your wisdom! 

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  • Alex Pop
Comments 1
  • Alphonso Evans
    Alphonso Evans

    how much us the kit to marble paint the sneakers?

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