The hardest part of marbling is veining. Veining will make or break the marble. If it looks good (and it is over a good background) it will "sell" the marble - making it look like the real thing.
The nice thing about veining is that it is easy to practice. Just make up some black shellac illustration boards, and practice with white oil glaze over the top. Practice with different tools and techniques, and come up with a collection of techniques for own method. I will describe some of the techniques that I use in this article.
Lay your background down first, then isolate
I use oil glaze and oil paint (or oil artist colors) for veining. If fact, most of the marbling I do is in oil. The veining layer is usually reserved for last. I do the background (see Drift Marble for general generic marbling background techniques) first, then I "isolate" the under layer(s) with a wash coat of shellac which will protect and prevent the under layer(s) from dissolving.
Both goose feathers and turkey feathers are used for veining. The goose feather is used for the fine point on the end of the feather. The turkey feather, on the hand, does not come to a point (the end is rounded). Thus, the part of the turkey feather that is used for marbling is the side of the feather.
The other tool that is used extensively in veining is the softening brush. The finest softening brush is the authentic badger brush. Badger brushes are very expensive. At the time this article was written, a good three-inch badger brush cost over $100. There are some very good synthetic softening brushes that are of excellent quality and are very suitable for marbling. These brushes are a fraction of the cost of the real McCoy.
Marble veins have a directional flow to them. I view veins as "drifts" of jagged mineral -shaped particles of varying size. It is very important to make the shapes of different sizes and scale. It is also believable to have these shapes flowing in drifts.
One cardinal rule with veining is not to cross lines. Avoid making "X" 's with your vein lines.
The tools for veining are simple: a feather, softener, a soft cotton rag and some crumpled plastic. Some faux finishers also use a sword liner or another type of lining brush as well.
Veining with a goose feather
Hold the feather in your hand, almost like you would a pencil. The index finger should be on the "spine" on the feather, down near the point. Holding the feather in this way will give you a lot of control over the tip, which acts like the old fashioned quill pens that were dipped into ink for writing. However, you will be dipping your feather into glaze instead.
You can use a glaze of 1/3 satin/semi gloss sheen oil interior paint, 1/3 mineral spirits and 1/3 oil glaze.
You can make a glaze of 1/2 oil glaze and 1/2 mineral spirits. With this you will use artist oil colors.
Place your glaze mix in a pie tin. If you are using oil colors, squeeze out a bit into a separate pie tin. You will dip your feather in the glaze to wet it, and then pick up a little of the oil color from the other tin. The method used here works to apply the oil color, sufficiently thinned by the clear glaze to the right consistency. Work the two tins back and forth with the feather to get it right
Veining is done by drawing the veins on "with a bounce and a wiggle," while meandering down with directional flow. Vary the thickness by varying the pressure on the tip, occasionally using the side of the feather/tip. Always be sure to put micro-fine veins and fissure cracks (straight fine veins going the opposite direction of the main veining). Soften as you go by very lightly brushing with the tips only of the badger across the veins in one direction. You can also lightly dab the veins with a soft cotton rag.
Good veins are open and almost transparent in spots. You can open the veins with a fine, light spattering with mineral spirits. Don't ciss the whole surface, just here and there - particularly where the veins are wider. Use a stencil brush to do the spattering. You can tape around the upper part of the bristles to "shorten" them and make the spattering more controllable. Let the mineral spirits work for a minute or two, then lightly blot with a soft cotton rag, and soften again as needed with the badger. Blotting will stop the cissing.
Add pure oil color (or paint) here and there as strong, thin spines within the veining and as accents.
Let some of your veining get real fine and light and "disappear" for a inch or so, then reappear in a skipping manner. Soften and blur some of the veining almost into the background.
You can let this layer dry and, if you'd like, isolate it and add some more highlights or drifts of veining over the top ( which you will ciss to open up and soften etc....)
The two above examples of veining structure. On the left, the veining is a drift of veins in the middle of the sample. The upper and lower portions are vein-free (they are really BIG mineral shapes which run off the sample). In the sample on the right, the veining is fairly quiet because the mineral shapes are bigger.
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