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Rediscover Suminagashi: An Ancient Japanese Painting Technique

Suminagashi, which literally means "ink floating" is an ancient Japanese technique of painting on water. The ink or paint is then transferred to paper or another absorbent material and allowed to dry. This technique is often referred to as "marbling", as well as Ebru. These days, you can use inks, acrylics, oils, and even nail polish with this painting technique to create truly interesting and unexpected results!

Setting up for this technique is fairly simple. You will need the following items:
- acrylic paint, or another oil-based paint medium
- a water container, large enough for your paper to fit in
- a stylus or another pointed tool to manipulate the paint

Step One: Place the Paint
The more oil-based your painting medium is, the less it will spread and dissipate on the surface of the water. You can add water to your paint before placing it on the water's surface to make it more susceptible to fluid dynamics - such as spreading across the surface. The simplest way to apply the paint is a controlled splatter technique: load your brush with the paint or ink, and hover over the water surface. Tap the brush gently with your other hand so that drops of ink are splayed onto the surface. You can also use a pointed tool (or the other end of a paintbrush) to place the paint in specific areas: dip your tool into your paint, and then dip the paint-covered tip into the water.

Step Two: Manipulate the Water's Surface
This is the fun part. The most common manipulation technique is usually called "dragging". You can use the same pointed tool from above. Place the tip of the tool in a pool of paint, and lightly drag it. This will create a "point" in the pool of paint. Repeat this technique, and you will begin to see how you can "draw" with the paint on the water's surface.

Step Three: Transfer the Paint to Paper
Once your water composition is complete, you can now transfer the work to paper. Absorbent papers, like watercolor papers, are the best for the most accurate transfer. Place the paper across the top of the water evenly, and allow the paint to absorb in. Gently rub the back of the paper to ensure it is touching the surface everywhere there is paint. To remove the paper, gently lift one corner and check to see if the paint has absorbed. Then, carefully pull the paper across the edge of the water tray to remove excess water, and hang your paper to dry. Voila!

Hint: Clean the water surface of excess paint by using a piece of newsprint to absorb whatever is left. Then you're ready to play again!