Drawing on the water Ebru

Drawing on the water Ebru

This special method of drawing involves using an unusual surface as a canvas – water. Of course, this water should not be simple, but prepared in a special way. Paints are also used special: on a natural basis. As a result, incredible paintings are obtained, which are almost impossible to repeat.

Drawing on the water can occupy not only yourself, but also the child: such an unusual way will entice a little fidget for several hours. In addition, Ebru develops imagination and creative thinking, which is so important for kids.

In this article we will talk about what an Ebru is, what it will need and how to create masterpieces with the help of simple devices. “How to draw water?” is one of the simple questions that novice artists are asked. For those who have already mastered the classic methods, we strongly recommend that you familiarize yourself with the Ebru.

The history of the appearance of Ebru

Although Ebru is considered the Turkish art of drawing on water, the origin of the technology itself dates back to the countries of the East. Back around the 12th century, suminagashi art existed in Japan, which literally translates as “floating ink”. Shinto monks used suminagashi to apply unique patterns on thin rice paper and fabrics for decoration. The technique was so popular that it was in demand among the emperor and his entourage.

The history of the appearance of Ebru

There are many versions of where the art of drawing on water came from: different sources call not only China and Japan, but also Uzbekistan, India, Pakistan, Persia and a number of other countries the birthplace of technology.

For example, in Turkey, the technique of drawing on water appeared in the 7th century, although the name Ebru began to be used only three centuries later. The main difference of the Turkish masters was the skillful ability to draw not only abstract and floral patterns, but also birds, fish and unusual landscapes.

The term Ebru comes from the Persian ebri, which means “air clouds”. And, indeed, if you look at the drawing made using such technology, it becomes clear why it was so called.

What is Ebru

Drawing Ebru on water means that the surface for applying the pattern is literally a liquid. However, this is not ordinary water, and special paints are needed here. Hevea extract is added to the liquid – it makes it thick and viscous, so that the colored drops do not sink and do not mix, as in ordinary water.

What is Ebru

The paints themselves are made on the basis of bovine bile and special minerals. Ebru does not assume that the drawing should be clear and even: the whole technique is based on abstraction and an arbitrary pattern. Liquid paints spread well on the surface, and with the help of thin sticks and combs, the artist gives the circles on the water a shape.

At the end of the drawing, it can be transferred to a paper sheet, and professionals are able to use other surfaces: wood, fabrics, ceramics, leather.

Materials for drawing on water. What is needed for Ebru?

Ebru can be mastered at home by yourself. Such drawing will be a great activity for a child, it is not only original and unusual, but also develops fine motor skills of the hands and has a great effect on the imagination of a small artist. The process of creating paintings by the Ebru method is so interesting that it will captivate even an adult.

So, to draw on water, you will need:
water with a thickener;
combs, awl or spokes;
Now let’s talk about each one separately and in more detail.

Thickener for ebru. How to breed?

The liquid for Ebru should be thick, like jelly and dense enough that the paints do not dissolve in it. To achieve this, a “thickener for ebru” is used. In stores, it is sold in three types: powder and liquid concentrate for dilution, or a ready-made solution for drawing.

Each thickener has instructions, and it is necessary to prepare the solution strictly according to it, since the process may vary depending on the composition. The manufacturer indicates it on the packaging.

Thickener for ebru

Dilution of thickeners from different manufacturers

Integra Art thickener (powder)

For 1 liter of warm water, add 2 teaspoons of thickener. Stir for 15-20 minutes. The flakes should completely dissolve. If you interfere less, then the thickener can “delaminate” in the water. Pour the thickener into the tray, and you can use it.

ArtDeco thickener (powder)

12.5 ml (2 teaspoons with a small slide) of powder per 1 liter of water. Stir for 15-20 minutes, gradually adding a thickener. We leave it overnight for 10 hours.

Fluid Art. Drawing with liquid acrylic

Karin thickener (powder)

25 g of powder per 4 liters of water (6.25 g per 1 liter). Mix thoroughly also for at least 10 minutes. Be sure to rub all the lumps. We leave it for 5 hours. During this time, mix the solution additionally. The thickener has a yellowish tint, but this does not affect the drawing itself.

To collect air bubbles from the surface of the water, put a newspaper (clean) on the solution for a few minutes. Then pull it over the side from the water by one edge so that the water from the newspaper flows back into the tray.

The solution should be covered after each transfer of the drawing to paper. In order not to drain the thickener, if you want to draw the next day, then just put a piece of paper on the surface: so the solution will not evaporate and a film will not form on it.

Thickener for Ebru with your own hands

If you are not going to be constantly engaged in Ebru and want to experiment, then the option with improvised means will suit you. To do this, it is necessary to dilute starch or flour in water to a state of viscous paste. There are no exact proportions.

Paints for Ebru

Paints consist of natural pigment, water and bile. They are very liquid, almost colored water, and therefore easily spread over the surface.

Paints for Ebru

Before you start drawing, it is best to pour the paint into separate containers or plastic cups. Be sure to shake the bottle to mix the pigment, and pour a small amount into a glass.

Never pour paint from pipettes or bottles directly onto the solution – it will sink under its weight under the thickener. Use a brush and an awl!

In order to experiment and entertain the child several times, you can not buy special professional paints, but make them yourself. To do this, you will need a solvent and ordinary oil paints. Each color is diluted in a separate container so as not to mix them together. If milk is used instead of water for drawing, then the dilution of the most ordinary gouache is allowed.

Water tank

Any deep vessel can serve as a container. An A4 tray is usually placed in ready-made kits, besides it can be purchased separately. The larger the capacity in area, the larger the drawing you will eventually get, because it is the surface of the liquid that will serve you as a canvas.

Water tank

Brushes for Ebru

Brushes for Ebru are used from horsehair. These can be ordinary brushes and brush brushes. It is better to use a separate brush for each color, since the paints cannot be mixed.

Brushes for Ebru

According to the technique of drawing with brushes, you do not need to touch the water. They are needed for spraying and creating an abstract background. The drops, touching the water, spread over the surface, creating a unique and inimitable pattern.


Combs are special tools with which the drawing process itself is carried out. Externally, they are small rakes or combs: a series of parallel needles attached to a flat base. With their help, a background and symmetrical ornaments are created.



The awl is also used for drawing. You can use it to draw individual elements: flowers, birds and butterflies. As an alternative tool, you can use spokes. It is important after drawing each element to wipe the tip of the awl or knitting needles to prevent mixing of colors.



The paper is needed in order to transfer the drawing from the liquid later and print it. There is a special primed paper for Ebru. But you can also take ordinary printer paper or any other paper that will be at hand. Try not to use too dense in the initial stages, so as not to blur the image.

The process of drawing on water

Now that we have sorted out all the necessary devices, it’s time to start the most important thing – drawing! We prepare the solution according to the instructions, set it up and pour it into the pallet. We pour the paints into separate cups, lay out the whole tool in front of us and start!

Creating a background

Before you start creating patterns, you need to prepare the background for the drawing. It will retain the paints that you will apply later.

Drawing on the water Ebru

We collect the paint in a brush and randomly sprinkle it over the entire surface. The first drops will dissolve – this is normal! Then the paint will stay on the surface.

Drawing on the water Ebru

The background can be made plain or use several colors: the paint will not mix, forming streaks and patterns. Try using a comb to give the background a more complex ornament.

Do not use more than two or three colors of paint for the background. If there is too much of it, then the layer will turn out to be greasy and it will be more difficult to transfer the drawing to paper.

Gilding and paintings with potal

Creating the main drawing

The whole point of drawing Ebru boils down to creating a circle of paint on the surface of the water, and then using an awl to deform it in every possible way, creating amazing patterns.

The more complex the drawing, the more skill and experience the artist will need. You can start by drawing flowers or butterflies. Here is a step-by-step instruction on how to draw a simple flower.

Drawing on the water Ebru

On the tip of the awl, type the paint and touch the water without piercing the surface. You should get a circle. If you want to make it bigger, type in more paint and tap again in the same place.

Type a different color of paint and tap the center again, thus making a circle of a different color.

Dip the tip of the awl closer to the edge of the inner circle and make flower petals by moving the awl outward.

Don’t forget to wipe the paint off the awl when you change the color. To make the drawing clearer, this should be done after each touch.

Drawing on the water Ebru

With all the tools you can create a variety of images. Relax and do not try to make drawings accurate and even, because Ebru is more suitable for abstraction and wave-like ornaments.

Transferring an image to paper

When the image is ready, we proceed to transfer the image to paper. To do this, carefully apply the sheet to the surface of the liquid and wait 10-15 seconds. You can gently swipe on the paper from the outside to help the pattern to be imprinted.

Now we slowly take out the sheet: we cling to the edge and, as it were, drag it over the side of the container. So the excess moisture will drain back into the tray. After that, it remains only to dry your creation, put it in a frame or put it in an album for safekeeping.

Transferring an image to paper

Ebru on milk at home

As a liquid canvas for the Ebru technique, you can use not only special solutions, but also ordinary milk! The greater its fat content, the better and more interesting the result will be.

Ebru on milk at home

In the process of drawing, you can add a drop of dishwashing detergent to the milk – so your drawing will literally come to life and start moving.