Wednesday, September 12, 2012

History of Ebru

Based on the epistemology the word "ebre" which means "marbled, grained" and used in one of Middle Asia languages is the first known name of art of Ebru.

       There is no solid evidence stating where and when art of Ebru started. Though, some references indicating that Ebru was performed in the 13th century in Turkistan, and moved to the East Iran in the 14th century. Finally, it came to Anatolia, Ottoman Turkish, and reached to its final form. During the Ottoman Empire time, many Ebru artists were trained and their pieces were used in decorating official documents. Accoring to Barutcugil ( 2002) using Ebru art at the state level was,  “to prevent the falsification of documents, besides its artistic importance.” So, Ebru art could be seen as a signature of a person, by means of tis multifarious design.

       This art spread in Iran with Silk Road and it is named as "Abru" (water surface) or "Ebri" (just like cloud). Later, this art is named as "Ebru" when it spread in Anatolia with Turks and this word is being used since then.

        Best-known Ebru artists

        Ismail Efendi

        The oldest Ebru master we know in the Ottomon history is Mehmet Efendi, known with the nickname "Monkey". In the "Tertib-i Risale-i Ebri", which is the oldest document explaining the production of Ebru and its composition, he is honored with the prayer "Let God be with him!" (Barutcugil, 2002)

        Hatip Mehmed Efendi

One of the other known masters in the history of Ebru is Hatib Mehmed Efendi (1773). The Ebru style known as "hatip", which is acclaimed as the forefather of flowery marbling, was known with this name because of his wide usage of the technique. (Barutcugil, 2002)

References: Barutcugil, H. (2002). Ebru'nun Tarihcesi. Retrieved from Ebristan Web site:

Steps for making Ebru Art

Before the preparation process, gum tragacanth must be soaked in water for two days. So, Ebru artists need two days before they plan to create their arts.

Step #1 Prepare the mixed water

It is very crucial to reach appropriate density for dyes to float on the water surface; otherwise dyes might be accumulated at the bottom of the container. So, Ebru artist should strictly follow the resting time of mixed water and water-gum tragacanth measurement.
First, add 3 teaspoons of gum tragacanth in to a gallon of distilled water. Then, mix the water untill gum tragacanth melts completely. After it is melted, leave the mixture to rest for two days. At the end of the two days, the mixture is formed into a thick-sticky liquid, which has proper density for Ebru art.

Step #2 Prepare the dyes

For each dye, make sure having enough empty bottles. Mix 2 teaspoon dyes with one cup of water in the empty bottle, then add  2 oz. Ox gall. Now, liquid pigments can be used for Ebru.

Step #3 Prepare the container
Pour the gum tragacanth mixture into the metal container, and make sure that there are no bubles on the surface. Shaking the container or a flat stick may help dispel the bubbles.

Step #4 Sprinkle the liquid dye

Dip one of the brushes into dye bottle-for this step dark color can be used- and sprinkle it onto the water surface. One of the best way to do it is tipping the top of brush on other hand, so paint drips do not disperse all over the water surface. After four or five times tipping, the dye must paint the entire surface, which also is the background of the design.

Step #5 Sprinkle another dye and shape

Now, the same sprinkling process is applied with different color, but tipping the brush only two or three times. Wait a few seconds so dye drops expand their circles on the surface. Then, with a needle stir the floating color and shape it into a flower, if desired, or any image. After shaping the flowers, sprinkle green dye, or any color, closed to the flower image, and shape the steam of the flower. If you sprinkle too much green on the surface, do not touch them and just leave them on the surface; they will not be seen once the design transferred to paper. As many possible as images can be practiced at this step. If you cannot obtain a nice shaped image at the first time, do not give up and try one more. As I said at the beginning, Ebru art requires time and patience, so practice and practice.

Step #6 Place the paper

After shaping all the dye drops, place the absorbent paper onto the water surface. Then, gently lift the paper off and put it on a table by facing the color side up. Wait until the paper dries out; this process might take up to two or three hours.

Step #7 Have a piece Ebru!

Now, you are an Ebru artist and you can be proud of yourself as being one the few Ebru artists in the world! You deserve to have a nice frame to put your first Ebru work. 


Yilmaz, A. (2010). Art of Ebru (Power Point Slides). Retrieved from Ebru Evi Web site:

Materials needed for Ebru art

 - Dyes (2 teaspoon of each color )

Dyes, which is consist of mineral pigments, are produced from colorful rocks, soil, or plants. It is so curial to use these natural pigments in order to reach successful result. Mineral pigments have been traditionally used in Ebru since very early times. Various colors of natural powder dyes can be found in stores as ready to mix with water.

- Brushes 

In Ebru art, it is highly preferable to use brushes made of rose strip or horsehair. The brushes are used in sprinkling dyes to the surface of the water. Thus, various brushes can be used to control the amount of dye touching on the water surface. For freshmen, medium brush is the most appropriate one. 

- Distilled water (1 gallon)

- Ox gall ( 16 oz. )

Ox gall is a material that changes the viscosity of the water, so dyes-color pigments- dissolve and float on the water surface. Without ox gall, dyes would accumulate at the bottom of the container. It also helps the dyes not to mix each other.

- Gum Tragacanth ( 3 teaspoon)

This material is natural glue produced from the stem of a specific plant, which mostly grows in Turkey and its around. Milk, a type of secretion, produced from this plant accumulates on the surface of the plant. When this milk touches the air, it dries off and turns out small white piece, so it is ready to be picked. Gum tragacanth can be found as small pieces at organic stores.

- Metal Container

Any type of metal rectangle container can be used to put the water in. Yet, its dimensions must be long enough to cover the paper that will be placed in.  

- Needle

- Paper 

Any kind of absorbent paper can be used in Ebru.

- Small bottles for dyes