Marbling Paper


Dame Forbes

Huntington High School, Huntington NY

Summer Research Program for Science Teachers

August 2012



Subject:  Chemistry

Grade Level: 9 - 12

Unit: Bonding

Time Required:  One 60 minute period plus time at home for analysis questions to be completed

Purpose:  Students will investigate properties of polarity

Objectives: ASWBAT:

·         Define polarity

·         Make scientific observations and record them

·         Apply knowledge of bonding to answer summative questions


To marble paper



Shaving cream (white)                                             Food coloring

Styrofoam plates                                                        Small beaker or cup (100ml)

Wooden sticks                                                            Paper towels             

Tooth picks                                                                  Eye dropper

Index card/ card stock/ art paper                        water



Shaving cream is a mixture composed of a solid soap, water, and a gas.  Together these components form a lather which can be used as an agent to aid in shaving without damaging the skin.  In addition, part of the shaving cream has a hydrophilic (“water loving”) head and a hydrophobic (“water hating”) tail.  Another main ingredient in the shaving cream is a fatty acid. A fatty acid is an organic acid which has an aliphatic tail that can either be saturated or unsaturated.  Depending on what fatty acid is used the soap or lather will have different characteristics such as forming more of a cream or more bubbly.  One of the common fatty acids that are used in making lather is stearic acid.  See figure 1 below. 


Figure.1 Stearic Acid

Common paper is largely wood pulp which is composed of cellulose found in the cell walls of green plants.   Cellulose is large chains of glucose molecules see figure 2 below.

Figure. 2 Glucose molecule

In this investigation you will be studying the properties of lather and its interaction with food coloring.  In the process you will be able to create beautiful designed paper in the tradition of the Japanese art form sumo nagashi (meaning “ink floating).



1)     Working in groups of two (2) design an experiment to determine the relationship between the shaving cream, paper, and the food coloring using only the materials on the material list.  List your procedure in the space provided below.  Be sure to make a testable hypothesis.   Be sure to identify the independent and dependent variable.


























2)     Use the materials to create a colorful marbled design







Conclusion and analysis:

1)     List the ingredients on the can of shaving cream.  Circle how many of them you are familiar with.  Identify the group of compounds they belong to (i.e.- organic acid, ketone, ionic, etc) if you can.








2)     Based on your observations, what claims con you tell about the polarity of the food coloring and the paper? Explain






3)     Artists have created beautiful marble papers since the middle ages.  How do you think an artist’s understanding of materials influences his or her work? Explain

National Education Standards

Unifying Concepts and Processes: Grades K–12

Evidence, models, and explanation

Content Standards: Grades 5–8

Content Standard B: Physical Science, properties and changes of properties in matter

Content Standards: Grades 9–12

Content Standard B: Physical Science, structure and properties of matter