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Formerly considered more as an element complimentary to book arts than as a form of art in its own name, ebru is the art of paper marbling performed by sprinkling non-aqueous colours mixed and regulated with ox-gall onto consistent water with brushes made up of rose stalks and rose hair to make the paper absorb the colours. 

Ebru has developed as a branch of book arts and found application sometimes as a border to writing on murakka, sometimes as a side paper to a bookbinder of Quran and sometimes as an inner and outer border to a plate of calligraphy.

Ebru has been frequently used in lieu of binders for the front covers of bookbinders. This type of bookbinders was called ‘çehar-guşe’ binders. ‘Zelefşanlı ebru’ was produced by sprinkling leaf gold onto the conventional ebru and ‘tahrirli ebru’ by applying a golden border to the periphery of preachers’ ebru work.

Historical Development

Known in Europe as the Turkish paper until the XVII Century, Ebru has its artistic centre in Istanbul throughout its history.

Although its origins are not definitely known, various arguments have been put forward as regards its original emergence. However, these arguments are far from founding evidence and reference.

The oldest dated ebru known to us is Guy-ı Cevgan dated 1539/40 of Arifi, which is displayed in Topkapı Palace. The edges of each page of this work are ornamented with ebru. The second oldest work known to us, Ta’lik Kıta dated 1544, which is included in the personal collection of Uğur Derman, was written by Malik Deylemi. Both works provide reliable references with their dates. 

The first document on ebru and ebru artists is a manuscript dated 1608 titled Tertib-i Risale-i Ebri. The author of this work, Şebek, is the oldest ebru master known in our history. Almost all techniques described in this manuscript that includes information on the making of ebru are still used today without any variations. 

A preacher of Hagia Sophia, Mehmet Efendi, who died in an attempt to save ebru works during the fire of 1778, is the second ebru master known by name. He is specifically known as the inventor of preachers’ ebru works. 

Left with a few known masters at the beginning of the century, ebru arts prepared the basis for an ascent in Turkish ebru arts with the addition of floral motifs to ebru by Necmettin Okyay and the training of Mustafa Düzgünman (1920-1990) and Okyay’s sons. As an ebru artist, Mustafa Düzgünman especially improved floral ebru works and trained numerous ebru masters for modern times. 

Western resources include resources from 18th Century on Turkish ebru arts. Known as Turkish paper or Turkish marbled paper, ebru works have such distinct types as comb (taraklı), bülbül yuvası (bulbul’s nest), battal ebru, which are known as French, Italian or Spanish ebru.

With the widespread use of printing in the Ottoman Empire, ebru arts entered a phase of discontinuation and in this period, Turkish ebru arts were saved from disappearance thanks to the intense efforts of a few ebru artists. 

Formerly performed as a form of paper arts, Turkish ebru arts have reached its peak, building on past and present works and became one of the most important of our classic arts. It is now applied also to surfaces of such materials as wood, ceramic and glass. 

With the development of floral and akkase (two-toned) ebru forms and a taste of abstract painting in the modern approach, ebru has moved from book and writing albums to walls and wrapped itself up in a plastic arts identity.


In ebru, an art form performed on water surfaces, the first material that comes to mind is the container that contains the water. Stabilizers are used to concentrate the working fluid. Gum tragacanth, orchid roots, flax seeds, quince seeds, carrageenan and fenugreek seeds are known to be used as stabilizers in history. 

In the making of ebru, a surface-active material, ox-gall, is used to enable the dyes to spread on the water surface without bleeding towards the bottom.

Dyes that are used in Turkish ebru are non-aqueous and pure pigment colours that are free of oil and any other surface-active materials. 

The most important material that distinguishes Turkish ebru from other water-surface art forms is the brush. In traditional ebru, the brush is produced manually by fixing a bunch of horsehair at the edge of a rose stalk.

Any paper with absorbent qualities can be used in ebru. 


The ideal conditions for ebru are a dust- and moisture-free environment at 18°C and with a relative humidity of 50-60%. In order for the colours to appear in their true values, the environment is illuminated with lamps that light equivalent to sunlight at noon. All measures in ebru are determined by trial and error; the ebru artist defines the measure by experience. 

Types of Ebru

Battal ebru is the name of the first and foremost form that provides the basis of all other ebru types. Leaving the colours as they have been cast from the brush, this form does not involve a second intervention by the ebru artist.

Tidal ebru is produced by creating forms with zigzagging moves to and fro on the surface via a needle (biz – tool to mobilize the splashes).

Shawl ebru is an ebru style that is created by distributing longitudinal and transverse or diagonal tidal ebru patterns with large interspaces and drawing in the reverse direction of the last tidal ebru and distributing the movement in a balanced manner.

Bulbul’s nest is an ebru style created by drawing spiral circles side by side from the inside of the battal ebru towards the outer frame. 

Comb (Taraklı) ebru is produced by drawing the last vertical tidal patterns in the reverse direction by using pins attached to thin wooden sticks.

Sand and Spine ebru is an ebru style mostly used as an inner border around writing plates. It is produced by sprinkling dyes with low water content onto consistent water and leaving the outcome for a while.

Preacher’s ebru is an ebru style developed and coined by Mehmet Efendi, a preacher of Hagia Sophia. The motifs are created by mobilizing dyes placed concentrically with even intervals on the whole surface of a light base ebru.

Floral ebru include floral patterns created with the means provided by this art form. The floral patterns are reflected upon the container in the stylized form. The ebru master must shape the floral patterns and take them onto paper in a short time.

Akkase ebru is an ebru style where more than one ebru are applied onto the paper to create a writing or pattern.

Floating ebru is a type created during taking ebru onto paper. 

On ebru and the art of ebru see... 


Source:Fuat Başar- Yavuz Tiryaki, Türk Ebru Sanatı, İstanbul 2000
     Ö.Faruk Dere, Ebru Sanatı, İsmek,İstanbul (tarihsiz)
     Hikmet Barutçugil, Renklerin Sonsuzluğu, İnfinity of Colours, İstanbul 1999
     Hikmet Barutçugil, Siyah Beyaz Ebru, İstanbul 2005
     Hikmet Barutçugil, Suyun Renklerle Dansı, İstanbul 2001
     Hikmet Barutçugil, Ebru Sanatımız, Osmanlı 11, Yeni Türkiye Yayınları, Ankara 1999 
     Ahmet Çoktan, Türk Ebru Sanatı, İstanbul 1992
     Uğur Derman, Türk Sanatında Ebru, İstanbul 1972
     Uğur Derman, Osmanlıların Renk Cümbüşü: Ebruculuk, Osmanlı 11, Yeni Türkiye Yayınları, Ankara 1999
     Jane Easton, Marbling: a History and Bibliyography, Los Angeles 1983
     Peyami Güler, Ebru, İstanbul (tarihsiz)
     Rosamond Loring, Decorated Book Papers, Being an Account of Therr Desing and Fashlons, Cambridge 1942
     Taşkın Savaş, Ebru Sanatı, İstanbul 1980
     Nedim Sönmez, Ebru-The Turkish Art of Marbling, İstanbul 1985
     Turan Türkmenoğlu, Sudaki Nakış, Ebru, Marbling Paper, İstanbul 1999

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