Natural colors are used in making Ebru for centuries, which are obtained from colored rocks and earth that contains oxidized metals or organic pigment colors that do not dissolve in water. Oil colors and aniline paint is not used in traditional Ebru-making. Because such colors dissolve in water and the paper is not receptive for those. In short, the colors must not dissolve in water, nor contain oil.

First phase of preparing the colors is to crush them using water and marble blocks. First, we mix the colors, which are made into a powder, with water to have a consistency like a cream. Then, with the help of the marble tool called “desteseng” (hand stone), we crush the color on a marble block. The hand stone and the marble block must be of equal hardness. Friction of marbles of different consistency cause corrosion and marble dust may mix in to the colors. The procedure takes about 2-4 hours depending on the nature of the material we are working with. How long a color should be crushed, a marbler learns it with experience. Whether a color is ready for use or not, we can only judge when we use it for the first time. During the procedure we keep adding water to the mix to keep the cream-like consistency.

Photo: Hand stone (desteseng)

The second phase is where we steep the paint and it is crucial for Ebru-making. After we are done crushing the color, we put it in a jar and add a mixture of water and ox gull. The paint must rest for a month or two, during which time it has to be mixed and shaken periodically and the water-ox gull mixture has to be renewed. If the colors are not steeped well, they will not hold on to the paper, they will be pale or cause other problems. Using an alum solution to make the paper receptive of the colors is not a technique of traditional Ebru-making. Hence, the preparation of colors must be done appropriate to the traditional methods and with patience and effort.

Today you can buy, powder pigment, half-ready professional paints and ready to use paint.

Ready to use colors are easy transferable to paper, textile, wood, ceramics and many other surfaces without additional material preparation.

But result sometimes unpredictable, paint might spread on the surface of the water too much and there is no solution to manage this process.

Ebru paints are very liquid in consistency, basically it is colored water. For producing Ebru paints following insoluble pigments are used:

Yellow: Arsenic Sulfide found in nature
Blue: Lahore Indigo (bluing). An organic pigment color found in Lahore area of Pakistan
Green: Mixture of yellow and blue. If paint has a lot of arsenic, the color is closer to pistachio, if has a lot of bluing color is closer to the emerald

Ultramarine: A pigment color, also called Badakhshi ultramarine. 
Black: Obtained from chimney soot, that collected manually. For a long time furnace carbon black is used for ink preparation.  It is the hardest color to prepare as it is very poorly absorbs water due to soot, which constantly rises to the surface of the water. Therefore it needs to be for a very long time to mix. To facilitate this process, pine needles are added to the solution.
White: Cerussite - natural form of lead carbonate. 
Red:  Iron oxide pigment obtained from soil reach with iron and from leaves of red cabbage