A Kid-friendly Fabric Painting Technique for Grown-Up Artists

18 Aug 2014

One of my favorite parts of being a fiber artist is that it gives me permission to play. Rearranging colorful squares of fabric, printing and painting on fabric--they all lighten my mood and bring out the kid in me.

While taping "Quilting Arts TV" Season 14, I saw artists create with lots of playful techniques. But I had the most fun watching Cheryl Sleboda demonstrate how to paint on fabric using ink and shaving cream.

This fabric marbling technique is so easy (and low-cost) you could do it with your kids, and you'd all have a blast for very little money.

marbled fabric with shaving cream
Marbled fabric painting designs made with shaving cream
and ink, enhanced with stitching. By Cheryl Sleboda.
Marbling Fabric with Shaving Cream
By Cheryl Sleboda 

Materials needed: Acrylic ink, fabric pieces prepared for dyeing (purchased as PFD or washed),unscented shaving cream (not gel), a shallow pan or tray, eye droppers or pipettes, supplies to protect yourself and your work area from the ink, and a tub of water.


1. Cut the fabric pieces to a size slightly smaller than the tray or pan.

2. Prepare your work surface and put on your painting clothes or an apron.

3. Squeeze out a 1" layer of shaving cream in the tray. Use a straight edge, like a ruler, to smooth the shaving cream flat. Rinse and dry the ruler and set it aside.

4. Drop bits of ink onto the shaving cream with the dropper or pipette. Use as many colors as you like. With a skewer or stick, swirl the drops through the shaving cream until you get the desired marbling effect.

5. With two hands, hold the fabric just above the shaving cream tray. Bring your hands together, lowering the center of the fabric to the center of the tray, making a U with the fabric.

6. Gently place the bottom of the U on the surface and lower the rest of the fabric with your hands so that the entire piece of fabric is flat on the shaving cream. The ink should immediately draw up into the fabric.

7. Holding on to 1 edge of the fabric, pull the print off of the shaving cream and set it aside for a few minutes. With the ruler, scrape off the excess shaving cream from the fabric.

8. Once the print is dry, heat set it. The effects are going to be lighter on the dry fabric than they are when wet.

9. To begin another print, scrape some of the old ink off of the shaving cream, adding more shaving cream, if desired, and repeat the process.

You can learn more about how Cheryl uses this technique--plus how she creates a tie-dye effect with permanent markers, on "Quilting Arts TV" Series 1400, now available on DVD and video download.

P.S. Do you have a favorite art technique that makes you feel like a kid? Do you associate art-making with play? Leave your comments below.

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Hosted by Susan Brubaker Knapp, Quilting Arts TV features many of your favorite art quilters, modern quilters, fiber artists, and mixed-media artists as guests.


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liz bryenton wrote
on 19 Aug 2014 10:39 AM

I have had a set of Daler Rowney acrylic inks for some time now but, having understood from the manufacturers that they are not wash resistant I have not been able to use them. Are yours different please? LIZ

pellis24 wrote
on 19 Aug 2014 11:31 AM

I love this technique, I have used it to marble paper before with great results. Glad to hear it can be adapted to fabric:) I'm a big fan of random and printmaking so any technique I can use is a plus. I totally feel like working with fiber arts is fun and allows me to tap my inner child!

Muppin wrote
on 19 Aug 2014 12:25 PM

Hi everyone! The inks I used in this project are Tsukineko Acrylic Inks. These are permanent on fabric once they are heat set.  


Merriejo wrote
on 28 Aug 2014 7:31 PM

Make sure you use unscented shaving cream. I was almost "asphyxiated" with the smell! Fun project. Interesting results. I used Liquitex Acrylic Ink, Daler Rowney FW Acrylic Artist Ink and I even tried Tim Holtz Distress Ink which is a dye ink. Since I plan on using the fabric in wall hangings I'm not too concerned about it being permanent or not. I will heat set it all. Thanks for the fun project.