Okay, go with me for a second. “Marble” is a stone that’s cut out of the ground to cover the walls in places like court houses and fancy bathrooms (but not kitchens, because it’s much softer than the granite that is usually used). “Marbling” is a technique for painting paper used in place like the endpages of fancy books. It was probably originally invented to evoke the look of stone, but dripping and swirling paint allowed for a lot greater variety of looks and it became an art form all on it’s own. Clear on the difference between marble and marbling? Okay, now I’m going to make it blurry again. I really, really, really wanted some fabric that looks like marble (the kind you dig up). I guess this makes me unique, because no fabric stores around me have any. I tried to my own marble fabric using Spoonflower, but they’ve been out of they’re Modern Jersey (the fabric I really wanted to use) and I didn’t feel like waiting anymore. That meant it was time to go rogue and paint some marble on some fabric myself. While looking for images of marble to use for inspiration I kept running into pictures of people marbling things (because the two words were made to be confusing) and a lot of those people were using shaving cream instead of water, which is a clever trick that’s been around for a long time. Inspired by a technique I hadn’t used a lot but felt like I could misuse, I started playing around with faux marble stone effects using shaving cream marbling methods, and I feel like I won. Long enough intro? Okay, now come marble some faux marble with me.
- surface covering like waxed paper for small pieces or plastic drop cloth for large pieces
- shaving cream – just good old fashioned shaving cream, Barbasol style, no fancy gels
- fabric paint – just matte black for this effect, or whatever colors you want
- wide scraper – this is from a hardware store and you’re supposed to use it to build walls, at least 4-5 inches wide is good
- toothpicks, popsicle sticks, and other disposable stirring things
- an iron and ironing board
- so much paper towel
- fabric to paint – white to match my effect, or any other color – cotton muslin and broadcloth are good to start with, synthetics won’t work as well
If you can find unscented shaving cream use it. A little bit makes a nice smelling man, this much makes your house smell like about 1000 men shaving at once. And then you heat it up. But the smell did wash out of my fabric in the first wash, so it all works out in the end. Sacrifices for art and everything.
Prepare your fabric before painting it by washing in washing soda on a hot cycling, drying it hot, then ironing it hot. You might as well shrink it as much as you can before you start, because you’ll make it hot enough to shrink again later. Pressing it flat before painting is good, but even my creased test pieces didn’t really suffer for my lack of pressing.
Lay out a covered space (or dish/tray of some kind) large enough for your fabric panels. Also lay out surface covering pieces for your fresh prints to dry on.
Put a dollop of shaving cream out where you’re be printing, and drop a couple drops of paint onto it. I believe this is the most literal interpretation of Bob Ross’ “happy little cloud” possible.
Use a toothpick to swirl the paint in a bit. You could definitely just do a whole sheet of this and print it if that’s what you’re into. It would look amazing.
Add a bunch more shaving cream, but not too much. Better to start light and add more as needed. As it gets thicker it seems to get clumpier or something, making it harder to work with.
Spread it out smoothly with your scraper, using lots of straight strokes in different directions. Add more cream if you aren’t achieving full coverage. Make sure you’ve made it as large as your fabric pieces.
Now add a couple more drops of paint and a bit more straight spreading. I know, it looks nothing like marble. Everything will be okay.
The first print will probably be the worst print, so if you’re making something specific you may want to print a bonus piece first. Lay the fabric over the shaving cream.
Gently use your hands to press the fabric down into the shaving cream. It won’t do this on it’s own, you have to help. First gently tap it down, then smooth your hands across to to make sure there aren’t any bubbles. No need to rush, but do keep moving.
Gently pull the fabric off the shaving cream and set it on your waxed paper or drop cloth, print side up. It might take a little shaving cream with it, don’t worry about it and just leave it alone. It will evaporate.
If you start lifting and a lot of cream is coming up with it, set it back down. Don’t lift the fabric straight up – try pulling it at a low angle, this makes it easier to leave the shaving cream behind.
This is approximately what your shaving cream will look like after the first print, which is enough like marble to satisfy my extremely specific fabric needs. At this point you can probably print 4-5 more pieces on the same shaving cream, and all will be similar but significantly different. If you want more pieces than that, freshen it up with some new shaving cream and paint and you should be able to go on like that for quite a long time.
When you’re done clean up your scraper and other gear right away. I just left the shaving cream out to dry up, then threw away my sheet of waxed paper. Let your fabric dry completely.
For durability, it’s a really good idea to heat set your paint. I covered my ironing board with paper towel, set my fabric face down on the paper towel, then ironed as hot as I thought was safe until all of my fabric was really heated through. This seemed to clean off a lot of residual shaving cream, and really set the paint in place. If you have any areas with a lot of shaving cream it would be smart to add a paper towel on top of the fabric as well, at least at first. Once the fabric is cool it’s safe to wash, but stick to hand wash or gentle cycle, lay flat to dry.
The planning and setup take some time, but I was able to print 10 or so pieces of fabric in less than an hour, so once you’re confident in your technique the project moves really quickly.