Art Lesson: Shaving Cream Marbling - Easy Marbling Techniques

Shaving Cream Marbling

Submitted by: Carol Hough
Lewis Frasier Middle School, Hinesville, Georgia
Unit: Paper Marbling
Project: Shaving Cream Marbling
Age Group: All grade levels (Second Grade "Starry Night" Lesson)
Time needed: one class period
Extensions: Use in sketchbooks and bookmaking



  • Students will gain appreciation for the art of paper marbling

  • Students will explore color and design

  • Students will learn the history of paper marbling


Shaving Cream,.Tempera Paint. (or Watercolor Paint.), paper plates (or trays for larger prints), Brushes., combs, Drawing Paper. (cut to size needed), cardboard, sponges for clean-up.


1. Introduce the history of paper marbling.

All things to do with Paper Marbling (Archive)
Sewanee University - Paper Marbling

1       2


2. Demonstrate process for students



1. Layer about 1 inch of Shaving Cream onto a paper dish (or trays)

2. Level it out with a piece of cardboard as a scraper

3. Use water based paint. I used the Tempera Cakes. and made them very liquid. Paint directly on top of the shaving cream. Use different compositions like concentric circles, stripes, half moons, etc.

4. Then using the back of the brush or a pointed stick or tooth pick. Swirl the paint. Do not push it down deep into the shaving cream. The paint will stay on the top.

5. Cut paper small about 6"x6" (15 x 15 cm) Lay paper on top of the design and press down  (printing technique). Pull the paper off. The shaving cream will appear to be all smeared but wait.

6. Use the piece of Posterboard. to squeeze off the excess shaving cream. Like magic the design stays on the paper. 


You can reuse the shaving cream until it gets drab. Just mix it in and paint again and again. Carol has pulled 6-8 prints from 1 layer of shaving cream. 


You make the prints into personal little journal covers. Students find this to be so much fun. Buy the shaving cream at the dollar store. Clean up is easy too.


Carol is using the paper as book covers for little geometric fold books. The paper is also very good in collage projects or mixed media projects where you can add Beads. and wires, etc. You could even make pins and the such. So many possibilities.


It works best with Prang Watercolor Pan Sets. products. Crayola puts added wax into their watercolors and they don't stay intense.


Tips from Jeannie Sandoval (Middle School):

From Jeannie: This lesson makes for a great open house activity, too. For collage papers and experimental prints, had the kids make 4" x 4" (10 x 10 cm) prints and we had the entire class use the same can. Now, when we did the larger prints (9 x 12 / 23 x 30.5 cm) we went through about 4 cans per class. I expect 6-8 prints per can or the 10" x 16" (25.5 cm x 40.6 cm) size. Now, it also depends on how much shaving cream much they put down. You only need about an inch worth of cream. Paint directly on top and as long as you don't really mess up the surface, you can repaint. I had the kids smooth the tops over with a Mat board. to pick up the 'chunkier' area of paint and just reapply cream in small areas as needed. I am quite stingy with the shaving cream. I also make the kids bring their own (maybe divide kids into groups of three or four and have one kid in the group bring in the can).


Note from Judy: This sounds like one item to add to the "Wish List" - Do make sure it is the Foam (whipped cream like) shaving cream. Jeannie has used this as a one day project - as a time filler - and as a break for her (middle school kids need little help with this). You can even make larger prints and use them for mounting another work of art. Think about mounting calligraphy on the marbled papers - beautiful border!

Many art ed list members have liked the results achieved with liquid watercolors best.


From Kathleen Arola:

I used watered-down Tempera Paint.. I did it with 24 classes last semester, and it was a huge hit. Also, I let it sit overnight before wiping the dried shaving cream off the paper.


Tips from Gabriele- Marbling on Foam

Try this very safe, non-toxic method. I use shaving cream as the suspension agent and liquid water color in a spray bottle- You can water down tempera to the right consistency too-make sure you have fine mist spray bottles- and real cheap shaving foam. I can get Barbersol on sale for 69 cents a can!

I use plastic trays and lay down about an inch of shaving cream. Use your hand to even it out, like frosting a cake. Then, you spray the color onto the foam. It works best when the colors are laid next to - not on top of each other. I limit them to 3 colors at a time (related colors work best). Then, with any kind of tool (Popsicle stick, paint brush handle, pick, etc...) you draw through the color and the foam. You can swirl randomly or methodically to create your patterns. Next. lay your paper (any kind works - copy, drawing, construction- even dark colors) on the foam. Gently rub the surface to transfer the design. Be careful not to press to the bottom of the tray. You're just lifting off the surface. Pull the paper off the foam and lay foam side up on the table. Next take a stiff card or squeegee and scrap the foam off the paper. WOW is always the remark! You can use the same foam a couple of times. when it gets to "dirty looking" add a new layer of foam. It's good, clean fun!


From Jeannie Sandoval- Marbling with Oil Pastels

I also have successfully used the Oil Pastels. They are oil based. I have the kids use the side of scissors and scrape 3-4 colors into the water and lay down the water color paper and tada! Instant marbleized paper. I bought 2 sets (I think there were 12 sticks to the pack from SAX). I used those same two packs all year. Now, if the kids scrape too hard, they will break, so, they have them be gentle. If pastels fall in the water, allow them to dry completely or it will make clumps. I made new notebooks every nine weeks and had about 125 kids each nine weeks and they made a front and back cover. It worked great, it was cheap and they loved their notebook covers! Plus, we were able to have all of the covers done in a day and half. I only had 2 work stations set up and four kids worked at a time. Judy Nagel (from Sax) was a big help with my questions. It was really fun. The marbling also works on 60 lb paper if you are on a budget but Watercolor Paper. works best.


From Betty Bowen

Make marbled paper by shaving a fine dust of Dixon® Ambrite Paper Chalk. on the surface of water. Simple as that. Nice bright colors, and once they are dry, stay put pretty well. I guess it would probably work with any hard pastels, but Prang is what I heard about first. Ann Ayers recommends Large Drawing Chalk. (by Prang).


From Kathy Ticker

I have used a enamel spray paint, on top of water in aluminum trays.. Use caution if doing this with kids... Might be good for small groups done outside.



  1. Fill aluminum trays with water.

  2. Spray a light coat of Enamel Spray Paint. (I have used all colors, including gold and silver) on top of the water

  3. Swirl with combs, hair picks, or long thin toothpick-like sticks

  4. Lay white paper on top of the water for about 10 seconds, press gently, and you will see the spray paint stick to the paper through the back of the paper.

  5. Lift gently, lay flat to dry.

Shaving Cream Marbling links:

Also follow this Getty thread - check some of the replies: (now TeacherArtExchange)
This has step-by-step photos: How to Paint Marbled Paper Using Shaving Cream



Techniques for Marbleizing Paper. - Noted expert provides detailed instructions on every aspect of the marbleizing process: selecting a workplace, tools, paper, colors and glue, more. Also, specific techniques for creating 12 striking papers: Turkish, Japanese, comb, wave and zigzag patterns, others.

How to Marbleize Paper: Step-by-Step Instructions for 12 Traditional Patterns (Other Paper Crafts). - This volume is a complete illustrated step-by-step guide to the marbleizing process. Create beautiful marbled papers for craft projects with 12 designs: stone, fantasy, comb, wave, tiger, batik and more.

The Ultimate Marbling Handbook: A Guide to Basic and Advanced Techniques for Marbling Paper and Fabric (Watson-Guptill Crafts).- The technique of printing on paper using inks or paints floating on water was originally kept secret, but recent books have revealed the process. Continuing the material in her previous book, Marbling: A Complete Guide to Creating Beautiful Patterned Papers and Fabrics, this guide includes avant-garde images as well as the classic designs using Japanese suminagashi inks, oil-color marbling, and watercolor marbling.



3 Submitted by: Denise Pannell
Lesson: Van Gogh - Starry Night
Grade Level: Second Grade



Shaving Cream, liquid Watercolor Paint., Fragonard Extra Fine Watercolours., large tray, white Drawing Paper. (cut 10" x 16" (25.5 x 40.5 cm) - or any desired size), assorted stamps, Block Printing Inks. (or Acrylic Paint.), black Construction Paper., Scissors.

  1. Present Starry Night. to students.

  2. Marble background (use large trays). Each get a chance to sprinkle some watercolor on top, a
    comb is use to make the swirls and designs, they lay their papers on top,
    lightly rub the back, peel off, squeegee. off the excess cream. Allow to dry over night

  3. Cut silhouettes for landscape (paper could go either direction)

  4. Stamp print swirls and stars.

See Warm color example by Denise


From Denise: I had the students draw a landscape on black paper the same width as the marbled paper. I then traced over the top edge of their landscape with a silver Gel Pens. and told them to cut on that line so that they end up with a silhouette. Glue was put on the side with the gel pen line. Denise's lesson (Archive) is featured on Discount School Supplies' web site.


4       5

3rd grade example 5th grade example


Artwork submitted by Brenda Robson

Alternatives to Cut Paper Landscape (adaptations for older students): Try Scratch-Foam. relief prints across (Or Linoleum. prints - sky would be cut off)  This would mean the students would have to do 12 x 18 (30.5 x 46 cm) marbled prints vertically - use the 9" x 12" (23 x 30.5 cm) Styrofoam Trays. (for a large sky). They can create a wonderful line and patterns landscape - then cut the sky part out....and print on the marbled paper.  Brenda had students do marbling on 9" x 12" (23 x 30.5 cm) white Drawing Paper. - then print the scratch foam plate over the marbling (when dry). A collagraph print might be a good idea for budget conscious teachers (cardboard and string and such - printing in relief -- again for older students). Painting the bottom would be another option. For "Van Gogh like" textures, try some Black glue (Liquid Lead. gives the same effect) or puffy paints. in small squeeze bottles - or colored glue (Can use Colored Hot Melt Glue Sticks with a Glue Gun.). A Getty TeacherArtExchange list member suggested taking the felt inners out of a Watercolor Markers. and inserting it into the glue bottle - within days you have colored glue. Try some dark cool colors.


Tried and True lesson! Brenda Robson has used this and this is what she had to say: "My hat is off to you [Denise] with this lesson. What a riot! The kids had such a blast! I had two teachers come from 2 other floors to see what the noise was in the bathrooms though, seems clean up was just as much fun!"


Here are some "how tos" for liquid starch marbling:
This one suggests watered down acrylic (Archive):

"How to" using Linit Starch: pdf

There are more links out there... I did read that some brands of starch don't work - so try your brand first before doing it with kids. Most recommend watered down acrylic paint. One set of instructions said a cookie sheet would work - that was enough of layer of starch. Many just say blue liquid starch. (Archive)

See the La France Elementary School art room archives from December 10, 2004, March 6, 2005, February 7, 2006, and October 12, 2006
See lots of new work! (Archive) (Archive)



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