Shaving cream paper marbling has been an art project circulating the web for awhile now, and rightfully so…it is super fun! Kids “ooh and ahh” at the incredibly beautiful results they achieve. The project is easy enough for children to do almost entirely on their own, it is tactile, creative, and messy in a really fun way. Everyone will smile throughout the entire process and be so excited from start to finish! This is by far one of my favorite art activities to do with students and a great way to introduce the art of printmaking.
Although the process is fun and the marbled papers are beautiful in and of themselves, as an art teacher I always want to make sure that the learning objectives of projects extend beyond “pretty and fun.” There are a lot of creative explorations that can be done with marbled papers. Historically, paper marbling is a process linked with book making. Certain marbling materials and techniques are also transferable to some fabrics and is therefore a textile process too. Since paper marbling is a method of printmaking, I thought I would take this project a step further and use marbled papers as backgrounds and inspiration for collagraph prints!
Collagraphs are also a ton of fun and easy to accommodate for all age levels. Many printmaking techniques require carving into blocks with sharp tools to remove layers for inking, therefore print making tends to be a method reserved for older students (some carving methods can be safely done at around age 8 with proper instruction and monitoring). Collagraphs, though, are made by building up a surface and then inking it; no sharp or dangerous tools necessary, making this a great technique for kids. Don’ t think this is just a process for kids though, as it can become increasingly complex and is a really organic and creative form of print making for high schoolers and adults as well. To make the process even easier for young kids though, I recommend using sticky-backed foam sheets (regular foam sheets can be applied with glue) to create beautiful collagraph prints.
In this post, I will demonstrate the process for making gorgeous marbled papers with shaving cream, and in the next post I will discuss how to make simple yet stunning collagraph prints on the marbled papers.
This lesson explores the art form of printmaking and encourages creativity through the use of unconventional materials. Students are introduced to the definition of printmaking and a brief history about paper marbling. Discuss color theory (warm/ cool, analogous, complementary, triads, etc) in order to for students to choose which colors to swirl together to create interesting color harmonies and mixing.
There are a variety of materials that can be used for paper marbling. Traditionally, oil pigments are used and they are floated on a liquid solution. Interestingly, shaving cream works extremely well as a transferring medium and is perfect for use with liquid watercolors or even food coloring, making this process kid friendly, easy to clean up, and very fresh smelling!
Having been an art teacher for ten years, there are certain materials I recommend that are
tried and true. If you don’t have access to these materials, there are substitutes, but I cannot guarantee the same results and it may take some trial and error to figure out how to best manipulate the materials. I purchase most of my materials from dickblick.com, an art supply company that is dedicated to providing high quality products at a competitive cost. I actually use a lot of their brand name materials, because they are often as good in quality as brand names, but at a much lower cost.
- Canson XL Watercolor Paper cut to size (I made mine 6×8 for this project, but have done 9×12 and even 11X14 in the past)
- Blick Liquid Watercolors (undiluted)
- Shaving Cream (not gel!)
- Art Tray or Baking Sheet
- Squeegee (or Ruler)
- Popsicle Stick, Skewer, or Paint Brush Handle (to swirl colors in shaving cream)
- Paper Towel
Step One: Preparing for Printmaking
Organize your space with all of the necessary materials. Spray a layer of shaving cream on the tray and then spread evenly with the spatula.
Pick out 3-5 colors and begin dripping them onto the surface of the shaving cream. A dropper works great for this, but I usually just have my students dip a paint brush handle into the paints and have them carefully drip it over their shaving cream. Have paper towel sheets readily available so that the handle of the paint brush can be wiped off before switching to a new color.
Once the colors are placed on the surface of the shaving cream, use a popsicle stick, skewer, or skinny paint brush handle to swirl the colors together. Minimal swirling will leave more white space, where as too much swirling will muddy up the colors. Discuss “knowing when to stop” before diving into this step :).
Step Two: Pulling the Print
When the colors are swirled to satisfaction, take the paper and lay it face down on the surface of the shaving cream. Gently pat and rub the paper so that there are no air pockets underneath the paper and it is perfectly squished down onto the color swirled shaving cream.
Carefully lift the corner of the paper off the shaving cream and remove entirely.
Lay the paper down face up onto a clean surface (another tray works well for maintaining the mess), and then with a squeegee or a ruler, scrape the shaving cream off of the paper. Ooh and Ahh at your beautiful marbled paper!
Step Three: Do it Again!
You can add more colors and swirl them into your first layer so that your original colors act as a light tint to the entire surface of the paper, or you can add another layer of shaving cream on top of your first layer for a fresh start.
Stay tuned for Part Two: Collagraph Printmaking! If you have other creative ideas for art projects utilizing paper marbling, leave a comment!