Make pretty stationary for homemade Valentines
- white cardstock (or other thick paper)
- shaving cream (white foam, not gel)
- food coloring (liquid or gel)
- cookie sheet or shallow pan (large enough to fit paper)
- fork or toothpicks
- paper towels
- squeegee or straight edge
- wax paper
Note: Food coloring may stain hands, clothes, and surfaces. Take appropriate precautions.
- Make a rectangular mound of shaving cream on the cookie sheet as big as your sheet of paper.
- Add 3-4 drops of food coloring in different areas of the shaving cream. You can try single colors or more than one.
- Drag a fork or toothpicks through the shaving cream and food coloring once from left to right across the shaving cream all the way down the rectangle, making long “S” curves.
- Then drag the fork or toothpicks once through the shaving cream mixture from top to bottom, making back and forth “S” curves all the way along the rectangle. Don’t mix the shaving cream too much, you want to leave pretty lines and waves of color.
- Carefully, place your paper on top of the shaving cream and press lightly to ensure all of the paper touches the shaving cream mixture. Pull the paper off the shaving cream slowly, holding one corner of the paper. Set the paper, shaving-cream side up, on a piece of wax paper or handi-wrap that is smoothed out on a protected, even surface.
- Use a the rigid straight edge (like a ruler or squeegee) to scrape all the excess shaving cream off the paper by smoothly wiping it across the paper surface, wiping off the squeegee between scrapes. Use a paper towel to dab off any shaving cream the squeegee missed. The excess shaving cream can be thrown away.
- Repeat steps 4 and 5 for the back side of the paper, if desired.
- Allow the paper to dry. Make a card for a holiday by folding your paper in half and adding a message, or attaching other decorations. Or use this paper to cut out marbled shapes, like Valentine hearts.
- You can make more sheets of marbled paper from your same shaving cream mixture! Add more drops of color and re-swirl if desired. Repeat until the shaving cream is gone or until the colors are too muddled together.
- If your dried paper isn’t flat, put a heavy book on top of it for a day or two before using it.
Take it further:
Did any of your colors mix together in the shaving cream? What about on your paper? What colors work best together? Can you use blue and red food coloring to make purple swirls in the shaving cream?
Does the marbled pattern match what you saw in the shaving cream before you put the paper down? If you made multiple marbled papers from the same shaving cream, do they all look the same? Does the marbled pattern change on each sheet of paper? Does the way you drag the ruler across the paper (straight/wavy) change the way the pattern looks?
When you’re done making marbled paper, play with the shaving cream! What does it feel like? Can you mix the colors together? What color do you end up with if you mix all of the colors into the shaving cream?
Try making marbled paper again, but use a scented shaving cream. Does the scent transfer to the paper when it dries? Can you make marbled and scented cards?
What’s going on?
Shaving cream is made of solid soap, water, and a gas. Soap molecules have two ends; one that loves water (hydrophilic) and one that avoids water (hydrophobic). The hydrophilic end is typically called the head, and the hydrophobic end is the tail. Water is a polar molecule, meaning it has a positive side and a negative side. The hydrophilic end of soap is also polar, which is why it is attracted to the water. The hydrophobic tail is nonpolar. Food coloring is dye dissolved in water, so it is also hydrophilic. When you add the food coloring to the shaving cream, it will only react with the heads of the soap molecules, not the tails.
Paper is made of cellulose which are long molecules made of glucose, a type of sugar. Glucose molecules, and therefore cellulose, are hydrophilic. When you press your paper to the shaving cream and food coloring, the food coloring can react with the paper’s cellulose because they are both hydrophilic, so the colors can spread through the paper easily. This is why the marbled pattern on your paper doesn’t exactly match what you saw on the shaving cream!
Marbling paper is an ancient art dating back to the 10th century in China, the 12th century in Japan, and the 17th century in Europe. It gets its name because the patterns on the paper are similar to those in smooth marble and other stones. The art of paper marbling is still popular around the world today, and there are a variety of techniques used!