Textile Printing with Latex House Paint

So, at loooong last, my continuation of the series. Thank you for your patience.

On the previous post I talked about how I modify and extend the paint with any of the following:

  1. Shaving Cream. The cheaper the better.
  2. Clear, non-flaking hair gel. The cheaper the better.
  3. Unscented Lotion (yes, lotion) The cheaper (think dollar store) the better.
  4. Mineral Oil
  5. Permaset Aqua Print Paste

In this post will detail my process with Barbasol Shaving Cream.


Barbasol Shaving Cream is where it all began. Yes, Barbasol, the cheap stuff. I use Barbasol original, though I’ve used the one with aloe with no problems.

I was looking for a way to thicken the paint enough to pull through the screen. I had seen a blurb somewhere on the internets that mentioned mixing barbasol with paint. I thought, ‘hmmm, that’s a great idea. That will thicken it enough. Let’s try it.” So I did, and guess what, it worked!

And then something amazing happened. Upon drying, the fabric was super soft, like the paint became part of the fabric.

I was amazed! Elated! It’s a new day in printing! There was none of that stiff feeling of latex on fabric. This was the holy grail for me, as even some fabric/textile paints leave that heavy stiff hand.

Then it was time to see if it would hold up to washing. It did. Beautifully. I have fabrics that I printed years ago with this method that I have washed over and over. The colors still hold up.

1 paint + approx 4 parts part shaving cream

My formula: 1 part paint to 4 parts shaving cream. I usually eyeball my measurement because shaving cream is so fluffy and unpredictable.

Mix together, and voila! you can print with it.

pure color on left, mixed with shaving cream on right.
pure color on left, mixed with shaving cream on right.

Mix to combine the mixture until you don’t see any more streaks of pure white, or pure color. Notice that the shaving cream turns the paint color juuuust a little bit pastel. Not to worry, this will correct itself later.

No need for textile medium.

Note: If you are doing a long print run, I suggest adding a retarder. I add .5 parts glycerin. This will slow down the drying of the paint on your screens.

There is also no need for heat setting, though I still do this so that I can be extra-super-duper-sure that my print will not fade.

Once your paint + shaving cream concoction is ready, it’s time to print:

modified latex paint on the screen
modified latex paint on the screen

So here is my print. Notice how the paint is still a little bit foamy and pastel?

shaving cream + latex paint screen printed on canvas fabric
shaving cream + latex paint screen printed on canvas fabric, still wet.

Magically, after it dries (with the help of my heat gun), it goes back to its original color.

after the latex + shaving cream print dries, the color is once again vibrant.
after the latex + shaving cream print dries, the color is once again vibrant.

On the Block

Here is how the paint concoction performs with block printing:

Paint + Shaving Cream rolled out on a foam roller
Paint + Shaving Cream rolled out on a foam roller


the block printed on canvas fabric
the block printed on canvas fabric

Here is the same fabric printed with a rubber block, with the same paint. Notice that it does not have as much coverage as pulling through a screen. That is the nature of block printing. It’s also something I really enjoy about block printing. Not every print is perfect.

Here again, block printing on the bottom, screen printing on the top:

Screen printed on top, block printed on the bottom
Screen printed on top, block printed on the bottom

Here is the same piece of fabric after washing:

Color stays true after wash
Color stays true after wash

Notice that the color has stayed just as vibrant after the wash! Here is a caveat: Like any other textile paint/ink, the color stays true after washing only if I PREWASH the fabric. If you print on brand new un-washed fabric that has sizing, some of the color will fade. I also usually let the print cure for about a week before washing.

As with most things in life, if there are upsides there will be downsides. This is no different.

The Downsides (just 2):

  1. The foamy-ness of shaving cream can be a bother. I tend to mix just what I need when I need it because the leftover paint does not keep well over a few days. Most of the air deflates and you are left with an ugly semi-frothy mess. This is not enough of a bother to abandon the process.
  2. Screen Haze during long print runs. The paint can be hard to wash off if you are printing for a long time. Buuuuut, like I mentioned earlier, I found a solution to this as well. I add .5 parts glycerin to my mixture. Glycerin is a humectant used in body products. It draws moisture from the air to keep your skin feeling soft. In this case it draws moisture from the air to keep the paint wet.  Use it as a retarder, it keeps the paint from drying onto your screens too quickly.


Q: Does the paint finish matter?

A: It does not matter what finish the paint is. I usually just get the sample pots, which tend to be the satin finish.

This is all I can think of for now, but please, definitely post your questions in the comment section, and I will answer them and add to the FAQs.

In my opinion, shaving cream is the most effective method of extending and modifying latex paint to print textiles. You do not need ‘textile medium’ to make the fabric wash-fast and it leaves the fabric with a soft ‘hand’.

But of course, I am never satisfied, and I’m a chemist/engineer at heart.  I set out to find out what else I can use in case, say there’s suddenly a worldwide shortage of Barbasol. Tune in next time to see what else I’ve tried….


8 comments Add yours
  1. Sweet! I love this Yetunde! I stopped by and purchased a bread bag from you in Oakwood a few weeks ago; I am also a surface designer and artist. You’ve got a lot of great info here! Best, Bley

  2. Hi Bley! Thank you so much for stopping by! I’m so glad that you find my information useful…I try 🙂 I’d love to check out your work too…Is it online?

  3. Thank you so much for this tip!!! I screen print on wood(painted wood) and the inks are so expensive and don’t sand well. They all bleed when you sand so I am going to try this method. I appreciate you sharing this!!

  4. If you don’t mind me asking, where did you get your glycerin? I tried walgreens and couldn’t for the life of me find it. Haha.. and Walmart 😬 I must be looking in the wrong area.

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