Playing with Shiva Paintstiks


If you have read recent past posts of our blog, you’ll know that some of us have been playing! Sandy (me) and Lori have been having fun with Shiva Paintstiks and are working hard to bring others into the fold. Lois, Julie, Dottie, (another) Sandy, and Sonya all joined us for a paintstik class during our recent retreat and had a grand old time! We were asked to provide information here as well–although reading it here isn’t nearly as fun as hanging out with us in the class (!), at least you’ll have what you need if you decide you want to play, too.

Shiva paintstiks

Introduction to paintstiks

  • What is a paintstik? Shiva paintstiks are oil paint in stick form, shaped like big crayons. It’s that simple.
  • What is it not? Shiva paintstiks are not the same as oil bars or oil pastels.

(When referring to Shiva paintstiks, it is correct to spell “paintstik” as it appears here as it is part of the brand name. Generic paint sticks would be spelled otherwise.)

  • Shiva paintstiks are a low-maintenance art supply: they won’t dry out. They’ll basically last forever because they form their own “skin” that protects them from drying out between uses–and that skin also means they won’t leave marks on everything else in your storage bin (again, once they dry).
  • Shiva paintstiks are permanent and washable.
    • To the best of our knowledge, they don’t fade. However, you’d have to test this out over a period of years and we haven’t been using them that long!
    • You can use them on any kind of fabric (garments and quilts, although see below for one exception); you can also use them on wood, leather, etc. So buying a few paintstiks for quilting is guilt-free, since you can also use them to stencil that border in your living room. Tee hee.
    • Although they’re washable (see more about that below), they are not dry clean-able. So don’t use them on any fabrics that are dry clean only.
  • Drying time: When you’ve used paintstiks on fabric, the drying time is a little variable depending on how thick a layer of paint you end up with. Also, some colors or types of paintstiks may take slightly longer than others–iridescents, for example, seem to take slightly longer than matte colors to dry, in my experience.  The basic rule of thumb, though, is as follows: 24 hours, dry to touch; 3-7 days, completely dry. Some thick layers may require even more time.
  • Heat setting: You will need to heat set the paint onto the fabric if you want to wash it–garments, for example. If you’re doing a wallhanging, you may not decide it’s necessary.


    • To heat set using your iron: put parchment paper on your ironing board surface. Brown kraft paper or several sheets of unprinted newsprint will also work. Lay the fabric paint-side down on the paper. You may also want to use a pressing cloth on top (the ironing side) to further protect your iron. Set your iron to the appropriate heat for the type of fabric. Press each section for 10-15 seconds. Don’t move the iron back and forth–lift up and down.
    • If you’re heat-setting larger pieces of fabric, you can even use your dryer. Put the fabric in the dryer and let it run on the hottest setting for 30 minutes. However, make sure your paint is completely, totally, unquestionably dry before doing this or you’ll never want to use your dryer for the rest of your wardrobe again!
    • Once you’ve heat set the paints, your fabric is washable in cold water (hand or machine). You may want to turn painted garments inside-out first, and avoid putting detergent directly onto the painted parts. Dry with low setting or line dry.
  • Clean-up is easy.  For the most part, you’ll be able to wash your hands and any brushes you’ve used with soap and water, or mild dishwashing detergent (like Joy). Some colors adhere more to brushes and may require the help of extra solvents (Citra-solv) or special brush cleaners available in art stores. Make sure you wash your work surface as well.
  • Protecting your work surface: Although paintstik residue can be easily washed off, it’s a good idea to avoid problems by covering your work surface with plastic, first. A small kitchen garbage bag taped to your work surface with painter’s tape will be sufficient. Try to make sure the bag is taped down as taut as possible so it won’t slip too much when you’re working on it.
  • Protecting your clothing: You might want to wear a smock or old clothes when working with paintstiks. Although they’re a low-mess item, it’s always possible to drag a sleeve or lean an elbow or wrist on paint before it’s dry. Although your hands are washable, your clothes aren’t.
  • Quick “oops” tip: sometimes little flakes or clumps of paint can appear where you don’t want them. Don’t brush them away with your finger! Instead, wrap a piece of masking tape around your fingers and do a quick dab of the clump–most of the time it will come right up without leaving a mark on the fabric.
  • Brushes: You can use paintstiks like crayons with no other tools required. However, you may also want to use stencil brushes,


    or other artist’s paintbrushes labeled as suitable for oil paints that have stiff, shorter bristles for different effects.

Preparing to use paint stiks
  • Cover your workspace. (See above.)
  • Press your fabric so it doesn’t have wrinkles, unless you want those wrinkles to be part of the effect you’re creating.
  • Tape a piece of fabric to your workspace. Stretch the fabric gently so it’s taut but not stretched.  (See next note for an exception.)
  • If you’re using a rubbing plate or found object, you will need to put that down first, then tape your fabric over it. Be sure the rubbing plate or found object is in the position you desire before taping the fabric on top.
  • If you’re using a stencil, tape it down in the desired position on top of the fabric. Be sure it is taped securely so it doesn’t slip while you’re painting.
  • Remove the skin from your paintstik: use a paper towel to “pinch” it off,

    Removing skin

    or carefully peel it away with a small knife. The skin is pretty thin, so don’t go hacking away at it. You can also rub the stick on rough surface like a coarse paper towel to help loosen the skin. Those skins, once removed, are still paint. You’ll want to get rid of them so they don’t spill onto the carpet or become an unintended part of your design.


Uses of paintstiks

  • Free-hand: Just like with a crayon, you can draw, sketch, and color with a paintstik free-hand.

    Drawing freehand

  • Rubbings: Remember doing leaf or tombstone rubbings as a kid? This is

    Rubbing plates

    one of the most fun things to do with paintstiks! There are plenty ofrubbing plates available in craft stores–look in children’s craft sections for inexpensive options. Teacher supply stores may also have some options. You can also use found objects–leaves, kitchen trivets, coins, and so forth. Start playing!

Rubbings of leaves and flowers

Trivets used as rubbing plates

Rubbings from trivets

  • Stencils: There are also scads of stencils available anywhere that stencils

    Store-bought stencils

    are sold. You can also create your own stencils using freezer paper–cut out your design and press the stencil to the fabric, and paint away. Consider using both the positive and negative image.

Stencil made with freezer paper (using negative space)

Freezer paper stencil: positive and negative space

  • Stamps: You can also use stamps as rubbing plates–just put the fabric over them and rub. Although you could also put the paint onto the stamp and use it as you normally would a stamp, be careful to make sure you could get the paint off the stamp when you’re done. (We’ve not tested anything in this category, so you’re on your own!)
  • Torn-edge paper: Oh, but this one is fun! Take a piece of paper and give ita good rip. Lay the paper down on the fabric and, using either a paintstik directly or using a stencil brush coated in paint, draw the paint off the edge of the torn paper. Great for landscapes or framing options.

Torn paper–different brush techniques give different effects

  • Masks:You can “mask” part of your fabric to create areas where paint

    Color blocking using masking tape

    will not appear. Masking tape is a great mask option. Tape your fabric down as described in preparation (above), and then use masking tape or whatever masking tool you’re using to create your design. Once your painting is complete, remove the tape.

And, of course, whatever else you can dream up! Be sure to play with blending colors, overlaying stencils, combining different designs, using different brushes for different results, and so forth.


Paintstiks on Fabric: Simple Techniques, Fantastic Results, by Shelly Stokes. This is probably the best primer book on using Paintstiks.

Paintstik Inspirations! with Laura Murray (DVD). It’s not cheap, but it’s great! Lots of ideas, and very helpful tips.

To buy Shiva Paintstiks, rubbing plates, stencils, and the books/DVDs listed above (as well as lots of other really cool stuff!):


Cedar Canyon Textiles

Laura Murray Designs:  Laura Murray also has a series of stamps (for rubbings) and books named “The Starbuilder Series,” that use paintstiks to create applique pieces for some incredible effects.

Dharma Trading Company

Another helpful tool is the Grip-n-Grip No-Slip mat, a heat-resistant rubber mat that doesn’t move when laid on a table, and grips anything laid on top of it to keep it from slipping. Excellent for holding your fabric in place while painting, or for holding your rubbing plates in place–you can tape your fabric down over the rubbing plate right on top of the mat. You can also use the map for applique–you can press right on the mat. It’s easily washable.


3 responses »

  1. So as I go back and review this I realize it is not Lori, but Sandy! And I am getting to learn more good stuff about you too. This looks like fun.

  2. I do some leather crafting with various types of leather, mostly exotic skins such as snake, ostrich, bison, with interesting textures and patterns.
    And use the paintstiks with success on them all with the right sort of preparation just as fabric needs washing first to remove sizing.
    On smooth leathers, using alcohol, acetone, diluted ammonia, citrus solvent and such will remove most finishes. If it has a plastic type heat applied finish, scuffing lightly with sandpaper, wire brush, sanding block will give the leather some ‘tooth’ for the paint to grab onto and able to sink into the leather around whatever finish might be left. The downside is that limiting this only to the areas you want it removed can be difficult. Another possibility would be to use a pyrography tool to burn it off at the edges of your design–proper ventilation needed on all leather, especially anything but veg tan, chrome tanned, oil tanned and anything with a special finish can all have toxic chemicals, inactive in the leather but burning would be a problem. even veg tan for this is safest with good ventilation.
    For better coverage, using a blender stick first, if time permits letting it dry at least 24 hours, or until fairly dry to touch before using the IR or regular sticks first will let the blender sticks, which seem to have more oil in them than the rest, to sink into the fibers so not as much colored paint is drawn in. Also true on fabric and other porous material. Expect that the leather will darken to some degree, all leather finishes do so as light is not reflected back but gives depth to the material. Once fully cured, should adhere quite well.
    Great product on leather once the leather is prepped.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s