How-To: Make a Nebula Pillow using Ink Effects from DecoArt

This month’s Whimseybox included samples of a new product, called Ink Effects, from our friends at DecoArt. Ink Effects is a fabric transfer ink that allows you to paint an image on ordinary printer paper and then iron it on to a textile. Rather than sitting on top of the fabric like a stiff iron-on transfer, the Ink Effects ink settles in smoothly to the fabric with little distortion of the feel of the fabric. Ink Effects colors blend nicely together, and when I saw my collection of colors, I instantly knew what I wanted to try my hand at. I needed a project for my inner space geek, and Ink Effects was the perfect way to pull it off. Read on to see how you can create a nebula pillow of your own to add some geek chic to your home decor.

From your September Whimseybox:
Ink Effects Fabric Transfer Ink (colors can vary, based on what kind of nebula you want to make. For this project, I used black, blue, purple and pink. Be sure to use the color dot on the top of the ink bottle as your guide, not what the color looks like in the bottle or while painting)
– Piece of synthetic fabric (if you decide to use a fabric with a high cotton content, you need to be sure to use the Ink Effects Base Coat before painting)
Small paintbrush

Other Materials:
– Printer/Copier paper
– Spongebrush
– Toothpicks
– Old Toothbrush
White acrylic paint

For Pillow (you can make your nebula in to anything you like, though)
– at least a 10″x12″ piece of fabric for the pillow backing
Fabric Scissors
Straight Pins
– Chopstick or something to push the PolyFill into the corners of the pillow
– PolyFill
– Sewing Machine
– Needle for hand sewing pillow closure

How-To: Make a Nebula Pillow using Ink Effects from DecoArt

The first thing you can do is a Google Image search for “Nebula” or “Nebulae” so you can be inspired by the magnificence of these astronomical beauties. You don’t necessarily need to pick one to copy, but it’s a good way to get inspired by the colors and varying shapes nebulae take.

How-To: Make a Nebula Pillow using Ink Effects from DecoArt

Next, prepare a surface for painting. Here, I used a scrap piece of cardboard and old applesauce containers (one of my favorite “tools” in my studio) to hold small amounts of the Ink Effects fabric ink. I was pleasantly surprised to find that you need very little of the ink for this project. A little goes a very long way.

How-To: Make a Nebula Pillow using Ink Effects from DecoArt

For this particular style of nebula, I started with a pink center. I simply freehanded a circle in the middle of my printer paper. Don’t fret with perfection, just paint freely and easily.

How-To: Make a Nebula Pillow using Ink Effects from DecoArt

Next, I added a purple circle around the pink center. I didn’t even bother washing out my brush between colors. I like the way it helped the colors blend together. I also overlapped the center circle just slightly to help blend the colors.

How-To: Make a Nebula Pillow using Ink Effects from DecoArt

Next came a blue circle, also without having washed out my brush. Again, overlap the purple circle just a bit to help really get the colors blending together. I love the way the Ink Effects inks blend – it’s one of their best qualities.

How-To: Make a Nebula Pillow using Ink Effects from DecoArt

Finally, I painted black ink all around the border of the page. I applied it thickly, because I wanted it to transfer as darkly as possible. Once I had the border painted, I went through and added each color back on to the sponge brush and did a few wisps of the brush across the other bands of colors, further blending them and adding a little dimension. Again, don’t fret with perfection here. The looser and more laid back you are, the better your nebula will turn out. Don’t hesitate to practice, too. This was my second try at the nebula!

How-To: Make a Nebula Pillow using Ink Effects from DecoArt

Let your painting dry for 30-45 minutes. Heat your iron to a high setting with no steam/water at all. Press your fabric to get wrinkles out and to warm the fabric (the transfer seems to take better to warm fabric) Place your painting face down on the fabric.

How-To: Make a Nebula Pillow using Ink Effects from DecoArt

Iron the entire painting for several minutes, keeping the iron moving at all times. This took longer than I expected, but because this is such a dense painting that covers the entire page, that made sense. Keep that iron moving so you don’t scorch your fabric. Pay special attention to the edges of your page, as those seemed to transfer lighter for me, because I was so heavy with the iron on the center of the picture.

How-To: Make a Nebula Pillow using Ink Effects from DecoArt

When you feel your transfer is complete, carefully remove your painting to reveal your nebula underneath. Keep in mind that when you are working with a transfer process like this, your image will be reversed on the fabric.

How-To: Make a Nebula Pillow using Ink Effects from DecoArt

Next, we want to add some stars and more dimension to the nebula. I did this in two layers. First, use the small paintbrush or a toothpick to paint small white stars randomly across the nebula. I also used the brush to paint a small bright crosshair star. The next step somehow eluded being photographed, but is easy to describe: put a small amount of white acrylic paint on the dry bristles of an old toothbrush. Run your thumb across the bristles to produce a fine mist of paint across the nebula. Practice on a scrap piece of fabric or paper first to get a feel for this, and make sure your work space is completely covered. You’d be surprised how far paint can fly!

At this point, you can do whatever you like with your nebula fabric. I decided to sew mine in to a small, simple pillow. Read on for instructions on how to do that!

How-To: Make a Nebula Pillow using Ink Effects from DecoArt

When you feel your nebula is complete, let it dry for an hour or so. I wanted my nebula pillow to be solid nebula, so I trimmed a 1/4″ border around the painted area. I cut a piece of backing fabric to the same size as the newly trimmed nebula painting, and pinned them right sides together.

Using a 1/2″ seam allowance (this will cover the 1/4″ border you left, and will stitch about 1/4″ into the paint job, giving a nice crisp finish) sew around the pieces of fabric, leaving a 2″opening at the bottom. Clip the corners of your fabric to help smooth them when the pillow is turned right-side-out.

Turn the pillow right-side-out through the 2″ opening in the bottom of the pillow and stuff with PolyFill, using a chopstick to help you get the stuffing pressed firmly into the corners. Once the pillow is fully stuffed, turn the opening in and pin it shut. Use a ladder stitch to close the final seam.

Your pillow is now complete! Enjoy this little bit of the Cosmos on your couch, chair or bed!


Rachel Hobson is a freelance craft writer and editor who is obsessed with hand embroidery and all things geektastic and funny. She has a passion for creating community through crafting. She's also a huge space geek, and enjoys living five minutes from Houston's Johnson Space Center where she can get her fill of rockets any time she pleases.


  • Reply September 13, 2012


    Thanks Rachel! (awesome name, he he!) This is beautiful and it may inspire my next craft project. I am into crafts that are not too expensive to make but look amazing. The colors on this nebula pillow really pop. Do you think that a sunset would work too?

    • Reply September 27, 2012


      So funny that you ask that, Rachel, as one of the first things I tried with the inks was making a sky at dusk! It worked well, but then I decided I really wanted to go the nebula route ;) If you do a sunset, be sure to share it with us!

  • [...] Make a nebula pillow (or t-shirt or tote bag). (via CRAFT) [...]

  • Reply September 15, 2012


    Love this project! I’m a space fan, too and I think this has a lot of potential for pillows, t-shirts,placemats… Thanks!,,

    • Reply September 27, 2012


      Glad you like it! I agree – let’s get the nebulae EVERYWHERE! ;)

  • [...] love everything about space and that includes this amazing nebula pillow by Rachel Barry on Whimsy Box. Like this:LikeBe the first to like [...]

  • Reply October 21, 2012


    hey, I love this idea, but do you think this would be adaptable for use on store-bought plain pillowcases?

  • Reply November 20, 2012


    Hi, I really love this post but I have a question;
    If I used the same technique as you did on a tshirt, will it work and how long will the painting stay?

    • Reply November 21, 2012

      Alicia DiRago

      For Ink Effects, the most important thing is the material of the shirt. So for best results, use a shirt that is all or mostly synthetic (like nylon, polyester, etc). If you use a cotton shirt the effect will be less vibrant and more likely to fade when washing. If you use a material that is a cotton blend, you should probably use the Ink Effects Base Coat for best results. Hope that helps, let us know if you have any other questions!

  • [...] Because the only thing better than a pillow fight is a SPACE PILLOW FIGHT. Directions here. [...]

  • Reply December 16, 2012


    So I attempted making this pillow….I used a non cotton pillow case and the colors turned out very dull, i also had to iron it for probably 15 minutes. You have any tips to make the colors brighter?

    • Reply December 17, 2012


      Hi Katelyn! Hmmm … it sounds like you followed the tutorial to a T, so let’s see what else we can figure out. Do you know what the exact fiber content the pillowcase was? I used a piece of synthetic material that I then sewed into the pillow case. The only ink color I applied pretty heavily was the black around the edges. The others were pretty regularly applied, as you can see in some of the pictures. Were you able to let it dry completely? Did you have your iron set on high heat and no steam? That’s about all I can think. I did press for a while, but just several minutes – not anywhere near 15. I’d check in on the DecoArt web site to see if there is any other info in their FAQs.

      I hope that helps!

  • Reply December 26, 2012


    WOW! What a clever and amazing pillow. It’s just beautiful!
    Must. Try. Now.

  • Reply January 2, 2013


    Purely Lovely Design!
    more than the process, i like the way it got finally shaped into. thanks for sharing:-)

  • Reply February 9, 2013


    hi there! i love this idea. do you think this would also work on a t shirt? i noticed you mentioned something about the fabric content but i’m just wondering because a shirt is heavier than a pillowcase. i hope it does! i want to make my friends daughter this on a t with her name, since she is in love with outer space. thanks for the inspiration! :)

    • Reply February 11, 2013

      Rachel Hobson

      Hi Mariah!

      If you want to use the Ink Effects on a t-shirt, I recommend using their basecoat spray first. When working with fabrics that have a high natural fiber content (like a cotton t-shirt) if you don’t use the basecoat, the colors will not be as vibrant, and won’t stay set in the fabric as well as if you use the basecoat. Check the DecoArt web site for more tips and info on working with Ink Effects on t-shirts.

      I love that your friend’s daughter is in love with outer space! That’s fantastic! Tell her to never lose that passion! :)

  • [...] Because the only thing better than a pillow fight is a SPACE PILLOW FIGHT. Directions here. [...]

  • Reply March 21, 2013


    I’m guessing you can only use the painted paper piece once. Have you tried to iron it onto fabric a second time?

  • […] you are a bit on the artsy side, then this is for you. Whimseybox has a tutorial on how to make a nebula pillow using Ink effects from DecoArt. And who doesn’t […]

  • […] We’ve just added the DecoArt Ink Effects line of fabric transfer paint to the shop. It’s been a Whimseybox team favorite since we had an opportunity to send it out in a box a year ago! If you’ve never tried Ink Effects, it’s kind of amazing because the pigment actually goes into the fabric instead of sitting on top like a fabric paint so the fabric stays soft + the color never wears away. Here’s one of our favorite Ink Effects projects: DIY Nebula Pillow. […]

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  • Reply December 20, 2013


    Will this work with regular acrylic fabric paint?

  • […] […]

  • […] you are a bit on the artsy side, and your boyfriend is into space, then this is just for you. Whimseybox has a tutorial on how to make a nebula pillow using Ink Effects from DecoArt. Throw pillows look […]

  • Reply October 16, 2014


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