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How Do You Paint On Silk?
- Jun 11, 2018 -

Prewash Your Silk

Pre-wash your silk by hand or in the washing machine on a gentle cycle with warm water and Synthrapol. Rinse, dry and, when still slightly damp, press with an iron set to the silk setting.

Prepare Your Design

Draw your design to scale on a piece of paper, first in pencil and then go over it with a black marker, this will be your template. Lay your silk on top of the template and with a pencil or vanishing marker, lightly draw your design onto the silk. With thick silks you may have to draw free hand but having your template will still help.

Making a Stretching Frame

You will need a frame to stretch your silk and suspend it off the table.

paint silk scarf.jpg

There are a variety of types of frames you can use, depending on the size of the piece you are painting, your budget and what is available. Artist's canvas stretcher bars work very well and are sold at most art supply stores. Your frame needs to be soft enough to allow push pins or 3-pronged tacks to be pushed into it OR you can create a 'trampoline' effect with rubber bands and hooks orsilk clips

Apply the Gutta or Resist

Fill your applicator bottle with resist and make sure the tip is on properly. Hold the applicator bottle vertically with the tip touching the silk. Using even pressure and a steady hand, draw your resist lines. Be sure there are no breaks or gaps in the lines, or dye will escape. Also check the back side of your piece to make sure the resist has penetrated all the way through. If it hasn't, dye can bleed under your resist lines so you will need to apply resist to the back side as well (this is more often necessary when working on silks heavier than 12 mm). Let the resist dry before painting (you can speed up the drying time with a blow dryer orheat gun).

Apply Your Dyes or Paints

Dip your brush into the color and apply the dye or paint sparingly to the center of an outlined area by touching the brush to the silk. Let the paint move to the resist line - do not apply the paint too close to the resist as water-based resist may begin to dissolve if the line becomes too saturated. If there is a gap in your resist line that you didn't notice and the dye or paint starts escaping, you can stop the movement by drying it quickly with a hair dryer and then patch up the line with gutta or resist and let dry before resuming. When painting large areas such as backgrounds, work quickly, applying wet to wet to avoid unwanted lines.

Set the Color
When you have finished applying dye or paint to silk yardage or a scarf, note that it is not permanent until you "set" or "fix" the color. In other words, the color will all wash out if it is not "fixed". The method of "setting" or "fixing" the color depends on the chemistry of the dye or paint you are using. Before purchasing any dye or paint, you should read the directions thoroughly to determine if the required procedure fits your project and situation.