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Home > Craft Topics > Projects > Painting on Silk
All projects are FREE, however, donations towards the upkeep of Walkabout Crafts are much appreciated. Please click below to make a donation..There are two techniques for painting on silk and each gives a different effect to the finished product.
Gutta or block method
Defined shapes are created by outlining every colour area with a blocking solution to stop colours running into each other. It is normally used in a transparent form but is also available in colours.
Paint applied directly to silk always runs so that different colour areas merge into one another. This method gives the effect of a watercolour painting. You can also add textures to enhance your design simply by using alcohol, salt and sugar.
Materials and equipment
Silk comes in a variety of textures and thicknesses. Avoid coarse or patterned weaves unless you want a textured effect. Choose white silk as paint colours are affected by the colour of the fabric background. All types of silk must be washed before painting to remove the dressing applied by the manufacturers.
Sometimes sold as jap silk or habutai, is an even weave silk that is cheaper than other types. Its smooth surface makes it ideal for all silk painting techniques.
Crepe de chine and satin
Are soft with delicate textures. Like pongee, they are suitable for all silk painting techniques, although slightly more difficult to handle.
Silk paints are either water or alcohol based. Both come in thin liquid form but the two types differ in the way they are fixed and it is therefore essential not to mix two. To be certain of a uniform result, use the same brand of paint, gutta and fixing agent when working on the same design.
Silk paints come in a wide range of colours but you need only a few to start with. You can mix colours or create a pastel version of each colour by diluting it with water or a lightening agent, depending on the brand of paint you are using.
You will need a selection of brushes, including a fine brush for narrow lines and a broad brush for filling in large areas. Silk painting brushes, available in craft shops, have specially bound bristles which enable them to hold a lot of colour at one time. However, artists brushes are also suitable if you choose a soft, natural bristle such as sable or squirrel.
A frame for stretching the silk is essential. Either buy a ready made frame from a craft shop or make your own with four pieces of planed wood. Alternatively, you can improvise by using an old picture frame, provided it is sturdy.
For stretching the silk must be fine or they will tear the fabric. Three pronged craft pins are ideal, otherwise use push pins or long pointed drawing pins.
If you want to create an image with clear outlines on silk then you must use gutta which is a blocking agent. This prevents different paint colours running into each other. You can also use gutta to block out whole areas: the parts coated with gutta repel any colour painted over them so that they retain the colour of the fabric. There are several types of gutta, so make sure you buy one that is compatible with your paints. Ask a supplier if you are not sure. You may also a thinner to dilute the gutta as it tends to thicken. Again, ask your supplier for the correct type to go with your paints.
Some brands of gutta come in plastic bottles with nozzles that can be pierced to form applicators. Others come in bottles to which nozzles of different sizes can be fitted according to the line thickness desired. Another option is to use a plastic pipette.
1. Tape the silk on to a flat surface and sketch the design with a pencil or a special fabric marker that washes out. To trace a design, put the original under the silk and trace the outline.
2. Stretch the silk across the frame and pin it position. Fit the gutta bottle with a nozzle or prepare an alternative applicator. Apply the gutta along the drawn outline. There should be no breaks in the gutta line otherwise the paint will seep through. Allow the gutta to dry.
3. Apply the paint to the silk with a watercolour brush, beginning in the middle of each colour area. Because the paint spreads there is no need to risk taking it right up to the edge of the shape, so stop just short of the gutta outline. Work quickly to get a smooth finish and never go back and paint over a dry area as this will create a tide mark. Allow the paint to dry and then fix it by following the manufacturers instructions for the fixing agent you are using.
Stretch and pin the silk on to the frame ensuring that the fabric is taut but not overstretched. When painting on the silk, bear in mind that the colour spreads - paint stripes and shapes smaller than you want them. For flowing, runny designs brush the silk with thinner or water (depending on the manufacturers instructions for the brand of paint you are using) before starting to paint.
Many images are enhanced if they are given a subtle texture. And it is simple to add interest to your finished piece using ordinary household substances.
Using salt and sugar
To create a granular or mottled texture, sprinkle salt or sugar onto the wet paint and wait until it is dry before removing the grains with a dry brush. Rock salt is used here to create a coarse texture; table salt and sugar give a subtler stippled effect.
Marbled and mottled textures can be created with alcohol. Use a cotton bud to dab on methylated spirit, or surgical spirit to areas of dry colour where you want to lighten the colour. After the textured areas are dry, you can add further colour on top of them.
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