What Is Silk Painting?
Silk painting is cool. It's like
The basic steps:
- watercoloring without the bleed
- batik without the big wax drips
- tie-dye with more control
- coloring in a coloring book -- but you draw the lines!
- Stretch a piece of plain, undyed silk on a frame (artist's stretcher
bars work well).
- Mix dyes to create colors, tints, and shades.
The dyes are non-toxic and soluble in a solution of
water, baking soda, and dried urea (no, it doesn't smell).
- Optional: With gutta percha or "ungutta", draw areas on the silk
-- the outlines of a picture, for example. The wax resists the ink,
and prevents it from spreading.
- Paint! Mix colors together, moosh 'em around, watch them bleed.
- Let it dry.
- Set the ink with heat.
You can steam the silk as follows: wrap it in newspaper and muslin,
then place it in a tube over a pot of boiling water and let
steam for 20 minutes. Or wrap it in newspaper, coil it into a
spiral, and set it on top of a steamer rack in a large steamer pot, taking care not to let the coil touch the
water in the bottom of the pot. Steaming usually sets the dye best.
You must be careful to let the
steam escape freely, however, so condensation doesn't sit on the
silk and leave droplet patterns.
I used to pin my silks inside an old sheet, so they wouldn't bend in and stain themselves, then put the whole thing in a heavy-duty
laundromat dryer on high heat for 20 minutes. However, often I could not
get the dryer hot enough, so the dye did not set thoroughly.
- After steaming, let the silk sit for at least 24 hours.
- Rinse the silk in hot water. This melts the wax and
removes excess ink.
- When the silk rinses clean, immediately iron it to remove
wrinkles and dry the silk.
The silk painting site: my back deck.
See the silks stretched in their frames.
Dana paints a silk. Her silk doesn't have any wax; instead it
was painted with a solution to prevent the ink from bleeding quite
A stretched, drying silk. The lines were created with UnGutta.
The colors look a little muddy; you always paint a bit darker
than the result you want, since some of the ink washes out after
Instructor Joy-Lily and a student pull a roll of
steamed silk wrapped in muslin from the steaming tube
(formerly a ventilation pipe for a stove). Out of the
picture: a hot plate with a pot of boiling water
sits under the tube.
Student and Joy-Lily (in pink) hold up the "class project:" the
steamed, rinsed, and dried silk the class painted before
beginning their own silks.