Silk Painting Workshop

What is silk painting?

Silk painting is the application of paints or dyes directly onto silk fabric using an exciting array of watercolour techniques. The colours are brilliant, vibrant and translucent and merge on the fabric which remains soft and to touch.


Today I had a workshop on silk painting, which is something that I have never done before, with Steve Murray.

The first thing we did was stretch our silk across a frame and pin it down tight, ready to paint onto.

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Dupion silk, stretched across frame

I used a different type of silk for each piece, the first of which was just normal silk and the second was dupion silk which is more textured then the perfectly smooth, silky normal silk. Next we applies gutta to the silk. We drew our design on to the silk using the gutta which would act as a resistant/barrier when it comes to applying paint. The paint will not be applied to wherever the gutta is – the gutta is waterproof. Gutta can come in a variety of styles, whether it be pearly white (as in my first design – the paisley pattern), black, or transparent (as in my second design – the floral pattern). We used a hairdryer to speed up the drying process. We could choose to either leave or remove the gutta later in the process.

Once dry, it was time to start painting. We used thin watercolour-like coloured paints to add colour to our designs on the silk. On touching the brush into the desired area on my silk, the ink ran out and spread itself to the lines of gutta (the resist lines). I discovered that when there were gaps in my lines of gutta, no matter how small, the ink escaped and leaked out – although I had not wanted this to happen, fortunately it did not cause too much of an issue as my design was just a basic pattern. If I had wanted to, I could have used the hairdryer to stop it before it had a chance to run. When I was working on my paisley pattern design, I had to paint the yellow background quickly so that it did not dry too fast – I had to keep it wet as I painted in order to avoid any annoying, awkward and unwanted drying lines. I had to do the same for my second design too, although it was less of a worry as I just used an extra large paint brush to cover the silk quickly and efficiently.

On my paisley design, as I had used the pearly white coloured gutta, I decided that I liked it and it looked quite elegant with the style of pattern design, so I chose not to remove it and instead left it on – the pearly effect is really beautiful and glistens gracefully. However, on my second, floral design, as I had used transparent gutta, I decided to remove it – I had to do this using a hot iron. By putting the silk between newspaper and then ironing over it, the paper absorbed and lifted out the majority of the gutta so that the white silk beneath was more clear.

The transparent gutta on the dupion silk has not yet shown through as much as I would like it to, so I may iron it some more to attempt to improve the pattern’s visibility.


How did I find the workshop?

Overall, I found the workshop really interesting – perhaps many would consider it quite odd that I chose such a workshop that at first would not be considered very relevant to the own course of study, Graphic Communication, but I have grown up with a love of textiles, sewing in particular – I ran a business from the age of about 15 of making and selling ‘sock monkey’ toys/teddies, which was all textile-based. I would love to be able to somehow get back into it – maybe I could mix it into my own projects in some such way so that I am using multimedia; a mix of both textiles and graphics.

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