Silk Painting Instructions

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Silk paints

Silk Painting Instructions

Painting with Jacquard Silk Colors is a fun and easy way to create beautiful, professional looking handpainted silk clothing and art. Use them to create gorgeous and unique scarves, clothing, wall hangings, pillows and more.

Because they are true dyes Jacquard Silk paint do not stiffen the fabric at all and the natural luster of the silk shines through. All 20 colors can be blended to create an infinite variety of brilliant colors or diluted with water to create soft pastels.

Jacquard Silk Colors flow freely on silk fabric. The three most common silk painting methods differ by how they control the flow of the dye. In the serti method a resist is used to draw lines that stop the flow of dye. The antifusant method coats the fabric with a substance that inhibits the flow of dye. And finally, the watercolor method allows the dye to flow freely.

The most common method is the serti method which we will describe first. Afterwords we will describe how the other two methods differ.


Prepare and strech the fabric

Prewash to remove oils or dirt using Synthrapol or liquid detergent. Allow to air dry.

Before painting, the silk must be stretched tightly and suspended above the work surface. Inexpensive canvas stretcher bars are readily available at art stores & frame shops. Buy stretcher bars 1-2" larger than the silk you will be painting. Embroidery hoops are ideal for small projects and many art stores sell frames specifcally made for stretching fabric. Adjust the frame to fit your fabric and attach the silk with stainless steel push pins or silk tacks. Begin in one corner and work your way around the frame, pulling it taut as you go.

Apply the resist

In the serti technique, lines are drawn with gutta on the fabric and the dyes are applied within these lines. When painted on, the dyes will flow and spread on the silk until it reaches the resist lines. The gutta resist acts as a boundary between colors much like lead in a stained glass window. These islands of color can be blended, highlighted or accented with other colors. (See watercolor technique below)

  • Pour the resist into the dispenser bottle, replace the plastic insert and screw on the metal tip.
  • If you are using a pattern, center the pattern on your work space and place the stretched fabric on top of the pattern. Most silks are light enough that the pattern lines will be visible through the fabric. Trace the pattern with the gutta, or trace lightly with a pencil and then go over the pencil lines with the gutta.
  • Hold the gutta bottle like a pencil. Gently squeeze the bottle until the resist begins to flow. It is a good idea to practice on a separate piece of silk or paper until you get the feeling of drawing smooth, flowing, continuous lines.
  • Begin drawing your pattern. Move steadily, but not so quickly that you leave gaps in your lines. All lines must be connected or the dye will bleed through the gaps in the gutta line.
  • Once you've completed the design, carefully examine the lines. Make sure the gutta has penetrated through to the back. Thin gutta with gutta solvent if necessary. Go back and fill in any gaps let gutta dry completely, usually 30 minutes. You can use a hair dryer to speed drying time.

Mix and apply the dye

Although Jacquard Silk Colors are available in 20 shades, most colors of the the spectrum may be mixed from three primary colors: yellow, magenta and cyan. Using the colors full strength will yield the brighest shades. For pastels, the dyes can be mixed with water. If your water is hard, use distilled water. Remember that colors will appear darker when wet.

  • Pour a small amount of each color you are planning to use into plastic cups or an ice cube tray. If you are mixing colors, be sure to mix enough color to complete your project as it is sometimes difficult to recreate exact shades later.
  • Dip your brush gently into a color. Touch the brush to the fabric about 1/2" from the gutta line. The dye will migrate the rest of the way. Paint all areas inside the gutta lines. For large areas, work quickly painting the color from corner to corner. Always work wet to wet. Never go over a dry area.
  • Let dry 24 hours before setting with Jacquard Permanent Dyeset Concentrate or steaming.
  • Heat setting of water-based resists before the dye set process is a must.

Setting methods

Jacquard "Green Label" Silk Colors can be set in one of two ways: with Dyeset Concentrate or by steaming. The Dyeset Concentrate method is very easy and the resulting colors are truly gorgeous. But steaming will produce the absolute best colors possible.Heat setting of water-based resists before the dye set process is a must.

Dyeset Concentrate Method

  • Prepare the dyeset/water rinse in a container that is big enough for your piece to move freely in the liquid without being scrunched up.
  • A 36" x 36" square of fabric requires about 3 quarts of water. Add 1 oz. of dyeset per quart of water. (If painting on heavier weight fabric, add a little more.)
  • Plunge the piece quickly into the solution, agitating vigorously for the first 30 seconds. Continue stirring for 4-5 minutes. Do not let fabric sit.
  • Remove from dyeset. Rinse again with a mild soap and water, until water is clear and excess dye has been rinsed away. Lay flat to dry and you're done.


Steaming requires more time, but the color yield is very intense. There are commercial steamers available or smaller pieces can be steamed at home with the following method. You will need a large pot with a rack that fits inside, white newsprint, masking tape, and aluminum foil.Heat setting of water-based resists before the dye set process is a must.

  • Roll the fabric in newsprint, making sure there is a layer of paper between each roll of fabric. The paper should extend a few inches beyond the fabric on either end of the roll.
  • When all the fabric has been rolled, wrap newsprint around the bundle a few extra times. Secure the roll by taping length of roll. Coil gently to a size that will fit into the pot. Tape securely.
  • Place rack into the pot. Pour water to a level that is well below the bottom of the rack. Make sure top of rack is dry and place bundle on the rack.
  • Shape a piece of aluminum foil into a dome and place it over the bundle for protection. This will keep condensation from dripping on the silk. Make sure neither the packet nor the foil touches the sides of the pot.
  • Cover the pot with the lid. Place the pot on the stove and bring water to a boil. Reduce the heat but keep it high enough to produce steam. Steam the packet for 1 hour. Allow packet to cool. Unwrap the silk and rinse in cool water to remove excess dye. Lay flat to dry and you're done.

Antifusant Method

Instead of resist lines this method uses an antifusant that is spread on the fabric to inhibit the flow of the dye. Jacquard No Flow is an excellent antifusant for silk. Spread the antifusant liberally and evenly on the silk with a wide brush or sponge. Let dry. When painting dyes on the treated fabric us a "dry" brush -ie. remove excess dye from the brush by dabbing it on a paper towel before painting. A build up of dye on the fabric will enhance spreading.

Silk Painting Watercolor Method

One of the most exciting methods of painting on silk simply involves letting the dyes spread and mix on the fabric. Beautiful free form watercolor effects are produced when silk is dampened and bunched on a sheet of plastic or plexiglass without stretching, allowing dye to flow into the folds producing a dramatic, textured appearance. Silk may also be stretched on a frame for the watercolor technique but will not have the textured appearance since there are no folds for the dye to flow into.

Silk Painting Salt technique

A beautiful starburst effect can be achieved by sprinkling Jacquard Silk Salt on wet dye in any of the above methods. Jacquard Silk Salt is an "exploded crystal" salt which produces a stunning and dramatic burst of color. Sea salt, table salt, kosher salt, rock salt and salt pellets for water softeners may also be used for different effects. Salt should be sprinkled on very wet dye and left on until the dye is dry for best results.

Primary Colors Mixing Chart

Use the 3 primaries plus black in the proportions listed to create the desired color.

Resist and Gutta Applications

silk painting with gutta resist
Silk Painting with Gutta
Fine lines and permanence, dry clean or steam out. View the Rubber Based Gutta
gutta resist silk painting
Silk Painting with Water Based Resist
Easy to use, non toxic and water rinseable, great for use with Dye Na Flow & Silk Paints. Safe for amateur silk painters and kids. View the Water Based Resists
Silk painting project
Silk Painting Project