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Experimental 1

Experimental 2

Experimental 3





Frequently Asked Questions

1. Paint or Dye?

2. Gutta Lines

3. Flat Colours!

4. Veining Petals

5. Dark Colours

6. Using Salt

7. Which Colours?

8. Applying Gutta

9. Wax Crackle

10. Mistakes!

Hawthorn Blossom

I receive many questions by e-mails from silk painters all over the world and whilst not claiming to be an expert I always do my best to answer their queries or suggest someone who may be able to help. 

Here is a selection of their questions and my answers. You may find them of interest. They may be helpful or you may even want to suggest different answers.

I welcome questions and comments from all the visitors to my website gallery.

"Hawthorn Blossom" mounted 25cm x 30cm ©2000 Leonard Thompson

1. Paint or Dye? from Soraya Bollig Florida U.S.A.

Is iron-fixed silk paint better then the regular (Jacquard) silk dye, or does it just to save you all the fixing and washing?

I have found that iron-fixed silk paints are best for paintings that are to be mounted and framed behind glass and silk dyes are best for garments. The technique that I use to hide the gutta lines is quite difficult with dyes because if you paint over them before they have been fixed the original dye moves in the silk. Even the water soluble gutta moves the dye when it is applied over a dyed area.

You can use this effect in your designs but if you don't want the first layer of colour to move when you add the second colour then use silk paint. If you dry silk paint with a hairdryer the heat will fix the paints as you work in much the same way as the final ironing.

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2. Gutta Lines from Soraya Bollig Florida U.S.A.

Does the water soluble resist leave a white line after the silk has been fixed and washed?

If you don't want the water soluble gutta resist to leave a white line in the silk once it has been fixed and washed, always draw the gutta lines on areas of the silk that have already been painted and build up a sequence of colours and gutta lines.

You must plan your sequence of colours and resist lines before you start painting. If you plan this sequence so that you only paint to one side of the gutta lines they will not be seen in the finished painting.

See my "Workshop" page for further details.

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3. Flat Colours! from Anne Gerrish Cambridgeshire U.K.

I'd love to know how you got the really bright green on the seed cases of the "Fuchsia pas de deux" picture. I always find my colours look a bit disappointingly flat.

The type of silk paints you use may be the reason why some of your colours look flat. I use Pébéo Setasilk iron-fixed silk paints which I find very good. When mixing a green I usually start with either a basic yellow-green or blue-green and add other colours to obtain the particular tone I want. This helps because sometimes good greens are difficult to obtain by just mixing the primaries blue and yellow. The adjacent colours also effect the colour's brightness as do its highlights and shading.

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4. Veining Petals from Mavis Hyman London U.K.

I am intrigued by your success in veining.  How do you achieve this? On leaves or petals when a stronger hue than the background is called for  I use a very fine brush which is as dry as possible and then paint in the fine lines. 

I use several ways of veining petals. The veins on the Iris Foetidissima [Gallery 4] were outlined with water soluble gutta - I dried one side before applying the second side because wet gutta seems to be attracted to itself if applied too close.

Some veining is achieved using clear water to move the paint into position before quickly drying with a hairdryer. The veins on the Delphiniums [Gallery 7] are achieved using wet cotton laid on the wet silk before the paint is applied and then dried with a hairdryer.

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5. Dark Colours from Ritu Kohli The United Arab Emirates

Last time I ironed and washed a silk painting the black background colour became pale grey. Is there any way to prevent this?

Your pale grey background instead of black may have been because of the paint that you used. Firstly make sure you used an iron-fixed silk paint and not a steam fixed dye. Secondly silk paints vary in quality. I use good quality silk paints and have never had black wash out to a pale grey.

When you fix iron-fixed paints set your iron on the silk setting and keep the iron moving across the silk for at least two minutes as you iron. All the colours should then be fixed and should not be effected by washing out the clear gutta. If no clear gutta has been used then there is no need to wash the silk.

I have found that dark colours sometimes lighten as they dry and are not so dense. If I want a really dark background I often give it a second coat of paint. I dampen the area to be re-painted so that the colour covers evenly and doesn't appear patchy.

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6. Using Salt from Ritu Kohli The United Arab Emirates

What will happen if I frame a silk painting without washing after using the salt technique?

If you have used salt on your silk you should always wash it out before framing the silk. Silk is an organic fabric and any salt that remains in the silk will attract moisture and could cause the silk to rot.

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7. Which Colours? from Sandy Bassett California U.S.A.

Would you be willing to suggest what colors I would need to start silk painting? I've looked at the Pébéo Setcolor and wondered if I need to buy all the colors to start with.

If you are buying Pébéo iron-fixed silk paints you want Setasilk not Setacolor and the colours I recommend are:

a violet/red (Magenta)
a pure yellow (Buttercup)
and a blue (Cyan).

From these three primary colours you could mix all the colours you need but to make colour mixing easier add an orange/red (Coral), a green (Meadow Green) and a violet (Iris Violet) to your palette. A yellow ochre (Old Gold), a brown (Cinnamon) and black (Ebony) are also useful earth colours to mix with the others to get an even wider range of tones.

The names in brackets refer to Pebeo Setasilk colours.

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8. Applying Gutta from Thelma Yeomans Norfolk U.K.

I find it hard to apply gutta. I have progressed from a tube to a small bottle with a nib but I cannot get the flow, curve and sweep because I am concentrating so much on getting the blessed stuff out of the bottle. Any help or tips please.

I use water soluble gutta in a plastic bottle with a 0.5mm nib for most of my work and a 0.3 mm nib for very fine lines. I only fill the bottle a quarter full then the gutta flows at a controllable rate. If you use a full bottle the gutta streams out and produces blobs. I don't try to draw all the gutta lines in one go. I dry them with a hairdryer as I work - then I don't smudge them and they don't run together and spoil my design.

I trace my design from a working drawing fastened to the back of the silk frame. This lets me concentrate on producing good gutta lines. I use a light box to see the drawing which is drawn with a medium-tipped marker pen.

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9. Batik Crackle Effect! from Diana Kahn Texas U.S.A.

When doing batik, after I crackle the wax and proceed to paint over the wax crackled areas, what type of dye can I use.  Do I need to mix a powdered dye or can I use Pebeo Setasilk paint?

If you have used Pebeo SetaSilk paint for your painting you can use the same silk paint over the crackled areas of wax.

Wax and crackle the whole of the painting even if you are only going to apply paint to a small area. To some extent you can pre-determine the style of the crackle by the way you screw up and fold the waxed silk.

Sparingly apply the paint with a brush into the cracks as it will quickly seep through to the silk. Only paint the areas where you want the crackled texture to appear. Be careful near gutta lines as the crackled wax will allow the paint to cross them.

You can apply different colours and different dilutions of colour to get various shading effects in your crackle.

Dry the silk and wipe off any surplus paint from the wax with a piece of damp paper towel as any dried paint left on the surface of the wax will mark your painting when you remove the wax.

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10. Mistakes! from Chris Warrington England

Having just finished painting a large area of orange coloured flowers, I realized that I had painted in part of the background, that was supposed to be blue, by accident. I tried to fade it out with water but it didn't work. Is there any way of removing this colour as I fear it will look muddy if I paint over it?

If you have used silk paint for your painting then once it is dry there is no way of removing the paint from the silk. Silk dye can be removed before it is fixed, using water and a cotton bud but there will usually be a remnant of the dye left in the silk

I would suggest that you make your background darker than planned. Blue painted over orange will indeed appear muddy so go for an even darker shade of brown. 

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If you have a question or comment please send me an e-mail.

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Copyright ©2000 Leonard Thompson
Last revised: September 17, 2010