Introduction: "Purple Turtle" Silk Painting

About: Hello my name is Jennifer Douglas and I have been a textile artist for the last 25 years since graduating from West Surrey College of Art and Design. I specialise in making and teaching silkpainting and batik …

If you've always wanted to try silk painting and love turtles in shades of purples and blues, then this easy instructable might be for you.

I've been teaching silk painting for 25 years + and still get excited by the results. It's a great anti- stress relief and promotes a calmness and peaceful time of concentration, so worth giving it a go!

I'm going to introduce you to all the equipment you will need, with tips and advice on outlining and getting the most out of those purple paints and fun with salt techniques. I'll also show you how to iron fix your painting and make it into a stunning wall hanging.

Let's begin...

Step 1: You Will Need-

wooden frame ,

silk, (habotai medium wt. 8mm)

silk paints, I used Pebeo Setasilk-

Iris Violet,Gitane Blue,Turquoise,Ebony,Cinnamon and Magenta

gutta serti clear gum resist, ( I use Dupont water-soluble)

gutta bottle and nib,(nib size 0.7mm)

table salt + coarse sea salt ,

painting tray, silk pins, water container,plastic droppers,

chinese painting brushes and a turtle template.

Step 2: Getting Started- Stretching the Silk

For this project I'm using habotai medium weight 8mm silk which is cut at 18" sq . My frames are made at 19"sq.which the silk will be able to be stretched and pinned on to.

Pin the silk to the frame using the silk pins,they have 3 short legs and are easy to push into the frame with no damage to the silk.You don't need masses, 5 /6 each side is good.

TIP- The main important job here is to get the silk on fairly tight, giving a firm surface for outlining and painting later.

Once 2 sides have been pinned, I grab and pull the silk against the other 2 sides to get a good tension.

Step 3: Tracing the Turtle With an Autofade Pen

Place your turtle template under the silk and trace the image using an auto fade "purple" pen. As the name suggests this will completely fade, but serves as a great guide line to follow on with the more permanent gutta resist.

TIP- Remember to turn the frame around when outlining is complete, as it's important for the silk not to be in contact with the table when using the gutta resist and later painting.

Step 4: Outlining With Gutta-Serti

The outliner I use is made by" Dupont" and it's the clear water-based variety which will wash out later, leaving a clear white line.

Gutta-serti is a rubber liquid, which when applied to the silk can control the flow of the dyes.

.Lines created must be connected carefully together, even tiny gaps will produce a leak.

An important stage, that demands concentration and accuracy, but pays back later during the painting stage.

Step 5: Exploring the Colour Purple

Purple is one of my favourite colours of choice and one of my favourite things to do with these paints is to stretch the shades possible by mixing them together and diluting them.

You can save a lot of money by mixing up your own colours, rather than spending out on the complete range.

I tried out some mixes on a spare bit of silk before I started painting the turtle. It was good to find out how more purple shades could be made by simply adding a few drops of back, blue, turquoise or red to my main purple colour, to help extend my range of purples.

TIP- I would really recommend experimenting and recording colours as it's a useful thing to refer back to as you work and for future paintings too. Make yourself a simple chart and write on the silk with the gutta what exactly the colours used were.

Step 6: Painting "wet on Wet" Techniques, on Turtle Legs

This is a easy technique when you want shading effects from dark to light, in a few easy strokes.

Apply water all over the legs, then add the concentrate purple just at the top of the leg.

Wash the brush and dry on tissue.

With light brush strokes drag some of the darker purple to the opposite end of the leg.

TIP- Take the colour from the middle section,which should leave the darkest section at the top still intact and give a good dark to light contrast.

Step 7: Salt Techniques

Salt is great for making interesting patterns with silk paints.

It works hygroscopically, drawing the water out of the fabric, leaving fascinating patterns behind. It's so easy to create exciting textural effects!

Use fine table salt from the supermarket, for a fine texture on the legs of the turtle.

TIP- Fine salt works very effectively on smaller areas and coarse sea salt is amazing on the larger spaces.

Step 8: Painting the Shell

Painting directly onto the dry silk areas of the shell is very satisfying and easy, but make it interesting by trying to push those purple mixes, some concentrate, others more dilute and all the mixes in between.

The outer edges of the shell were wet first, like before, to create a sense of dark and light.

This can give a bit of a 3 D effect.

Step 9: Head and Tail!

Small areas are easy to paint with a small amount of paint and a fine point on your brush.

I like using these Chinese brushes which always come to a point and give plenty of control.

I tend to use natural hair only, apart from the synthetic foam brushes for larger backgrounds.

TIP- I hold the brush on the very tip to control the flow of the dye in a narrow space,like here on the head.

I applied fine salt on the turtles head to give it some texture too.

Just the tail to complete and we're done!

Step 10: Painting the Background - "The Blue Lagoon"

Drying the turtle with a hairdryer removes the fine salt, ready for the background painting.

I'm using turquoise,gitane blue and iris violet, painted straight on to the dry fabric,but working fairly quickly with a larger brush.

I added some water to the turquoise paint and worked outwards from the turtle, overlapping gitane blue and iris violet until all the white was covered.

Hopefully this will give our" purple" turtle a happy spot to swim in those tropical waters!

Step 11: Final Coarse Sea Salt to Background

After the background is painted it's time to apply coarse sea salt ,again from the supermarket.

Sprinkling the salt carefully in a circular way around the turtle should give an interesting" halo" effect.

This now needs to be left for 10/20 mins for the reaction to take place.

Step 12: Iron Fixing the Paints

After 20/30 mins the salt has been busy creating wonderful coral like shapes or watery slip streams!

All you need to do now is brush off the salt, iron fix with a cotton setting for 2/3 mins and your colours are now firmly fixed ( with my purple iron!)

Wash in warm soapy water, just allowing it to soak for 10mins.

Then rinse and towel dry to get rid of excess water.

I iron directly on to the silk when damp as this gives best results, avoiding any creases.

Step 13: Creating Your Wallhanging

I've made a lot of silk pictures over the years and feel that hanging the silk from 2 sets of sticks shows the silk off very well, allowing light to show through the silk and for it be seen as a textile fabric.

(It's also very inexpensive, at £1.50 max. for a 2mt half round dowling, from any DIY wood store).

I had some " pebeo setasilk" dyes left in my tray, so decided to continue with the purple theme and paint my wooden sticks to coordinate with the painting.

When the sticks are dry, apply a small amount of wood glue to one side and lay on top one end of the silk .

Repeat with the 2nd stick,using clothes pegs to clamp the two sticks together.

Repeat with the opposite end of the silk and allow to dry for about 1 hour.

After which remove pegs and tie on a purple ribbon ready to hang.

Step 14: "Purple Turtle" Silk Painting

After about an hour the glue was dry and I added the ribbon as an extra purple touch!

I hope this project has inspired you to have a go at silk painting,

Enjoy your purple adventure.

If you would like to find out more about Silk Painting please go to -


Purple Challenge

Runner Up in the
Purple Challenge