Introduction: 'Rainbow Lily' 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 …

Silk Painting is a wonderful art that allows you to play with vibrant colours and achieve stunning results in a short amount of time with little or no experience. I teach silk painting regularly to adults and children and love to see the fear of painting dissolve into huge satisfaction and pride, with work produced.

.Inspired by the wonderful combinations of colours in flowers, I've loved the beautiful petal shapes of the lily flower and find it a perfect design for silk painting. A visit to London's Chelsea Flower Show gave me the opportunity to see a huge display of lilies showing every colour of the rainbow , which has led me to want to create an instructable that everyone could repeat with great results.

I would like to take you through the process of creating your own' Rainbow Lily' silk painting, explaining all the techniques and ways to trouble shoot if things do go a bit different to planned. I find silk painting very forgiving and it's the odd mistakes that lead on to new and exciting developments, so just embrace them!

Choose your own colours for this project, I have shown a few different colourways in the video and in the stages, but each painting will be totally individual, have fun.

Step 1: Equipment Needed-

  • Pebeo Setasilk paints
  • 18" Wooden Frame
  • Habotai Silk 18.5"sq.
  • 3 Point silk pins
  • Autofade pen
  • Tray for paints
  • Plastic droppers
  • Chinese brushes
  • Foam brush (optional)
  • Table salt, Coarse sea salt
  • ,Pot for water
  • Template drawing of a lily
  • photos of lilies for inspiration
  • gutta-serti resist clear water soluble
  • gutta bottle and screw on nib (0.7mm)

Step 2: Stretching the Silk and Tracing the Lily

  • I'm using a 18"sq. wooden frame made of pine, habotai silk (8mm) and 3 point silk pins.
  • Begin by placing the 18.5"sq. silk on the wooden frame and pin firmly using the silk pins. These do not harm the silk and allow dye to get underneath due to their design.
  • You will need to get some firm tension on the silk so there are no wrinkles and it appears tight and smooth.
  • Place your lily template under the stretched silk, so the silk is lying face down.
  • Using the auto-fade pen trace the design onto the silk.The marks made by these clever pens will all disappear when you start to paint so don't worry if they appear wobbly or vary in thickness.
  • When all the lines have been drawn turn the frame over, an important stage as the silk must be off the table to avoid smudges at the outlining stage.

Step 3: Using Gutta-Serti Resist-

  • Gutta-serti is a clear rubber resist, originating from rubber trees growing in Malaysia.
  • It creates 'walls' which will control the flow of the dyes, but take care to connect lines together to avoid gaps and leaking paint!
  • I'm using the clear, water-based variety, made by 'Dupont', which is applied on the lines you have made with the auto-fade pen
  • I use a 20 ml gutta plastic bottle with a separate screw on gutta nib (0.7mm) which is easy to hold and squeeze.
  • Always pour back left over gutta into an air tight bottle and wash the nibs and bottles to prevent blockages.
  • When all your lines are complete dry with a hair dryer for 2/3mins to seal the gutta lines to prevent dye seeping through.
  • Now is a good time to carefully check for any small gaps in your gutta lines.

Step 4: Painting With Pebeo Setasilk Iron Fix Paints-

  • I've been teaching with these paints for over 20 years now and find them an ideal choice for introducing students to silk painting.
  • Paints are vibrant and come in a good range of colours, easy to mix and dilute with water and give great reactions with salt.
  • They are very easy to fix with an iron and are totally colourfast.
  • I use an ice cube tray to mix paints,which seems perfect for the job.
  • I'm using the following Pebeo Iron Fix paints, Magenta, Tangerine, Poppy Red, Buttercup,Meadow, Moss, Gitane Blue,Turquoise and Violet to create the 'Rainbow Lily' effect.
  • I use inexpensive chinese, natural haired brushes, that go to a good point when wet.
  • Load up the brush with paint, but be careful not to over load a small area with too much paint.
  • Practice holding the brush vertically and working just with the tip of the brush apply a light pressure to release the paint.
  • Aim for the middle of a shape and watch as the paint flows easily to the edge of your gutta borders.
  • If you do have a leak, try adding water to the area which should help dilute the problem. I often create an extension to the design if I can get away with it, just feel flexible if the untoward happens!

Step 5: Painting 'The Rainbow' Stems, Stamens and Stigma

  • I've started to paint the stems of this lily with my smaller size Chinese brush, which gives more control in a small space.To enliven the design I'm using all the colours of the 'Rainbow' in each of the stems.
  • Fine table salt can give a delicate texture on top of the purple stigma, just sprinkle a few grains for this interesting effect.
  • Salt works by extracting the water from the paint, creating a 'hydroscopic action', producing permanent patterns on the silk.
  • Salt is removed at the end of painting when the paints are dry.

Step 6: Painting the Petals- 'Wet on Wet'-

  • For 3 of the petals of this Lily I'll be applying water first, which will make the paint 'swim' avoiding hard edges. It creates a natural lily pattern which looks very effective.
  • Using concentrate Magenta, apply straight down the middle of a wet petal and watch it flow!
  • Apply more paint if you want less white on the edges of the lily.
  • I then apply a darker red stripe on top of the base red to give more depth.
  • Apply a small amount of sea salt to this petal, either all over or just around the base of the petal.
  • The larger sea salt crystals will absorb more water and give larger pattern on the silk. I use them on these larger petal shapes to imitate the speckles seen on some lilies.

Step 7: Painting Petals on Dry Silk-

  • For the other set of 3 petals try painting on the dry silk for a different effect.
  • Begin by the darkest red, Plum,loading the brush well and stroking a line down the center of a petal.
  • Follow swiftly down each side with Magenta and then a lighter pink made by diluting the Magenta with water.
  • Try and create natural, flowing curves on each petal with the paint, rather than too many heavy straight lines.
  • By painting on the dry silk the paint appears much more intense and as a result gives the flower more depth.

Step 8: Painting the Leaves-

  • Each leaf has 2 sides, I chose a lighter side and a darker side, using 'Meadow Green' and 'Moss Green'.
  • By adding a few drops of 'Buttercup' to the lighter green a softer tone is created.
  • Use the tip of the brush in those narrow tips and avoid overloading the brush with too much paint.

Step 9: Painting the Background

  • Apply a wash of water to the whole background, this will prevent hard edges forming and make it possible to fade out the paint.
  • I chose 'Turquoise' for this background which was applied full strength around the edges of the design and then faded out by dragging the paint outwards with water and quick brush strokes.

Step 10: Finishing Off- Iron Fixing Instructions

  • Leave your completed silk painting for a day before iron fixing for a 2/3 mins using a cotton setting temp.
  • I iron directly on the silk, but do place a cloth on top if you'd prefer.
  • After ironing the paints are now totally fixed and can be soaked in warm soapy water for 5/10 mins, this removes all gutta-serti and salt from the silk.
  • Towel dry and iron damp on a cotton setting for best results
  • Your Rainbow Lily is now complete and can be made into a simple wall hanging, framed picture or if you like sewing a great quilted cushion project.

Step 11: Alternative Colourways!

  • I've made quite a few of these Lily designs over the years, in many different colours, often created in a short demonstration to students as they show lots of bold use of paint and fun with salt.
  • This design is very easy to do and gives stunning results, I hope you have enjoyed this Instructable and feel like giving it a go.
  • Enjoy painting with your favourite colours or make it with a specific person or room in mind.
  • If you would like to see more ideas for silk painting please have a look at my website at
Rainbow Contest 2016

Participated in the
Rainbow Contest 2016