Silk is one of my favorite mediums to work with. It behaves differently than other fibers, and results can be unpredictable, but they're always beautiful. The final product makes for a unique and luxurious gift.
Using a stencil in your silk painting can be a simple way to add a unique touch, even if you aren't an especially skilled painter. There's still a lot of room for the artist's vision when using a stencil- you can add as much, or as little detail as you want. You can even easily create your own stencils, so the possibilities are only as limited as your imagination. This method also allows for efficiently reproducing a design if you are creating this project for a gift or for retail.
Items you will need:
-Lumiere or Neopaque paints (Made by Jacquard) OR water-based gutta resist*
-Dye-Na-Flow paints (Also by Jacquard)*
-Synthrapol or similar detergent*
-Milsoft or similar softner*
-Fine paint brush
-Frame or other equipment for stretching silk
-Safety equipment (for working with commercial detergents/softners), including gloves, eye protection, respirator mask.
Time: About 4 hours, if wet paint is dried with a hair dryer. Longer if paint is allowed to air dry. Much of this time is in the paint setting and washing process.
*I buy these products at Dharma Trading Co.
Step 1: Select and Position Stencil
This scarf is a gift for my mom. She (ok, both of us), likes sparkly things and ponies, so this scarf will be sparkly, with a pony on it.
Silk that has been treated doesn't work well for painting. Dharma Trading Co. carries untreated silk, and pretty much all of the other supplies used in this instructable (with the exception of the stencil). In this project, I'm using a white 15" x 72" machine hemmed scarf from Dharma.
Before you paint your scarf, you should prepare it by washing it with a product like Synthrapol. Oil from fingerprints or silk gum can prevent the scarf from taking color evenly. Don't skip this step. It's a real let down to go through all the work of painting and processing silk, and then to have uneven color because you skipped this super simple step.
You can use a factory made stencil, or create your own pretty easily. I'm using a horse silhouette stencil that I originally created for a discharge dyed t-shirt. To make your own stencil, draw (or print) whatever image you want on a piece of paper. Keep in mind that you'll need the image to be continuous for it to work as a stencil. Tape thin, transparent plastic sheet over your image and carefully cut it out with a craft knife. .007" plastic sheeting seems to work best- it's thick enough to be durable and hold its shape, but it's not too thick to easily cut through.
Lay your silk on top of a towel. The friction will help prevent the silk from sliding everywhere, and will help absorb excess paint. I've used random stuff that was sitting on my kitchen table to anchor my stencil on top of the silk. I left the bottom right corner un-anchored to give me working room (I'm right handed). If you don't anchor the stencil over the silk, it will slide all over the place and give you a bad image. Do not use adhesives to anchor the stencil- they will prevent the Dye-Na-Flow paints used in the next step from taking.
Step 2: Paint in the Stencil
I use Lumiere paints by Jacquard for this portion of the painting process. You can also use Neopaque paints, also by Jacquard, if you're not into the shiny-sparkly of the Lumiere paints. Other silk paints, like Dye-Na-Flow (which we'll use later) spread and are not suitable for using with a stencil as they bleed too much. I like the Jacquard paints in particular because they're affordable (yay!), and because they are set by ironing, just like the Dye-na-Flow paints.
Because these paints will alter the drape and feel of the silk, it's better to start by applying the paint thinly and working your way up. The thicker Lumiere/Neopaque is, the stiffer the silk will be on the painted area.
I'm painting this horse to look similar to my mom's horse. To do this, I'm starting out with the lightest color, then adding dark colors layer-by-layer. I like a sponge-tipped stencil "dauber" style brush for this portion of the painting. Again, applying the paint in a thin layer is important. Too much paint will bleed under the stencil and will give you a poor quality image.
I'm not working in every single detail at this point- I've added just enough paint to have a good base for myself. When I apply Dye-Na-Flow to the rest of my scarf, I'll paint them over the Lumiere paints I just applied. This will add some variation, depth, and texture to the stenciled area. I'll then add extra details and re-define any details lost with the Dye-Na-Flow wash using the Lumiere paints and a regular paint brush.
There's no need to add this much detail to the stenciled area. You could also simply fill your stencil in with one solid color and move onto the next step if you prefer.
Variation: Instead of using the Jacquard paints, you can also use the stencil for gutta application. Pour some water-soluable gutta onto a paper plate, and use your stencil brush to apply a thin (just enough to resist and saturate the silk, but not enough to be gooey or to bleed) layer within the stenciled area. This variation of the process will give you an end product with consistent drape and feel throughout the scarf once the gutta is washed out. The gutta will wash clean, leaving the area where the resist is applied white.
Step 3: Paint the Rest of the Silk
I use Dye-Na-Flow paints for silk- they're economical and are very easy to use. Using them feels more like using dye than paint. To create this abstract turquoise stripe background, I'm creating a few different shades by mixing the turquoise paint with black paint. When mixing the paint, start with the lightest color you're using and gradually add darker colors until you achieve your desired shade. You can lighten Dye-Na-Flow paints by diluting with water. I also like to add some of the Lumiere paint to my Dye-Na-Flow paints- a little bit won't alter color, but it will add a little shimmer effect.
Stretch your silk so that there's nothing touching it from below. You can use a frame for this, or improvise. Some people use clips attached to rubber bands that are thumb-tacked into cardboard boxes. I suspend my silks from the back of my kitchen chairs.
I prefer working with a foam brush for this step. It allows me to apply thick strips of paint quickly. This is my favorite part of the process- the paints have a little bit of a mind of their own and will bleed and blend. Keep this in mind when selecting colors for your project. Placing complimentary colors (like red and green or purple and yellow) can give you muddy colors where they intersect and bleed together. Work quickly when applying the Dye-Na-Flow. Adding paint near a wet edge will give you a different effect than adding paint to a dried edge.
Because I want to add some texture to the stenciled area, I'm just painting right over it with the Dye-Na-Flow. You can paint around your stenciled area if you prefer. After applying the Dye-Na-Flow, I get the Lumiere paints back out to add detail to the stenciled area. This time around I use a fine paint brush, but I still apply the paints thinly, one layer at a time.
Use a hair dryer to accelerate drying, or let it air dry before setting your paints.
Optional variations- I use salt to create concentrated "bursts" of color by applying it randomly to the wet Dye-Na-Flow. You can used salt packaged for silk painting, or plain old table salt. The large, light circles are created by dribbling water on the wet paint. Rubbing alcohol can also be used to create interesting effects.
Step 4: Set the Paint and Wash the Silk
Both the Dye-Na-Flow and Lumiere paints are set by ironing. If the paints are not properly set, they will wash out, which is a real bummer. Don't skimp on ironing time.
Iron the silk on the side opposite of the side your paint is on (e.g., if you painted on side A, iron on side B). Set your iron to the silk setting. The paint needs to be ironed for 3-4 minutes to set completely. I can't emphasize enough how important it is to be thorough and patient with this step. I usually iron each piece twice, just to make sure I haven't missed anything.
Wash your silk with a professional detergent, like Synthrapol. You'll also need to use a fabric softner to restore the silk to it's original softness. I use Milsoft for this. Keep in mind that any area painted with Lumiere or Neopaque will have a different texture than the areas painted with Dye-Na-Flow.
*PLEASE* be careful when using commercial detergents and softeners. Wear protective equipment (gloves, eye protection, respirator, etc) and READ PRODUCT LABELS THOROUGHLY AND FOLLOW THE MANUFACTURER'S DIRECTIONS. Work in a well ventilated area. These products can be hazardous.
Dry your scarf after washing it. I prefer hanging the scarf and blasting it with the hair dryer. Once it's damp-dry (not completely dry), I iron it again. This seems to be the best way to get a wrinkle-free and soft end product.
Step 5: Success!
After the final wash and ironing, your scarf will be ready for wearing, gifting, or whatever else you want to do with it. The colors are permanent after they've been set. I typically recommend hand-washing the silk, mostly to avoid damage to the silk itself, or the hems. Properly cared for, this scarf will remain beautiful and vibrant for many years.
The Lumiere paints used in this project are wonderful paints that can be used in a variety of mediums. The purse pictured with this scarf is a thrift-store leather purse, also painted with Lumiere paints and gifted to my mom.
Happy painting! <3