Monday, January 30, 2012

Silk Painting - Class 4

This week we're going to transfer a simple design to a silk scarf, outline the design with gutta, fill in the shapes, and learn how to fill in the background.  You can use my sheep design, draw your own, or use one you find.  Coloring pages and stained glass designs work real well - just Google what you want and you'll most likely come up with tons!  (Example - "cat coloring page")  This is the fourth in a silk painting series - see Lesson One for basic information and Lessons Two and Three to catch up on the skills we've been learning.

*silk scarf - washed and ironed
*clear and black water based gutta
*Seta Silk Paint - I used yellow, green, red, turquoise, gray, chestnut, caramel, and black
*rubbing or isopropyl  alcohol
*a few cotton swabs
*simple design - my sheep design is here 
alternate Word document design is here

1.  Print off your design.  You want something with simple lines with no lines close to each other.

2.  Lay your scarf over the first design.  I wanted my sheep to look like they were tumbling around the meadow, so I just randomly placed them around the scarf.

Using a soft pencil, lightly trace the lines.  You can either hold the scarf in place with tape or place something heavy (like a filled water bottle) at the top of the space you're working on.

3.  Stretch the scarf onto a frame.

4.  Go over all the sheep outlines and inner curls with black gutta.  When I opened a new tube of black gutta to outline this, I discovered the applicator tube now has a hole already in it (it probably happened a long time ago - I haven't silk painted in awhile).  Check and see if yours does and if so, don't cut the tip off.  You'll only get a wider applicator hole and for this project, fine lines are best.

While you're going over the lines, pay careful attention to connecting each line together so that when you paint, the paint will not pass the gutta lines.  Don't worry about the curls inside connecting.

Use clear gutta to put in the eyes and nostrils.

5.  We're going to divide our backgrounds up into smaller, more manageable sections.  You'll soon discover why!  I put each sheep on a little hill and added a couple tufts of grass, using clear gutta.

6.  Continue doing this until all sheep are on hills and all hill lines connect to each other or the edge of the scarf.  Let everything completely dry.

7.  If you accidentally drip clear gutta somewhere you don't want it to be, wipe off and sponge the area with a wet cloth.  If you accidentally drip black gutta, work it into your design!  It's there for good.

8.  When your gutta is dry, hold your frame up to a bright light and look for tiny gaps in the lines and any lines that are somewhat transparent.  The little teeniest break in the gutta will allow paint to leak out, so go over any lines you're not sure of.

When your gutta fixes are completely dry, you're ready to paint.  Before starting, pour a little alcohol into a cup, grab a couple of cotton swabs, and put it in an easy to reach place.  If you missed any tiny gaps in your gutta and a color starts leaking out, you can immediately swab a little alcohol around the leak and it should stop it.

9.  First paint all the ears, faces, and legs with black.  I like to squeeze a little of each color into its own plastic cup.  I used a medium watercolor brush and first painted around the edges with gray.  I then added caramel to the middle and scrubbed the edges a bit to blend them.  Lastly, I added a tiny bit of chestnut to the caramel and scrubbed it around.  Be gentle with the scrubbing - water based gutta can be scrubbed off.  Work quickly to avoid color lines!

You might be tempted to first wash the entire sheep with water so the colors might blend together more easily - especially if you're used to watercolors or have used silk dyes before.  Don't!  The water will loosen the gutta and you'll have major leaks! 

10.  Let the sheep dry and then move onto the background.  Backgrounds have to be filled in very quickly - the front edge of your paint will dry fast and leave a color line.  So the goal is to keep working that front edge while filling in the space.  We divided our space so we'll have a little breathing time!

Mix up four or five different greens.  I used green, turquoise, and yellow in my colors.  You can tone down any greens that are too bright by adding a drop or two of red.  

Grab your largest brush and begin with your smallest section.  Start at the thinnest edge or at a corner and work fast.  Swipe your brush in the corner, reload with paint and swipe it across the leading edge.  Repeat until the section is filled.  You might get some color lines until you get the hang of this - don't worry, grass has lines in it!  And even if you're really speedy, you'll likely get color variations.  That's one of the downsides of using silk paints and water based gutta - but if you build that into your design, they work great.  If we were using dyes and regular gutta, we'd be wetting down the silk first to give us longer to keep that front edge of color from drying, but if we did that now we'd get major breaks in the gutta and big time leaks.

11.  Continue with each section until finished.

12.  If you do get a small leak of green into a sheep, there's a fix.

Put a small amount of one of the darker colors on your brush and cover the green.  Rinse your brush, but leave some water in it.  Lightly scrub the edges to blend the colors - I found it helpful to also "paint" the sheep with a little plain water.

13.  Let dry and iron to heat set the paint.  Wait a day or two before washing.  Update:  You can wash your scarf after heat setting.  See comments below for Pebeo's reply to a reader's question.

Next week, we'll paint a scarf using some silk painting special effects.  

Happy Creating!  Deborah


  1. I never comment but I just had to this time. Your sheep are so cute. I love your scarf.

    1. Thank you! I'm taking a class where I'm learning about wool and how to spin, so I've had sheep on my mind a lot!

  2. How adorable!

    I'm just now getting acquainted with your blog... saw your pretty Valentine table-topper project on the FaveQuilts site.

    Love the dyeing posts! I've been a fan of Jenny Dean and any chance that I can see Artists in action, well!... I stick around learn something new!! I'm inspired and I thank you for sharing your creativity through your pretty blog!

  3. Hi,
    Great, informative instructions, thank you! I have one question: After ironing, why do you wait a day or two before washing? Does the ironing not finish setting the paint?

    1. Good question! Pebeo's Setasilk site says it is colorfast for handwashing 48 hours after fixing. I should try an experiment and see how much it fades if you wash it sooner ...

    2. Hi again,
      I wrote to Pebeo, and asked them why the label instructs to wait for 48 hours before washing. Here is their reply:

      Dear Customer,

      Thank you for your interst in our products.

      This sentence is historical, it has no purpose today and will be deleted shortly.
      Ironing is sufficient to fix the colour.

      I hope this will help you

      Best regards

      Customer service

      Service consommateur

      Web site :

    3. It makes sense to me that ironing alone should set the color - and when I'm on a tight schedule I have been known to wash a scarf out after 24 hours. Thanks for posting your reply! I'm updating the blog with this new information. That's funny - "this sentence is historical" - someone put it in at some point and it just stayed!

  4. I love these sheep! But I cannot print out on my printer. I love aall these 6 lessons. Thank you. How do I get the pattern for the sheep? I was on my "Buucket List" trip of a lifetime last year..Ireland...and fell in love with the woolies!

  5. Thank you! Some people have had trouble printing patterns ever since Google Doc changed to Google Drive. Safari seems to be the worst browser to print them from, Chrome the best, and Firefox somewhere in between. Make sure you DO NOT have "print to fit" selected when you print and if you have the "borderless printing" option, choose this. If it still doesn't work, I've added a second link for the design that will give you a Word document. The design won't be the same size as I used on this scarf, but you can take the print out to a copier and enlarge or decrease it and make the pattern any size you want! I hope this works!

  6. Love it, but where are you getting the scrafs themself?

    1. I get the scarves from I've been a customer of theirs for years!

  7. I just came across your website and love, love, love, your tutorials! Thanks so much for sharing. You have all the techniques I was interested, all in one place.