How to Paint on Silk (Using Iron Fix Paints)

Time Required : depending on the size/complexity of the painting at least 3 hours

I’m often asked about the process of creating a silk painting so here’s a brief description for those who are interested!

  1. Drawing

    Draw the basic lines of your subject on paper, simplifying into areas where you want the colours on the silk to remain separate.

  2. Stretch Silk

    You will need a suitable sized wooden frame (I make my own but you could use an old wooden picture frame. Cut a piece of silk to match the size of your frame. Stretch the silk onto frame using three-pin tacks or masking tape to attach it around the edges.

  3. Position Your Drawing

    Place your drawing under the stretched silk, secure with masking tape and support underneath so you will be able to press down with a pencil.

  4. Transfer Your Drawing to the Silk

    Trace your drawing from the paper onto the silk using a soft pencil.

  5. Apply Gutta

    Apply gutta lines over your pencil lines before they fade away. Gutta is a kind of rubbery paint, which you apply from a squeezy bottle with a nib attached. The gutta will prevent the coloured silk paint from running from one area of the silk to another.

  6. Allow to Dry

    Allow the gutta lines to completely dry before you can add any colour. This will take several hours at room temperature but can be speeded up with the use of a hairdryer or heater.

  7. Apply Silk Paint

    Once the gutta is dry apply coloured iron fix silk paints to the areas of silk between the lines. The silk paint is very liquid, like ink. Whilst the colour is still wet you can use various techniques to alter the appearance of the paint: table salt or sea salt can be used to get speckled effects; water or alcohol can be applied to leave different kinds of marks; colours can be blended together. A hairdryer can be used to control the rate at which the paint dries and therefore how much it spreads.

  8. Iron

    When all the colour has been applied and is dry, remove the painting from the frame and iron on a low heat to fix the colours.

  9. Mount

    The finished painting  can be stretched onto a mount or board before framing

I have been specialising in painting on silk for over 20 years. Click here to learn more about me.

Here are some time lapse videos of the process. Visit my Youtube channel for more videos showing the process:

Applying the Gutta

Applying the Colour