Are silk dyes the best way to start out rather than paint for the silk?

Are silk dyes the best for beginners, or silk paints?

“Are silk dyes the best way to start out rather than paint for the silk?”, asks Patricia

Via my website, I just read this great comment:

I am a jewelry artist and fine arts artist and would like to try to silk painting. I have been reading various blogs on the subject. Are dyes the best way to start out rather than paint for the silk? Also, do you wash your silk before you paint on it? And do you always use water or water and alcohol on the surface before painting. You information on the steaming with a bamboo steamer was very helpful.
Thank you

Hi there Patricia! Thanks so much for popping by, and I’m sooo glad you enjoyed my video about steam-setting silk dyes with a bamboo steamer. I have a host of other videos on Youtube and also here on my website (which you can view here).


The first part of your question is:  “Are dyes the best way to start out rather than paint for the silk?”.

This is an excellent question, and one which newbies need to understand before embarking on their first silk painting adventure 🙂

  • there are two main ways to paint on silk — (a) with dyes and (b) with paint
  • the dyes MUST specify they are for silk
  • the silk dyes can generally be made colour-fast by two different methods:
    1. steam-setting (only works for silk dyes which specifically say ‘steam setting’ on the instructions)
    2. heat setting (only works if the silk dyes specifically say “heat setting” and NOT “steam”)
  • silk PAINTS traditionally lay on top of the silk, and did not penetrate through the fibres like the silk dyes, but in recent years advancements have been made, and I’ve read that some silk “paints” are now much improved.

To make things easy, I’d like to tell you:

  1. I only ever use silk “dyes” which required “steam setting” for a minimum of 3 hours (I have over 30 years of experience with this method)
  2. I have never used silk “paints” and so I’m unable to provide any further information on that particular way of working with silk.

So the answer to this is, try both, see which method you prefer.  All my training and online courses are based on Silk Dyes which require steam-setting, so if you do take one of my classes, this is the method I teach.


Your next question is:  “Do you wash your silk before you paint on it?”

The short answer is “Yes!” 🙂  Quite often most fabrics are treated with a product which makes it easy to roll great lengths, known as “sizing”, and it needs to be washed out before starting your projects.


Your last question is: “Do you always use water or water and alcohol on the surface before painting?”

My short answer is, “No.” I don’t ALWAYS put any product on the silk before hand-painting.

There are many methods to learn in silk painting, and you’ve mentioned two which can be used to prepare the silk for specific “techniques” which will provide you with specific results.

Have I ever used water on silk before painting? Yes, I have. Do I use it every time? No, I don’t 🙂

Painting the silk with water first will change the way the silk dyes flow on the silk, and will give you a whole new way of painting which could be more like watercolour painting on paper.

Once you start painting and trying out all these fabulous methods and techniques you’ll be so excited you won’t want to stop 🙂


“Are silk dyes the best way to start out?” — did I answer your questions clearly enough?

Let me know if you have any questions, I’m happy to help solve them 🙂

Cheers!

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Teena Hughes

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