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Silk painting basics:

Here you will find extensive information on silk dyeing, different silk dyeing techniques, potential errors and unexpected results during the dyeing, as well as information about ways how to prevent or correct them.


Idea. Before you start any work the most important part is the idea – what is that you want to see as the end result. I already would like to warn you that the end result very often differs from the intended one. You would wonder why? Let me explain it a bit later. But ... first things first - let's start with your idea. When you are happy with the concept you can start by drawing your idea on a small size paper. When you are happy with defining your idea you should draw it on a larger paper which is the same size as the intended artwork. If you love to improvise you can start by drawing directly onto the silk - no need to put the idea on paper first.

Basic Principles of Design. Here are some principles you should observe to make your work more expressive, attractive and interesting.

First principle is a correct drawing. Try to form the design in such way that there are smaller areas next to large ones - try to create a sort of a rhythm. Large spaces next to each other sometimes look rather boring. Smaller areas will add some interesting feature to your work. Also, don't make the drawing consisting of small spaces only - few larger spaces will add a highlight to your artwork. 

Second basic principle is colour intensity. Use lighter and darker shades to make your work more interesting. If one area of your work is in light dye, please use darker shade next to it - it will add a nice touch. Also don't overdo - otherwise there may be too many contrasts in your work. If you want your work to be generally light add only few darker areas. And vice versa - if you want your work be dark, please add only few lighter contrast areas. Add these colour contrasts in areas which you want to highlight - they will attract attention. The more contrast you add - the more visible it is. Therefore try to add colour contrasts depending on which area and how much you want to highlight it. If your work is very colourful sometimes it will be difficult to understand whether colour intensity principle has been observed. You can check this in two ways. First way: try to squint and you will see whether there are lighter and darker shades in your work. Second way: you can take a picture of your work with a digital camera and see it in black and white mode - you will immediately see whether your work is evenly grey and you cannot see the design or if there are lighter and darker areas that bring out your drawing. Your work will look good if it does so also in the black and white camera mode.

Third basic principle is colours. Always combine warm colours with cold colours. Even if you want your work to be warm - add some cold colour highlight. It will bring out the colours in your work. The same goes for work in cold colours - don't be afraid to add some warmer shade. For example, if your work is based on blue colour palette, add some small rosy, orange or yellow highlight. Your work will not loose its cold blue shade, but it will look better. Please remember that colour can be both - warm and cold. For example there are cold green and warm green, cold red and warm red shades. If you don't want to add a different colour contrast, you can combine warm and cold shades of one colour. To add a highlight it is better to use proximal colours of the base colour's contrast colour - you can use colour circle as a guide. For example, the contrast colour for blue is orange, green for red and violet for yellow. The proximal shades of contrast colours are the shades which are on the left or right to the contrast colour. You can use darker or lighter shades of these colours.
If you observe these three basic principles you will always have beautiful silk paint artworks. Creating an art design is similar to composing a melody: rhythm, notes (higher notes alternate with lower notes), and a refrain. If any of these components is missing - you won't enjoy the song.
If you didn't understand some part of this section, please don't hesitate to contact me and I will be happy to answer your questions.

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Preparation of Silk. Next step is preparation of silk. Depending on the intended end result you can choose thinner or thicker silk fabric. You can also choose already dyed silk, but it is important that silk is not too coloured and be aware that you won't be able to leave white or very light areas. It is advisable to wash the silk in mild soap water before fixing into frame. It is required to clean the silk from chemicals used in manufacturing process. Silk will become airy and dye will flow better. In case you have forgotten to wash the silk before - don't worry - nothing bad will happen. I have also forgotten it sometimes and no major problems occurred.

Fixing Silk into Frame. Now you will have to fix the silk into frame. Wooden frame is preferable, but feel free to improvise. The most important thing is to have a stabile frame which is larger than the size of silk.  It's great if you have an adjustable frame that you can adjust to different sizes. Each artist has his/her own method for fixing silk into frame. Some people take frame which is smaller than silk and then simply tack the silk with pins to the frame. I personally don't prefer this method, because it has significant drawbacks. If silk touches frame then when the dye reaches the frame it goes over resist line and can ruin the design. Another drawback is that if you pin the silk there is a chance to accidently tear the very fragile silk threads. Of course, you can draw a resist line along the frame that will protect the dye from reaching frame.

One of the most popular methods for fixing silk is stitching of fabric into frame. After dyeing it will not be possible to see the lines of stitching and you will not have to worry about silk getting dirty from frame. Silk stitching is done as follows: put the silk in the middle of the frame (silk fabric has to be smaller than the frame) and stitch it with a needle and thread. You should leave some spaces - ideally 5-10 centimeters between stitching. When silk has been stitched it should be stretched and strained by pulling the threads around the frame as required. I do it like that - I put small pins in 5-10 cm intervals (depending of silk size) along the frame and when stitching the silk into frame I put thread around the pins not the frame - thus there is less thread consumption and threading the needle, as well as the process is faster and it is easier to stretch the fabric.

When stitching please be careful not to tear the silk - it may happen if the fabric is very thin and strained. Try to stitch the needle at least one centimetre from the edge of the fabric (if the fabric has not been already edged). You can also fix already edged fabric into frame - in this case stitch the needle directly into the edge of stitching where fabric is double or threefolded - then you won't have to worry about tearing it. Please remember that later when you apply the resist you have to pay more attention to the edge of stitching, because if the resist is too thin the dye will flow over.

If the scarf is in triangular form you should do as follows: take a squared shape frame, stitch as usual two sides that form a 90 degree angle, and then stitch the sloping side to the other two sides of frame with shorter and longer threads.

If you have an idea how to make this process easier and faster - go ahead with that!

Transferring Idea onto Silk. When fabric has been stretched into the frame you can start transferring idea from paper onto silk. If you like to improvise you can draw idea onto silk without putting on paper first, but then you have to be precise and careful not to ruin the fabric with too many pencil marks. Before drawing onto silk it is advisable to try the pencil on a smaller piece of silk to check whether it washes out. I have had bad experience of not being able to wash the pencil marks out of the silk and they were visible on lighter areas of silk. Please choose light and soft pencil or a special textile pencil. Also please draw the lines lightly.

Once you have drawn your idea onto paper which is same size as the intended artwork, clip paper to the silk and copy the lines onto silk. You can also transfer the design with resist directly. If the fabric is thick and it is difficult to see the lines you can light it from beneath. 





























































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