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Silk painting Techniques - Cold batique:

Cold batik is the most popular silk dyeing technique. It is also the easiest silk dyeing technique and can be used by professionals and beginners. The name “cold batik” means that the resist does not have to be heated before applying.


Drawing With the Resist. This is one of the most responsible and often most difficult parts of silk painting. What is a resist? It is a special rubber content substance that can be bought in shops that sell textile dyes. Resists are available in different colours and you should check the expiry date of the resist otherwise it won't hold the dye. Whether you have bought resist in a store or have made your own you have to line very carefully without interruptions, because otherwise the dye will flow through. Unless it has been your intention to leave spaces for creating such colour effects. If you haven't had previous experience in lining you should try it first on a separate piece of silk. Also you can create a design that does not require long and uninterrupted lines. When you have finished with lining allow the resist to dry thoroughly!

As I have had bad experience with low quality and old resists I always check the resist beforehand to avoid surprises. I check quality of resist by applying water with brush into lined area. If water flows into adjacent area it means that the line is either too thin or the resist is bad quality. You can correct this by drawing another resist line onto existing one.


Painting With Dyes. Finally you can start the most exciting part of the dyeing process: You can actually start painting! Silk painting is very similar to watercolour painting on paper - only textile dye flows more freely on silk. You should always take this into consideration when painting. For painting on larger areas you will need a larger brush, but for smaller areas - a small brush with fine tip is required. Brushes should be made of soft and natural material that well absorbs fluid - it is easier to apply more dye, as well as to remove the excess dye from silk. There are two types of textile paints (dyes) available at shops - liquid and dense dyes. Dense dyes are envisaged for applying without a resist; however they make the fabric stiff - that's why these paints should be used for decorative purposes only or on thicker fabrics. It is possible to dilute the dense dyes with water but the end result might be uneven painting and this will not work too well if you have to paint larger areas. However this approach will fit when painting on small areas of silk. Liquid textile dye is more suitable for silk, because the silk after dyeing remains soft and shiny. Also liquid dyes can be diluted with water and mixed together to get desired shade and intensity of colour. If the shade after drying looks too light you can apply dye on the same area again, but be aware that after each painting silk becomes stiffer and less shiny, as well as dye becomes more uneven. Do not apply the paint directly onto resist line, better apply it a bit further - thus you will avoid accumulation of excess dye at the contour and subsequent spills. Always remove the excess dye from the fabric! You can paint on both wet and dry silk. The dye will not be even on wet silk; however it will flow softly just as watercolour does on a wet paper.

There are many ways to make the painted areas more interesting and attractive. Let me list some useful tips:

Blending Different Dyes. If you want to make larger areas attractive you can apply two different colours and allow them to mix. For example, in one corner you can apply warmer shade and then at the other corner you can apply colder shade thus creating a beautiful colour transition from warmer to colder shade.

Blending Dye with Water. To create a transition from darker shade to lighter you can add clean water to the dye - it will blend creating a colour transition. You can also add water in freshly painted and wet area - water will push back the dye and form interesting spots.

Dye Splashing. You can make your artwork colorful by splashing dye onto it - you can splash dye on both wet and dry surface. You can splash similar color or a different color to create brighter highlights. Splashes on dry surface will be more visible, but splashes on wet surface will blend with the base dye. Be careful of splashing dye onto areas you don't want to. This method is useful if you have accidently splashed dye on the artwork and you want to hide it.

Splashing Water. Water is being splashed the same way as dye, however it has to be done on a wet surface. Water splashes will create lighter spots that will add another interesting feature to your work. Instead of water you can use spirit or vodka – it evaporates sooner than water and the end result is a bit different.

Using Effect Salt. You can buy effect salt at shops that sell textile dyes. Effect salt is a very popular way to brighten up boring areas. Effect salt is poured onto wet surface. The result is usually unpredictable, because it depends on wetness of fabric and amount of salt. Effect salt absorbs the dye thus creating a multi coloured spots. When the area has dried the effect salt is removed. You can use effect salt multiple times - the salt will absorb dyes from previous paintings and when poured onto another wet surface it will create multiple small coloured spots - the result is always attractive. Instead of effect salt you can use the regular salt; the result is similar.

Painting Without the Resist. You can paint on silk also without the resist. To prevent the flow of dyes you must treat the fabric beforehand. The most popular technique is covering the fabric with brine. The dye will not flow, however it will be difficult to apply the dye smoothly and there can be problems with covering larger areas. This silk painting technique is very suitable for silk pictures. You can also cover the fabric with potato starch that is diluted in water. This technique can only be used for painting pictures on silk as the starch will make the silk stiff and paper-like. And painting silk that is treated in this technique is very similar to painting on cardboard.

Using the Resist. Resist can also be used on already painted areas. You can draw different shapes, lines, spots, you can also write with the resist liner and highlight certain areas.

Using Hair Dryer. Hairdryer is very useful if you want to dry some areas quickly or stop the dye from flowing. 

You can experiment and discover your own ways how to brighten up your artwork!

Correcting Mistakes. Mistakes and unpredictable results can happen to very experienced painters as well, so it is better to know how to correct any flaws. If the dye is spilling into adjacent area you have to act quickly. You can stop the flow of dye by drying it with a hair dryer, because once dry the dye will stop flowing. You can also try to neutralise the dye by adding clean water - quickly apply large amount of water to the flowing paint. Cover all surface of the area with water so that paint freely continues flowing and does not create a line when drying. Then remove excess water together with dye. Small amount of dye however will remain. You can let the "disobedient" dye to stay on fabric and add another colour opposite to it so that they blend and create an interesting colour transition. If the dye has already dried up and the spot looks too "showy" you can decorate and highlight it or you can create several such spots right next to it - turn defect into something special. Nobody will ever guess. Thanks to different flaws and unexpected results during dyeing process I have created several beautiful artworks and in some cases the result was even better as intended.

Finalising. When you have finished painting you can remove the fabric from frame. Don't worry if silk seems stiff and does not have its soft silky structure. After final processing it will again become soft and silky. When silk has been removed from frame it must be ironed to fix the paint and to prevent it from wash out. If you however are not happy with the end result you still can wash the paint out, but then you must not iron the silk before. Silk must be ironed on silk appropriate iron setting and preferably on the reverse side to prevent the rubbery resist from sticking to iron. Iron very carefully to properly fix the dye. You can use steam ironing to fix the dye better. When your artwork has been thoroughly ironed it must be washed to remove the excess particles of paint and regain its softness and silkiness. Silk must be hand washed in cool but not cold water. You should add soap or silk detergent and vinegar for better fixation of dye to water. There is nothing said about vinegar on the dye labels, but from my own experience I know that the vinegar helps to fix the dyes and they are more resistant to wear off. If you have fixed the dye properly with iron it should not wash out - however minimum wash out is normal and you should not worry about it. Do not rub the silk when washing but gently squeeze it. When fabric has been washed and rinsed you can iron it without waiting until it is dry. 

After painting instead of ironing I recommend fixing the dyes with steaming (also those dyes that are envisaged to be fixed with an iron). It is easier to do it with an iron, but the dyes are better fixed with steaming. I usually do it like this: I take out the fabric from the frame, iron it. Then I roll the silk up into a small roll and put it in a regular vegetables steamer’s strainer and steam the silk for about a half hour. You should better roll the silk instead of folding to avoid folding marks. During steaming you should check that the water from the lid does not pour directly onto the silk but flows down to the side.

You can also fix the dyes in an oven and microwave oven.

Don't take my instructions as mandatory - I am just sharing my knowledge in silk painting. You can have your own techniques for silk painting. With time you will learn to use perfectly the methods that seem most convenient and appropriate for you. Don't limit yourself with what you read in books, try something new and experiment. Good luck with your artwork!


Author: Inese Eke

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