George Weil has sold litres and litres of H Dupont Classique Silk Dyes to customers during the last two decades. These liquid dyes are used with protein fibres such as silk, wool, feathers, mohair and cashmere, and are more popularly used by silk painters.
A Beginner’s Silk Painting using H Dupont Classique
Our colleague Cara created this silk painting using the dyes. It is her very first attempt and we suspect she may now be hooked! These step by step photographs and instructions should help any beginner get to grips with this satisfying craft.
Materials & Tools List
- A length of Pongee silk fabric or ready-made scarf
- Silk Painting Frame or empty picture frame
- Silk Frame Pins
- Autofade pen
- A hand drawn or printed design with black outlines
- H Dupont Waterbased Gutta (Serti No) resist
- Squeezy Bottle & 0.7mm Screw-on Nib
- 3-4 colours of H Dupont Classique Dye (depending on your design)
- Paint brush (a round brush with a fine point is best; use either sable, squirrel or goat hair for the best paint load) and jar of water for rinsing
- A sheet of paper slightly larger than the silk painting, elastic band and tin foil or cling film
- A method for setting the dye on the fabric (steamer or microwave)
How to Prepare the Silk Fabric for Painting
- Attach your silk fabric to the frame and place it face down on your design. The Pongee silk fabric is translucent enough to allow the design to show through. Trace the design with your autofade pen (see more on how to prepare your design for silk painting)
- Decant some of the gutta into the squeezy bottle and screw on the nib
- Applying the gutta outlines can be difficult at first and it is a good idea to have a practise run. The intention is to create a border around elements of the design to control the dye. The gutta needs to seep through to the other side of the fabric and join up the element to create the barrier. The gutta is washed out leaving the original colour of the silk fabric once the dyes have been set.
The image below shows Cara’s practise run. This helped her to learn how much to squeeze the bottle to control the amount of gutta passing through the nib.
- Below you can see that Cara soon got to grips with applying the gutta. Don’t try to aim for perfection, better control will come with experience.
- Before starting to paint, ensure that the gutta outline has thoroughly dried. The speed of drying will depend on how much gutter has been applied. A good way to check for damp spots is to hold the fabric up to the light, any undried gutta will stand out.
Painting the Silk Fabric with H Dupont Classique Silk Dyes
- The dyes provide bright concentrated colours and a little goes a very long way. It is a good idea to wet your brush and squeeze out the excess water to form a point. Dip about a third of the brush into the dye and allow the hairs to draw up the dye into the brush, this will help to prevent overloading with dye.
- Start with a large gutta bound area to get a feel for how the dye transfers to the fabric. It is better to touch the fabric in the centre of this area as the silk will very quickly absorb the dye which will travel across the fabric. Take care when applying the dye to small areas as too much dye may seep beyond the gutta outline.
- The finished silk painting ready for steam fixing. Allow the silk dyes to dry thoroughly before proceeding to the next stage.
Steam Fixing the Silk Dyes
This is an essential step if the painted items is likely to be exposed to moisture or if the silk is intended to be worn as a garment that will need washing. Cara chose to steam fix her painting using a vegetable steamer.
- Place the dried painting on a sheet of paper slightly larger than the fabric and roll up. The paper will prevent the painted silk from touching other areas of the silk painting. Cara then wrapped the painting is a length of cotton fabric (this is not essential but will help to keep the parcel together) and secured it with a rubber band.
- Wrap the parcel in tin foil or cooking cling film to make it water tight.
- Set up the vegetable/rice steamer, half fill with water and bring to the boil. Place the parcel in the steaming compartment and cover with a lid. Maintain a boil for 45 minutes, remove from the heat and allow to cool.
- Unwrap your parcel, leave the painting to cool to room temperature and rinse out any dye residue in warm water. Allow to dry and iron. Note how the colours have intensified compared to the colours in the painting prior to steam fixing.
- The finished silk painting
Tips & ideas
- First paint or dye your silk fabric before applying your design in gutta. The areas masked off by the gutta outliner will remain the original colour. Choose a lighter colour or dilute a darker colour with H Dupont Concentrated Thinner
- Go freestyle. Skip the gutta stage and randomly apply your colours to the fabric. Watch as they begin to seep into each other to create new colours
- Use H Dupont Anti-Fusant to help control the spread of the dyes across the fabric. The anti-fusant stiffens the fabric and acts like a primer to reduce the flow of the paint. It allows watercolour painting effects on the silk fabric. The silk regains its suppleness after the painting has been steam fixed and the anti-fusant rinsed from the fabric
- Sprinkle salt crystals onto the wet dye. The crystals will soak up some of the dye leaving dappled patterning
- Explore the technique of Shibori and tie-dyeing by using stitching, string or elastic bands as your resist