How to Paint a Silk Scarf

Painting a silk scarf using the Direct Method is so simple that even a child can successfully paint on the silk directly without using any resist. It is excellent for beginners, as it is important to get used to the dyes before moving on to more difficult methods.


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    Stretch your silk on a frame. Make sure the fabric is evenly stretched, neither too tight nor too loose. If it's too loose, it will sag and the dye will make puddles. Making it too tight may damage the fabric.
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    Spray the silk with a diluted mix of water and rubbing alcohol (two parts alcohol to one part distilled water). Wet down the silk with this solution (it will later allow the dye to spread and dry with a soft edge). It also allows more time to paint as it slows down the drying time. This is called the Wet-on-Wet technique.
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    Apply the first layer of dye while the silk is still wet. In this example, red is the primary color and a simple striped pattern is used for the background. Notice how the lines have a soft, fuzzy edge to them.
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    Add a darker color (such as a darker shade of your primary color) next to add dimension to the design while the silk is still wet. In general, always start with light shades then move on to darker colors. Since the colors in silk painting are transparent, once you go dark, it's hard to go back to light. If you want white spaces, then you should leave the silk without any color.
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    Allow the first layer to dry. You may notice some of the colors separating (shown by the presence of an orange shadow or halo next to the red in this example, even though only various shades of red were used). This happens to some colors especially when working with the Wet-on-Wet technique.
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    Add an even darker shade of your primary color to the dry silk. This is called Line Building or Wet-on-Dry technique. These lines will dry with a hard edge and if the application is a bit darker in color, it will also have a dark outline around it.
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    Add decorative touches such as simple dots.
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    Soften harsh lines by spraying on the diluted mix again. You can also add salt to the silk as you spray to achieve a more mottled texture, as shown.
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    Paint additional designs of your choice with the darkest shade of your primary color using the wet-on-dry technique again. The dye that is applied over a previously salted layer will still react with the salt and create neat swirly designs and jagged edges.
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    Allow the silk to dry thoroughly before putting it on.


  • If using French dyes the preferred method of setting the dyes is to use a steamer and steam the silk for a few hours. "just put "silk steamer" into Google and you will find several sites that describe the procedure and how to construct a steamer. An excellent site for information,ordering silk painting supplies and how to tips from silk painting experts is from Dharma Trading Company.
  • Depending on the dye used there are two methods of setting the colors. If using Jacquard American Dyes, there is a chemical bath into which one immerses the scarf no sooner than 24 hours after applying the dyes. The proportion of chemical to water to make the bath is one ounce per quart. agitate for five minutes and then rinse to remove excess dye in a mild soap solution and then under running water until the water runs clear. This solution can be purchased by mail order or at well equipped art stores.
  • When using the direct method of dying silk, the dyes must be set before use, or the colors will run and any moisture will leave spots. Until setting the silk must be handle carefully, or spots will ruin the design.


  • Before the dyes are set on a silk garment it must be protected from moisture coming in contact with the dyes, this will ruin your intended design.

Sources and Citations

  • - Website of artist Katherine Munro. Original source of this article. Shared with permission.

Article Info

Categories: Fabric and Clothing Decoration