The naturally translucent quality of silk paired with transparent paints rivals the glow of stained glass when held up to the sun. This is an easy way to learn introductory silk painting because the silk is prestretched and ready to paint. Because the silk is not intended to be draped or worn, the colors don't require fixing or steaming — finished paintings are ready to hang. Even very young artists enjoy watching the colors flow and interact with one another, while more advanced artists learn how to use resists, glaze colors, and create textural effects.
- Use eyedroppers to transfer the silk dye from the bottle to the palette. A small amount goes a long way, so it's best to limit the color. Cover the palette until the dye is ready to use. You may also wish to fill the squeeze bottles with resist prior to project session. The resist may be applied with small brushes or squeeze bottles. Using a squeeze bottle is faster, but a brush allows more control and variance of line width.
- Trace around the hoop on the drawing paper, then plan a design within the circle. Use free-form, self-enclosed shapes and simple lines that intersect, and steer away from geometric designs that are straight or symmetrical. Look at shapes to trace (i.e. leaves or flowers). Once the design is planned, place the silk hoop over the design and use a graphite pencil and very light pressure to trace the drawing below onto the surface of the silk. The pencil lines should be light and barely visible.
- APPLY RESIST: A resist works by outlining a shape, keeping colors from flowing into each other, and protecting pure whites. It also bleeds through the fabric and forms puddles if used directly on the table surface, so use styrofoam cups, an eraser, paint tube or other object to prop the hoops up off the table at an angle. It's a good idea to use newsprint to practice applying out of a squeeze bottle before actually touching it to the silk. Using squeeze bottles or brushes, apply resist directly over the pencil lines on the silk hoop. If possible, allow resist to dry completely before painting. Resist will still hold the flow of the color back if it's wet, but it will easily smear if touched.
- PAINT: Start with the lightest color first, load a small amount in a brush and lightly touch it in the center of a shape that has been defined by the resist. The color will flow into the silk and stop at the resist line. Apply paint by touching and flowing, rather than brushing it on. Rinse brushes thoroughly before changing colors. Lift hoops up frequently during painting, to see the effects of light through the transparent colors.
- FINISH: Allow the painting to dry completely, then gently attach a jump ring around the top edge of the hoop, taking care not to puncture the silk. Use a ribbon or monofilament line to hang the hoop in the window, where it can catch the sunlight.
- - The silk is attached to the hoop with a waterbased glue, so rinsing may cause the fabric to detach. Because the suncatcher will not generally come in contact with water or be handled extensively, heat setting of the colors is not required. However, clear resist cannot be rinsed out safely. Plan to leave it in the design to add sparkle and dimension, which may actually be more desirable than pure whites. Colored water-based resists (gold, silver, black) are permanent and will not wash out of silk.
- Apply crystal salt to create interesting starburst shapes and texture. Salt needs to be applied quickly, while painted area is still very wet. This technique is especially dramatic with darker colors.
- Dip a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol and touch it to a painted area. Color will flow away from the alcohol, then back as it dries, creating feathery "bubbles." Once again, this technique will only work while the paint is still wet.
- Create "glazes" of color by diluting with water, painting an area, allowing it to dry, then painting over it again to build up varying color intensity and opacity. Mixing silk dye to obtain color beyond the range that is available in bottles is difficult to do, because the transparency of the color is not visible as it sits in a well on a palette. By "glazing" colors over one another directly on the silk, shades can be altered until the desired mix is achieved. It can also be useful in creating soft gradients or shadows.