When painting silk, there are different types and weights of silk that you can choose. This really depends on what the finished product is going to be and what you prefer to work on. My preference is Pongee, but I have also used Habati and Crepe de Chine.
Pongee silk is produced by many mills throughout China. The weight can vary between 36 to 50gm/sq m. The lighter weight is often known as Paj.
Many people do not like to use Pongee for silk painting as it can easily form a ‘hole’ where the threads of silk part company (either by using the brush with a heavy hand, stretching over sharp picot points or with the drawing nib). However, once painted it makes lovely scarves that feel so fine and soft and literally ‘float’ when wearing them.
When using dye to paint, the colours flow quickly and it is very difficult to control the colour. It can literally continue to move even after you think it has finished. On the other hand, if you want a great blend of colours, this type of silk will do most of the work for you….you just have to know how wet to keep the surface.
Habutai was traditionally woven in Japan, however today most is produced in China. Habutai was normally used for linings of clothing, but today is used for a variety of product e.g. lampshades, blouses and lingerie. It is quite easy to dye and is therefore very popular with artist and craftsmen.
This silk is heavier than Pongee and is therefore easier to paint on as it does allow some control. Scarves can be tied and keep their shape better than they will when using pongee. This silk is also suitable for works of art that are to be framed for exhibition.
Crepe is a silk, wool, or polyester fabric. It has a gauze like consistency with a crimpy appearance. Silk crape is woven from hand spun silk. Crêpe de Chine normally refers to thin Crepe and is an exciting silk to paint on for exhibition works of art.
Crêpe de Chine is my favourite silk for painting works of art to be framed. I like the way the movement of the dye is easier to control because of the texture of the silk. Recently I painted a large wall hanging for a client and because they did not want to frame it (and thus protect the silk from dust etc) I decided to choose a heavy weight Crepe de Chine. It turned out to be a nightmare to paint.
The gutta would not penetrate the silk (I use a fairly fine nib for my style of work) and bleeds were constantly plaguing me. The dye would not run at all and to get colours to blend meant that I had to literally scrub the dye and then water to try to get colours to merge and tone to develop. I won’t be using this weight of silk again!
When you are painting silk experiment first and discover which type and weight of silk best suits your style and the finished product.