How to Paint on Silk Fabric


Silk has been a coveted fabric since its appearance in ancient China. The luxurious material, created from the natural protein fiber found in silk moth cocoons, was both beautiful and extremely rare. Today, silk is one of the most widely sold fashion fabrics and is available in a wide variety of patterns, colors and styles. Painting silk to create unique shawls and scarves can be completed at home using silk paints.

Things You'll Need

  • A length of undyed 100 percent silk
  • Frame
  • Brushes or sponges
  • 2 to 3 colors of fabric dye
  • Plastic drop cloth or large garbage bag


  • Cover your work area with a drop cloth or large garbage bag. This will protect carpet and other fabrics from dye splatters and spills.

  • Stretch the silk on the frame to create a smooth, even work area. If a stretching frame is not available, pin the silk to a worktable so that it does not wrinkle during the painting process. An ironing board can be used as a worktable.

  • Dip a brush or sponge into the first color of paint and apply to the silk in the desired pattern. In most cases, let the first color dry before adding a second color. To achieve a watercolor effect, experiment by blending and applying a second or third dye while the first color is still wet.

  • Unpin the silk from the frame or worktable. Hang the silk to dry.

  • Heat-set the dye using a clothes iron once completely dry. Layer newspapers on the worktable, lay down the silk and cover with another layer of newspapers to protect the silk. Smooth a hot iron over the entire surface.

  • Machine wash the silk before wearing or sewing.

Tips & Warnings

  • Check the directions on the bottle of dye before painting. Some brands recommend washing and pressing the silk before painting. Others will recommend wetting the silk before beginning.

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  • Photo Credit silk color image by coff47 from
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