Silk Painting

Silk Painting is a wonderfully fun activity for almost all ages.  Many children have never experienced painting on silk and there are a wide variety of different ways to use this art form in schools.  One example of this is to combine silk painting with English to make Silk Painting Storytelling.  First of all a suitable story is chosen – it can be anything from Greek myths (linking with History) or the Ramayana (linking with RE) to multi-cultural stories.  The children then work in pairs to illustrate different parts of the story, transferring their drawings onto silk and finally painting them.  The results are stunning!

silk-storytelling-batiksilk-storytelling-batik-2silk-storytelling-batik-3Silk painting can also be used to make brilliant wall hangings for schools.  These wall hangings were make by a Year 5 group who had been to Hindleap Warren Activity Centre and using drawings based on their week there, they made four wonderful banners.



One school made wall hangings based on the theme of water for their new library too.

finished-silk-panelsSometimes schools have used existing art work as inspiration – for example Tate’s ‘Take One Picture’ project with Turner’s ‘Fighting Temeraire’ in silk painting.

Fighting-TemerareAnother school didn’t like one year’s Take One Picture so we substituted John Singer Sargeant’s ‘Carnation Lily Lily Rose’.  I gave the children a Power Point presentation about the picture and they then made their own version on silk with the original as inspiration.

Other schools have used William Morris as their starting point, again for silk hangings:


Southborough-silk-panels-in-situThis is what they look like in situ.

With the focus on drawing in the new National Curriculum, one school used silk painting as a medium with their portrait drawing too.


Silk can be used in smaller projects too such as quilted panels or to paint bookmarks for Craft Fairs.  I have devised dozens of different silk projects over the years and the children always have a great deal of fun with these projects.


2 thoughts on “Silk Painting

  1. Hi. I am an artist working in Liverpool and I have a school which has asked for silk painting. I am wondering if you might be able to advise on the best way to do this with a whole class. Im not sure whether the children would have to stretch over a screen as I dont have any of the specialist equipment. I am wondering if a project like this can be done without screens using easy batik gutta and dyes? If you can help me in any way It would be great. the work you have created is beautiful. Thanks Becky

    • Hi Becky,
      Since most schools don’t have specialist equipment for silk painting I have come up with a couple of ideas to make silk painting work. Silk is reasonably inexpensive and the paints go a long way but the biggest expense is the gutta so I often get the children to work in pairs (that way you only need 15 tubes of gutta rather than 30). I start off with getting the children to draw their ideas and then putting the designs underneath pongee silk (which is quite fine). That way you can trace over the silk with the gutta. Tape the paper and silk to the table and then as soon as the gutta has been applied, lift up one edge and remove the paper (you don’t want it drying and sticking to the silk). Next, you want the silk to dry without touching the table. Either tape or pin it to batons or place some pieces of dowl or old paint brushes underneath the silk and tape the sides of the silk so that it it stretched over the brushes/dowl etc. Then when you do the painting the silk won’t be toucing the table either (which is very important otherwise the paint spreads all over and under the gutta). If possible let the silk with the gutta and paint dry overnight. You can adapt this to different sizes of silk and if you are doing a large piece then make a baton framework to pin/tape the silk to once the gutta has been applied. You can use batik with either hot wax or (even better) cold wax, and dyes but I find it’s best to use proper silk paints and silk outliner/gutta.
      I hope all that helps and good luck with the project!

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