Kim Michelle Toft

Silk Artist | Author | Illustrator

Silk Painting Technique

How I paint on silk…

1. Before I start painting onto the silk I draw a small thumbnail sketch of my design and then draw a more detailed pen drawing using photographic references. The design is then transferred onto the silk with a HB lead pencil. Some of my paintings are 2m x 1m and these first 2 steps can take up to 2 weeks to complete.


2. The silk is then stretched over a frame ready for the “gutta” and dye.

3. The solvent based gold gutta is applied with a nib and applicator bottle , over the pencil lines. The gutta sets hard and takes up to one hour to dry. The gold outline blocks the weave of the silk and acts like a barrier.

4. Each area, enclosed by the gold gutta lines are painted with silk dyes. If there are any breaks in the lines the dye will bleed through. I use pointed paint brushes ranging in size from 000 to 4cm wide to paint the dye on. I recommend putting the darker dye down first then blending the lighter colour into the darker tone. The dyes must be wet to be able to blend the colours. This ensures a smooth transition between colours. Depending on the amount of detail it can take another week or 2 to complete these next 2 stages.

5. I always paint the BG last. I often use rock salt to create the ‘bubble’ effect. The rock salt is placed on the wet BG and the frame can be tilted to create a stronger pull of the ‘bubble’ patterning. The salt is brushed off the silk once it is completely dry.

6. Because I use solvent based gold gutta I steam my finished silk. I had a steamer custom built because of the size of my pieces I paint. The steaming fixes the colour, takes the tacky residue out of the gutta and dissolves the salt film left behind from the salting. To steam I place the completed silk onto clean butcher’s paper then lay a piece of white cotton fabric over the top of the silk. It is then very carefully rolled onto a piece of dowel making sure there are no wrinkles as I roll. I then steam the silk for approximately one hour.

7. My work is then ironed on the wrong side of the silk and stretched onto foam core board ready to be photographed for my books , cards and prints and then framed for sale in my gallery and exhibitions.


To get started you will need…

  • White Silk – I use habutae or Jap Silk
  • Gutta – I use solvent based gold gutta
  • Brushes that come to a point , at various sizes
  • Dyes – I use Silk Designer liquid dyes
  • Rock Salt
  • Steamer

Most of my silk art supplies I get from Batik Oetoro

I run classes out of my gallery in Ballina. Sea Silks Gallery is located on the river at the entrance of The Ramada , 2 Martin Street , Ballina NSW.

You can also contact me at


Silk Sensation – Time Lapse
40 hours in 2 minutes

Silk Painting A Cover
Coral Sea Dreaming
Original Sea Silks Gallery
New Gallery  
2 Martin Street Ballina NSW