Pre-treating Silk

On the Silk Painting Network I had asked one of our members Liena Dieck if she pre-coats her silk to achieve the fine detail in her silk paintings. I was amazed at how she created her beautiful portraits.


“Esperanza” by Lieana Dieck

I love that one of her missions is to help silk painting be more accepted as a fine art form.

Make sure you check out Liena’s pageShe recently posted a step by step illustration of one of her methods on her Silk Painting Network page. 

Her website is

I wanted to share this with everyone in case you missed it. This is what she said…

“To answer your question, I do pre-treat my stretched silks before I paint on them with dyes.
 I do not use gutta or any turpentine-based product that companies make to stop

the flow of dyes on silk (I think, Dupont sells something that in French is called “anti-fusant”, i.e. thinned solvent-based gutta). Having painted large scale murals in

oil for a client for over 2 years, I developed a severe allergic reaction to turpentine, having inhaled a lot of fumes while I was painting the walls and the ceiling, so now I cannot use solvent-based

products or cleaners. I switched to natural thickeners and use them in my

painting all the time.

You can use starch (cooked with water to a gravy consistency, or from a spray

can that one would use for ironing), sodium alginate (Dharma or Pro-Chemical),

agar-agar, some water-based glues that are used to adhere wall-paper to the

walls, dye thickener (Dharma, Pro-Chemical), printing paste (Pro-Chemical),

etc. I prefer gum thickener from Algo Manufacturing Co (81-83 Franklin St., NY,

NY 10013. Ph. # 1-866-293-8913). It is a non-hazardous powder. You prepare it

according to the instructions on the package – just sprinkle it over hot water,

stir, let stand until dissolves completely. I apply the clear glutinous stuff

that results from this preparation process to my stretched silk, let it dry and

then draw on it and start painting with dyes. The dyes may still spread a

little, so you need to control the amount of dye/water on your brush. Once the

painting is complete, I steam it for 6 hours between layers of clean newsprint

paper. After that I wash the primer out of silk and it gets the same hand as

before I treated it with gum thickener. That is all.

Let me know if you have any more questions.

All the best,