Resist Technique – How to Put Gutta on Silk Without it Flooding

Okay, once you’ve decided which type of gutta to buy,what on earth do you do with it? Knowing how to put gutta on silk is not as easy as it looks but with a bit of practice and some useful tips, it should all start to flow a bit better.

If you’ve had a look at my post on which type of gutta to choose, then hopefully you’ve invested in some gutta that you’re happy with.

Now you may have bought a tube of gutta. In which case, all you have to do is take off the cap and start to apply it to the silk . But in actual fact, you may well find that the hole is a bit big and the gutta comes out really fast and thick which makes it difficult to control. These tubes are intended for beginners who want to just get started on some very basic patterns without worrying about finer details.

What if you want thinner lines? Well, the solution is to buy bigger bottles of gutta, small plastic bottles to refill and a set of nozzles to apply to the plastic bottles. It can be a tricky business filling the little plastic bottles but once you know how, it becomes a piece of cake.

First of all you have to match the nozzle to the plastic bottle. And this is how you do it….

You have to get a sharp pair of scissors and cut the tip off the top of the bottle. Be really careful only to cut off a small piece to start with. Next, try to fit the metal nozzle on top of the plastic. If it is still too wide, cut off another small piece. Try on the nozzle again. Do this with a twisting motion until the nozzle hugs the plastic. If it is still not perfect, slice off yet another piece of the plastic and try the nozzle again.

It’s really important to make sure you don’t chop off too much at the start as you may find that the nozzle just falls off and then you have wasted your money! So do it bit by bit.

Okay, so now the nozzle fits. And why is it so important to make sure it fits snuggly? Because when you are applying the gutta, there may be moments when you press the plastic bottle a bit too hard. This is when any badly fitting nozzle is likely to come flying off leaving you with a big puddle of gutta on your silk. And that can be rather off-putting to say the least.

Now, I’ll be perfectly honest. Your nozzle can still come flying off even if it fits perfectly. I overcome this by checking the fit every few minutes. I gently press it into place, twisting it firmly onto the bottle. But yes, I have had a few crises which ended up with a gooey mess of gutta on my beautiful masterpiece. 🙂

Right, you’ve cut the top off the plastic bottle. Now we need to fill it with gutta. And this is how you do it. Press the plastic bottle until all the air goes out of it and then hold the nib down into the gutta. Let go of the bottle and you will hear the gutta being sucked up into the plastic bottle. Now take the plastic bottle and gently bang it on the table to let the gutta settle. Repeat this procedure a few times until the bottle is at least half to three quarters full of gutta. You don’t want it to be completely full as that increases the risk of everything bursting out onto your silk.

Now you’re reading to start applying the gutta to the silk. Okay, so you are holding your bottle with the fitted nozzle in your hand, giving gentle pressure. You’re making sure that you are keeping the nozzle in contact with the silk, much the same as if you were writing your name, but with a little less pressure. An important thing to note is that you are putting pressure on the bottle itself with your thumb and forefinger so that you have an even flow of gutta. You are not pressing on the silk itself. Just maintain very gentle contact.

There is a chance that the gutta can ‘bloop’ at this point. This is when an air bubble comes out and the gutta makes a mini explosion over your silk. It can make a bit of a mess of your artwork. But you know what? This happens to me at regular intervals, too. And what do I do about it? I just make a creative feature out of it.

What do I mean by creative feature? Well, just pretend that it was meant to be that way. Turn the bloop into something that makes your design look really cool. Repeat it a few more times. Really, there are no mistakes in silk painting. Have fun and get creative.

I remember a few years ago when I was holding a workshop in Glastonbury. One very lovely participant suddenly lost her nozzle in the midst of a very creative phase. So I came over to the rescue. We made a golden butterfly out of it and added a few more for good measure. You would never have been able to tell from the result. And she was very pleased with it.

Now there is something I want to mention about resist technique. When you are drawing your lines, you want to make really sure that they stop the dye from ‘escaping’, so to speak. Hold your frame up to the light and you will be able to see easily where the weaknesses are and where the dye might be able to flow through when you begin to paint. Make sure all areas are properly closed and touch up any lines that seem a bit thin. It will be worth it when you come to apply your dyes as they will remain intact and keep the dye within its boundaries.

Have fun, then. And do let me know if you have any further questions or need any guidance on anything relating to this.

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2 Responses to Resist Technique – How to Put Gutta on Silk Without it Flooding

  1. Fiona says:

    Dear Jan

    Thank you for your compliments on my artwork. It’s always lovely to hear appreciation. 🙂

    Regarding your silk threads. Basically I don’t use powder dyes due to the chemicals involved in the process. I paint with Dupion acid based dyes which are the healthiest option available to me whilst retaining lovely colour vibrancy.

    As to comparing dyes with colour charts on the computer, I would not recommend doing that. That’s fine for the world of pirnting but when you’re creating artwork you have to see the colours yourself.

    It sounded like Procion MX would do the trick. So if you are afraid of colour variations with different batches, why not make up very large batches which you can store in a dark space so there is no fading. That way you know that the threads all have colour consistency.

    I would be very interested in seeing some of your work. It sounds fascinating.

    I always let people know that each piece of art is individual and so there will always be slight colour variations which is also affected by the different silk qualities. When I paint in fuchsia on satin silk, it looks very different on pongee but then I am not creating replicas of anything, so that is irrelevant to my work.

    Perhaps when I have seen some of your work I can make some further suggestions. Please send some more details to

    Best wishes and thank you, Jan.

  2. Jan Slama says:

    Hi Fiona

    I greatly admire your talents and your gift to share. Thank you very much for both …

    My interests are slightly different than yours Fiona. Still, I would greatly appreciate your point of view …

    Although I am a biochemist in the real life … my love and pashion are colors and hand embroidery (not common hobbies for a 50-years old guy).

    I started hand embroidery in silk (I don’t use cotton), I’d quickly realized what a HUGE difference there is in the quality and color-fastness among various silks around the world.

    In fact for the type of art I do … there is only one (1) silk thread which fits the bill exactly (and I’d tried many).
    This perfect silk is Soie Surfine, made in France by Au Ver a Soie company.

    Alas, to get right colors in this line here in Canada
    is virtually impossible. The thread itself is just perfect … not too glossy, 130-wt and 2-ply.
    So, this is my background. Now why I write all of this to you?

    Well, I do hand embroidery called needle-painting. So, the perfect colors are critical. About a month ago I was saying to myself …, “Wouldn’t it be
    fantastic if I stock up on Soie Surfine thread(white only) and find the way how to dye it myself … in exact shades I need?”

    Since then, I’d studied everything I could put my hands on, about dyeing silk. Color theory is no problem. Because of my scientific background and my love for colors (I use to mix my own watercolor pigments for decades).

    However, dyeing silk floss would be a different story.

    I need absolute consistency (repeatability), “true” hue results (using cyan-yellow-magenta-black model) and perfectly color light-fast results.

    In your opinion … which dyes and dyeing method would bring the best results in dyeing silk thread to obtain results as described above???

    Of course Procion MX would be the most convenient dye, but I am scared by all those people claiming that colors in Procions always shift in silks.
    What would be great about Procion MX line, however, are the excellent primaries.

    I’d looked at Lanaset dyes. They seems to be good, but I was not able to pin down really good (CMYK) primaries in that line. I’d measure them with colorimeter. That, of course, is a fatal flaw as I will rely on computer models to help me to get the exact shades I need.
    So, perfect cyan-magenta-yellow-(black) primaries are the key here!

    Friend of mine gave me a set of primaries of
    Jacquard Silk Colors Red Label. These are really great primaries and blend colors beautifully.
    I did try these dyes on my favorite silk threads.
    Sad to say … I found them to be too weak … even in their most concentrated form (as compare to the poeder dyes). Too bad!

    Dear Fiona, can you please, very kindly, suggest what in your opinion would be the best way to succeed in coloring my own threads.

    Many thanks

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