Sunday, August 21, 2011

Silk painting and color theory: blending complementary colors

I'm back to dyeing silk scarves again. I was asked to recreate the color scheme of one of the rectangular scarves, but in a 30" x 30" square instead. It will be a head scarf. I said yes...and then realized that I didn't remember how I got that exact scheme. However, I think I got pretty close here, don't you? It has a little more of the pink/purple than the original. The colors are all there--just in slightly different proportions.

While I was doing the square scarves (I made a half dozen of them, just to offer some variety of choice) I decided to play with color theory. I know from a class I took some years ago that colors that are across the color wheel from each other are called complementary colors. That would be red/green, blue/orange, and yellow/purple. If you mix complementary colors, you can get some awesome earthy tones.

So, I decided to play. I chose 4 colors of purple, and 3 colors of yellow dye. I put 4 eyedroppers of the yellows on my palette. (I used the canary yellow twice.)

Then I added a half an eyedropper of purple to the yellows.

The left two colors mixed into beautiful browns and oranges.

The right two however were a little more pink than I wanted.

So I added a eyedropper of saffron yellow to those two mixtures.

I painted the whole scarf with squiggles of color, then added salt in swirls and scatters.

Then I sat back, and watched the paint dry. When that got old, I went and got dinner, and came back later to see what I had. The salt pulled the dye into intricate patterns, and the dye lightened into a beautiful warm, rich scarf.

I have all 6 head scarves dyed, as well as one short rectangular scarf that is a test of coloration for another commission. That last one is currently drying on the stretcher frame. Next up, the scarves need to set for at least 24 hours. After the wait time, I can steam the scarves to set the color. After another 24 hour wait I can wash them and iron them dry, and they'll be good to go.

And yes, I took better notes this time.


  1. What an amazing work! I'm awful at mixing colours. This one is great!


  2. That is a lot of work, but so worth it!

    Stopping by from Blogging Buddies


  3. Risky mixing complementary colors (can easily get muddy)but as long as you control it carefully as you did here it just makes for more subtle colors. Nice to have such a big assortment of silk dies- I may do one of these days, but would not currently have any space- and my rack is home-made PVC pipe-currently living behind the big TV.

  4. I have always loved the look of painted silk - I really enjoyed seeing/ reading how it is done.

  5. Beautiful! I love seeing what the salt does to the paint!