Silk is a protein fiber. The products used to paint on silk must be formulated for use on silk or on protein fibers. These can be either paints or dyes.
Silk paints, as the name suggests, spread as well as bind to the surface of the silk fibers. Paints are convenient because the colors can be set by ironing. The paints slightly affect the feel (hand) of the silk. Because of this change in ‘hand’, paints are more often used to produce paintings than wearable art.
Silk Dyes are liquids with the consistency of water. They are usually applied to the silks with a brush using methods similar to watercolor painting. Artists are attracted to painting with dyes because of the vibrancy of the colors and the fact that the dyes do not change the hand of the silk. The colors must be set by steaming the silk when the work is finished.