A recent request for coloured silk flowers that had a metallic shine proved an interesting challenge. The designer wanted the colours to shine under lights.
Initial experiments using spray chrome paint as a base under transparent glass paint were a failure. The initial bright metallic silver finish from the spray chrome was instantly killed to a dull grey when anything was painted over it’s surface. The resultant colour was dead and leaden.
Dismantling the silk flowers and applying silver leaf to the petals solved the problem. Being a real metallic finish its lustre was not affected by the solvents in the applied colours which resulted in a brilliant finish. The steps involved in the process are as follows;
Dismantle the silk flowers and seal the petals with PVA glue. This prevents the size being absorbed into the fabric making poor adhesion of the silver leaf.
Dismantling silk flowers
Seal petal fabric with PVA
After the PVA has dried apply German size to the petals. You could use gold size but it can get a bit messy. After it is touch dry apply the silver leaf to the petals. I grouped several petals in a group so a single sheet of silver leaf could be applied over all the petals.
Applying the size
Application of silver leaf
After pressing the leaf firmly onto the petals with a soft cloth remove the excess leaf. This can get messy as the leaf is so light it blows everywhere. A solution I found was to place a metal gauze over the petals and use a vacuum cleaner to suck up the excess silver leaf. After this each leaf can be wiped of excess using a soft cloth.
Vacuuming excess silver leaf
Removing excess leaf by hand
Because I was using a fushia coloured petal I had to repeat the process on the reverse side of the petals. If you use white petals you could omit this step. Now that the petals are silvered they can be reassembled again ready for painting.
Finished silver leafed petal
Reassembled silk flowers
The petals are now painted with transparent paint. The best two to use are Rosco’s Colorine range (have a fantastic mauve and red!) and the Decorfin range (turquoise to die for!). You will need two coats to get nice colour saturation. Use only thin coats because thicker applications just drip and pool where you don’t want it to.
First coat of colour
When the paint is completely dry trim the edges of each petal to remove any frayed edges of the silk. The flowers seemed to glow under lights because of the silver backing on the petals. The combination of silver leaf and transparent paints is a great way to achieve highlights of colour.