Gutta & Other Resists

Customer Service & Information Page

The subject of resists can be confusing. What's gutta? What's a resist? Can this brand of resist be used with that brand of dye? What sound does gutta make when it's alone at night in its bottle?  What we know for sure is: 1) A resist is anything that prevents dye from reaching the fabric; it resists the dye B) All guttas are resists but not all resists are gutta.

Solvent based Gutta is a thick substance that is made from latex (supposedly derived from Indonesian rubber trees or Gutta Percha). It is used almost exclusively for the French Serti Technique of painting on silk. Gutta comes in clear, black, gold metallic, silver metallic and several colors.
It has a rubbery feel to it in contrast to the smooth drape of silk. For clothing, like scarves, the gutta should be removed when the scarf is finished. For a wall hanging, it doesn't matter. When a project is done and you want to remove the gutta from the fabric, you can only do so by dry cleaning. Gutta is thinned (carefully!) and cleaned up with Gutta solvent.

The black, gold & silver guttas are used when a non-white defining line is desired. Colored guttas are meant to leave on the silk which will leave some "hand" or "feel" on the silk. They cannot be dry cleaned or the color in the gutta will be removed along with the gutta! If you want the color to remain on an item that must be drycleaned, try a water based resist.

Gutta also comes in metallic gold and silver. Gold and silver gutta should not be dry cleaned! Dry cleaning will remove the gold and silver color right along with the gutta. The metal is held onto the fabric by the gutta. Use them when the gutta can remain on the fabric. The metallics are bright and beautiful, but can flake off over time particularly through a lot of wear.

For some people dry cleaning to remove the resist is not convenient, or the fumes bother them or they can't get it shipped to them because they live outside the 48 states. Gutta-like water-based resists are water soluble and come out with warm water (you have to work a little to get it out; if it was too easy to remove it wouldn't work as a resist). They are also fume free. These resists work similar to gutta and can also be colored with dyes. Some can be steamed, while others get too gummy. Some brands can be difficult to remove after steam-setting dyes, but the manufacturers of the current water based resists that we sell have said this problem is now fixed through reformulating. Some artists feel that clear water-based resists do not hold the line as well as gutta. It's true that with water-based resists, care must be taken to avoid flooding the line with paint which would begin to dissolve the resist line. Water-based resists work great with the iron-set silk paints (Dye-na-Flow and SetaSilk). They rinse out nicely when not steamed, do not have fumes, can ship by air, and in most cases are lower-priced than guttas.

The big plus with these metallic resists is that once they are fixed (through long tern air curing or ironing) they can be dry cleaned and the color will not come out. As mentioned earlier, solvent-based guttas can not be dry cleaned because the gold and silver will come out with the gutta. The downside here is that the metallic resists can be felt on the fabric just like a metallic solvent based gutta. In both cases, the material which holds the glittery substance is never removed and therefore it will be felt on the fabric.

Wax is primarily used for batik and batik variations. Wax is melted and applied hot to the fabric with a brush or a tool called a tjanting. When the fabric is submerged in the dye bath no color reaches the areas that are covered with wax. Thus the colors and design can be controlled by a succession of waxing and dyeing.

  • Beeswax by itself will produce a solid resist (no dye will get through). It is generally mixed with paraffin to produce that distinctive "crackle" effect characteristic of batik. That is because paraffin is more brittle and when it dries it cracks to make branch-like crevices through which dye seeps.
  • Paraffin by itself is too brittle to use because it cracks and falls right off the fabric.
  • Sticky Wax is a low cost synthetic substitute for beeswax. Does the same thing as beeswax at less than half the cost. Why use beeswax? Some people say it works better. It's up to you.


Of all the products Dharma carries, guttas and resists are probably the most technically difficult to use successfully.

When you choose to try the art of silk painting you must be aware that applying gutta or resist successfully takes practice and experimentation with different products to learn which one will work best for you. This is an art form, and one should not expect to have perfect results without practice. In addition, as one changes fabric or dye or project, changes in the way the resist will act may occur.

Painting on the dyes or paints and steam-fixing or heat-setting are the simplest part of the process. The real difficulty lies in the application of the gutta/resist.  So much of your success depends on your particular circumstances. Your choice of silk make a big difference; the weight and weave will determine how easily the resist penetrates the fabric. The dexterity of application (steady hands, even pressure on applicator bottle, the width of your line, no breaks in the line or no bubbles in gutta/resist that could cause a leak in the line are very important. The consistency of the resist matters too; is it too thick/thin? Too thick it won't penetrate (if so, thin very carefully with gutta solvent OR with water for water-based resist--a drop at a time!). Weather conditions where you paint (dry or humid) will affect how fast or slow the gutta/resist flows and dries.

Steam-setting, using a fixative or heat-setting may be required of the Gutta or resist product you choose and how the dye or paint is fixed may affect the gutta. Test your methods to find out the effects on wash-ability and texture. These are some of the issues you might encounter when using them: guttas may be sticky-- dry clean them, the metallic guttas may peel off if not applied correctly and when heavily applied they should not be handled, folded or twisted; water-based resists may be difficult to wash out after extended steaming--try to rub it off with your hands while washing but it may not come out. Water based resists don't "hold" as well as true guttas, but don't involve the fumes and dry cleaning, or shipping hassles because of flammability. You need to learn what they can and cannot do and design your artwork and choose your materials accordingly.

This means that guttas and resists are products you must learn to work with, to understand their inherent difficulties, to accommodate yourself to their limitations, and to ultimately choose or not, to deal with them. They are what they are.

Which brings us to this: if you are having trouble with your gutta or resist it does not mean that it is bad, old or no good. All the resists we sell have been in use by artists for years and are considered the best choice by those who continue to buy that particular brand. We suggest you buy gutta and resists in small experimental quantities until you find the ones that work for you in your particular circumstance. Take classes, buy books, talk to other silk painters. Silk painting has a learning curve!

The bottom line is we can't accept returns of guttas and resists because "it did not work". Nor can we accept responsibility for your choice of materials - while we always try to be helpful, we can't teach silk painting over the telephone nor can we guarantee success in your particular circumstance.

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