There are two schools of art that developed Kalamkari initially in India and from individual origins. Both are distinctive styles of kalamkari art in India - the Srikalahasti style and the Machilipatnam style. The Srikalahasti style of kalamkari, wherein the "kalam" or pen is used for free hand drawing of the subject and filling in the colors, is entirely hand worked. This style flowered around temples and their patronage and so had an almost religious identity - scrolls, temple hangings, chariot banners and the like, depicted deities and scenes taken from the Hindu epics - Ramayana, Mahabarata, Puranas and the mythological classics. Only natural dyes are used in kalamkari and it involves seventeen steps.
Srikalahasti style that used the pen for drawing and filling in the colours, and with a strong influence of Hindu culture that specifically focused on religious subjects and scenes from the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata in its paintings.
The Machilipatnam style that came with an Islamic slant, had subjects of paintings mostly depicting flora and fauna, with floral designs as a backdrop on the fabric.
Both styles that have popularised Kalamkari have one thing in common – the depictions are fine and neatly drawn, there is extensive use of organic colours which are fast, there is no dilution in the skill and quality over the years. Today’s Kalamkari has both these styles merged into one with different facets within the art.