Batik – the Basic process

Batik is a process using ‘resists’ for making designs on a fabric. The conventional Batik process has a resist or a physical block in some form or the other to prevent desired areas on the fabric from being penetrated by dye. Generally wax is used as a resist in Batik. The block printed areas where resists are in place, come out as un-dyed areas in the dyed fabric and could be coloured differently in repeat wax dye process. This can be repeated several times at the same place or different places with wax-dye process time and again for every subsequent colour change.

Batik can be done with various types of dye & wax on cotton, silk and other natural fabrics. Cotton is easy to work with and generally gives best results. Repeated waxing and dyeing over the same place gets newer overlapping results. The idea in multi-layer colouring is to start with lighter shades of the dye and proceed to deeper ones. Here care is taken that wax resist is neither light nor heavy since lighter would mean possible penetration of dye onto resist area and heavy would mean the wax will not resist properly and could cause patches or dye spreads when removed.

Batik can be done very easily with various types of dyes & wax on cotton, silk and other natural fabrics like jute and blends.

Batik – the traditional process

Melted wax is applied to cloth before being dipped in dye. It is common for people to use a mixture of beeswax and paraffin wax. The beeswax will hold to the fabric and the paraffin wax will allow cracking, which is a characteristic of batik. Wherever the wax has seeped through the fabric, the dye will not penetrate. Sometimes several colours are used, with a series of dyeing, drying and waxing steps.

Thin wax lines are made with a tjanting, a wooden handled tool with a tiny metal cup with a tiny spout, out of which the wax seeps. After the last dyeing, the fabric is hung up to dry. Then it is dipped in a solvent to dissolve the wax, or ironed between paper towels or newspapers to absorb the wax and reveal the deep rich colors and the fine crinkle lines that give batik its character. This traditional method of batik making is called batik tulis.

The Batik process in brief:

Step 1: Cotton fabric is bleached (with bleaching powder and water) and kept overnight for whiteness. This process is done by machine or manually.

Step 2: Wax printing is done either with the hand, using a brush or with the blocks (paraffin wax is melted and kept on the stove right next to the printer).

The table on which printing is done is kept cool with sand and water so that the wax does not spread and the design stays consistent throughout.

Step 3: After the initial printing, the fabric is dipped in a color fixer.

Step 4: The fabric is then dipped in napthol dye (say red) for 10-15 minutes.

Step 5: If only a single color is required, then after this the cloth can be dipped in hot water so that the wax comes off and one gets the required pattern and color.

Step 6: If any white spots are left and one doesn’t want that, then the fabric could be dipped once more in any direct dye (say yellow). This process is called ‘topping’.

Step 7: If one wants more patterns and colors, reprinting could be done with wax and the whole process is repeated again.