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Batik – the elaborate process

-The creation of batik is a three-stage process of waxing, dyeing and de-waxing (removing the wax).

-There are also several sub-processes like preparing the cloth, tracing the designs, stretching the cloth on to the frame, waxing the area of the cloth that does not need dyeing, preparing the dye, dipping the cloth into the dye, boiling the cloth to remove the wax and washing the cloth with soap.

-In very true batik, wax is painstakingly applied to the cloth to resist successive dyes so that wherever the cloth is waxed, dyes cannot penetrate. For example, if the desired design is a red flower on a blue background, wax is first applied to the area that will become the flower.

-The white cloth is then immersed in blue dye and dried. After dyeing, the wax, which covered the flower pattern, is scraped off the cloth. Because the wax resisted the blue dye, there is now a white flower on a blue background.

-To make the flower red, the blue background is covered with wax and the entire cloth is immersed in red dye. When the wax is scraped off the cloth for a second time, a red flower emerges on a blue background.

-This process is repeated over and over again as more colors are used. The finest batik is reversible; motifs are drawn, waxed and dyed first on one and then the other side of the fabric.

-The characteristic effects of batik are the fine cracks that appear in the wax, which allow small amounts of the dye to seep in. It is a feature not possible in any other form of printing. It is very important to achieve the right type of cracks or hairline details for which the cloth must be crumpled correctly. This requires a lot of practice and patience.


-Knowing how to use the wax is of prime importance. The ideal mixture for batik wax is 30 per cent beeswax and 70 per cent paraffin wax (but these days mostly paraffin wax is used as it is easily available and less costly). It is the skillful cracking that is important. While applying, the wax should not be overheated or it will catch fire. Correct knowledge of colors is also important. Practicing on small pieces of cloth helps in the beginning.

-The cloth used should be strong enough to bear the heat and wax. Cambric, poplin and voiles are used besides pure silk. Synthetic fabrics are avoided. Along with handmade batik, blocks are also used for wax printing. Blocks are usually made of wood or metal and often used during the printing process.