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Batik Art Designs: Paintings, Fabric, Process and Techniques

Kashmira Lad
There are several theories based on the origin of batik. The batik art designs have found their way into the lives of many. Read on to know more about this extremely popular form of art.
Batik today is found not only in the form of paintings, but the patterns are also used on garments as well. From the walls of the living room, traditional batik has reached the urban markets as supermodels all around the world sashay in sarongs or kaftans made from the unique batik technique.
Unfortunately, a lot of fabrics have cropped up which only resemble batik but are not actually made employing the traditional techniques. Batik and tie and dye can also go hand in hand to create beautiful works of art.
This may not always be possible if you employ the old methods and techniques. Let us take a look at the old and new techniques of Batik and know how this form has added so much color into our lives.

History of Batik

Batik and tie and dye are the most popular and attractive forms of art. Individuals have shown a major inclination towards this art right from the olden days. Batik has carved a niche for itself in the field of arts and crafts. One can easily recognize a batik item as it has established its own identity.
☛ Batik has its origins in Indonesia. This word is derived from the Javanese word 'amba' (to write) and 'titik'(for dot or point). This ancient art originated more precisely in the famous island of Java. The Europeans were the first and foremost to learn this art.
☛ They took it on from here and introduced it in their own countries. The Persians and Egyptians have also been known to use colorful materials made from batik later on. The batik process and technique gained prominence when it gradually spread to the other countries.
☛ This process has been used to create various designs and patterns on dress materials, home furnishings, etc., not only in Indonesia but all around the world. This art has thus played an important part in creating designer garments and decorative items for your homes. 
As a result, over the years, the popularity of batik and tie and dye has increased in an unprecedented manner.

☛ Countries like Japan, India, China, and Africa have used their own style and interpretations of this art. This resulted in batik being known as a decorative form of art. A lot of experiments have been carried out till date in this regard.
☛ The Indians first realized the importance of this art form once they visited Indonesia. The development of batik and tie and dye reached its peak in Rajasthan wherein the women made items, like dress materials (bandhani's), bed sheets, wall hangings, etc. Of late though, batik is also recognized more as a handicraft.
☛ Initially, batik and tie and dye were popular only as a hobby, but in recent times, it has gained the status of an independent profession. A lot of people have turned it into a lucrative business. Although it is a very old art form, batik has gained impetus only over the last few years.
A number of colleges and educational institutes are also offering courses in this regard.
☛ Artists are using these techniques to translate their own ideas not only into patterns designed for useful materials, but also as an art form to produce two-dimensional decorative wall hangings and paintings. It is also a craft that is well within the capabilities of the non-specialists.

Old Batik Techniques and Processes

✔ Batik constitutes the process wherein a line or patch is drawn with wax on the cloth. This is done so that the surface is protected from the color. When it is dipped in the dye, the color does not penetrate the area that has been waxed.
✔ The wax resists the color, therefore, the surface is divided into dyed and undyed areas. This is what makes the pattern. Similarly, in a tie-and-dye process, the pattern is achieved, as the dye does not penetrate the tied areas of the cloth. Here, you substitute the wax with a string to tie the cloth.
✔ The wax resists the color, therefore, the surface is divided into dyed and undyed areas. This is what makes the pattern. Similarly, in a tie-and-dye process, the pattern is achieved, as the dye does not penetrate the tied areas of the cloth. Here, you substitute the wax with a string to tie the cloth.
✔ Sometimes, tools like the tjanting (container with a long, slender spout) or even a simple brush can be used to apply the wax. The colors or dyes used have to be prepared only in containers made of enamel, steel, or plastic. (The properties of the material of the container can affect the dye).
✔ After waxing, the material is dipped in a dye bath. The first color is the lightest tone to be used. The old process of batik does not allow the artist to apply many colors in one go. However, the modern techniques have advanced and have made it easy for the artist, wherein one can use the brush to apply many colors in one go!
✔ Next, the cloth is again covered with wax on areas that have to retain the first color. This process continues till the darkest shade is achieved. Always maintain the color scale as the old process involves many steps to obtain a particular shade.
✔ After the last dyeing, the material is dried and placed between two layers of absorbent papers. The wax needs to be ironed out of the material into the paper. This would reveal the pattern or picture that has been permanently dyed into the cloth.
✔ In batik, whether you employ the old or even the new process, the end result is always an exciting moment, as one can never be sure of the perfect separation of colors. The characteristic of the batik process is the cracks in the design due to the wax.
✔ The wax being brittle, cracks and the dye penetrates the waxed area. This results in the beautiful spider web design wherever the wax has been applied. The batik fabric being used should generally be a pure form of fabric, like pure cotton or silk. Any blend in the material can interfere with the way the colors look after washing.

Dyes Used for Batik

• Indigo dyes
• Procion dyes
• Naphthol salt dyes
• Acid dyes
• Instant batik dyes

Instant Batik Process

The instant process saves the artist the tedious process of waxing the cloth and coloring it numerous times to achieve an amalgamation of various hues. This process involves the use of dyes and fixers that makes the execution of any batik painting fairly simple for the user. With this method, the user can dye the painting or paint it and apply 'fixers'.
The materials being available only in India, batik got a unique look although it still adhered to a few rules from the traditional form of batik. Once you block the certain areas with wax, all you need to do is pick up your brush and the colors you require and simply let your creativity flow.
This would reduce the time spent in endless dyeing of the cloth and repeated waxing as mentioned earlier in the olden methods of batik techniques. Once done, use the fixers over it and keep it overnight. The following morning, you shall have your masterpiece ready after the cloth is dewaxed.

Instant Tie and Paint Process

Batik and tie and dye processes are known for the use of bold, loud colors. The age-old form of tie and dye does not allow the application of many colors at a stretch. The fabric needs to be tied and colored, washed, untied, and dipped in color again for more than two colors.
The instant tie and paint process gives you the freedom to tie the fabric, pick up the brush, and paint the various sections as per your desire. Once the fixer is applied, it needs to be left overnight and washed the next day. Untie the fabric to see the magic unfold!

Create Your Own Batik Designs (on paper)

Here are a few tips to try your own batik creation on paper. Avoid a pre-planned design to initially experience the freedom offered by this medium.
You will need:

  • A candle
  • Cartridge paper (drawing paper)
  • Black ink
  • Paint brush
Method 1
  • Use the unlit candle to draw on the paper (this is the most convenient and easiest way to obtain wax).
  • Press firmly to make sure the grease has transferred on to the paper.
  • Cover the paper with a wash of ink. Paint the ink into the edges of the paper.
Method 2
  • Light the candle and let the hot wax drip on the paper.
  • The pattern created would be very irregular and spotty.
  • Wash the ink over it.
Method 3
  • Hold the lighted candle close to the paper.
  • Use the candle like a pencil to draw your pattern (start with a basic flower or star).
  • The flame should not extinguish.
  • Float the ink wash over the surface and see your design take a new form.

Batik on Garments

Batik sarongs, tops, scarves, bandannas, dress, and wrap-around pants are hugely popular amongst people, not only as beach wear but also as casual evening wear. The colorful fabric looks great when accessorized with long-beaded necklaces, huge earrings, and anklets.
Prominent designers have incorporated even paintings to adorn the dresses for a contemporary look. In fact, the garment is treated no longer as a piece of fabric, it is equivalent to any work of a great artist!
It is only as you experiment and note down your ideas that you will grow as an artist in this medium. The key to a good work of art in batik is patience. This is the only way you can improve your technique. The sense of design varies from person to person. It may be instilled in some, whereas a few may need to develop it. It is only patience and an urge to break the creative boundaries that would enable one to enjoy this exciting, magical, and spontaneous medium.