Batik Printing: An Overview, Dyeing Method, Its History and Application

Batik Fabric

In this article, we have covered the batik printing method, its history, and its application in the present fashion and clothing. Further, this article defined batik, batik printing, and batik fabric.

Content list
  • What is Batik?
  • Batik Printing and Dyeing Method
  • History of Batik Printing and Dyeing
  • Application of batik design in today’s fashion and clothing

1. What is Batik?

Batik is a traditional Indonesian fabric that is created through a process of dyeing and wax-resist techniques. The term "batik" is derived from the Javanese word "ambatik," which means "wax writing."

The process of making batik involves applying hot wax onto a piece of fabric in intricate patterns, using a tool called a canting or a brush. The wax acts as a resistance to the dye, preventing it from penetrating certain areas of the fabric. The fabric is then dyed, and the areas covered in wax retain their original color. This process can be repeated multiple times, with different colors and patterns applied to each layer of wax and dye.

Batik can be used to create a wide variety of designs, from simple geometric patterns to more intricate scenes from nature or mythology. The traditional colors used in batik are brown, blue, and white, although modern batik fabrics may use a wider range of colors.

Batik is widely used in Indonesia for clothing, home decor, and traditional ceremonies. It has also become popular around the world and is often used in fashion and interior design.

 The process involves applying wax onto the fabric in specific patterns before dyeing it. The areas that are covered in wax resist the dye and remain the original color of the fabric, while the exposed areas take on the color of the dye.

2. Batik Printing and Dyeing Method

Here is a general overview of the dyeing method of batik.

Choose your fabric

When choosing fabric for batik dyeing, it's important to consider the absorbency, weave, and weight of the fabric. The most common fabrics used for batik dyeing are cotton, silk, and rayon. Cotton is a popular choice because it is absorbent, easy to work with, and takes dye well.

Pima, muslin, and combed cotton are all good choices. Cotton-polyester blends can also be used, but they will not absorb dye as well as pure cotton. Silk is another popular choice because it has a beautiful sheen and takes dye well. However, it can be more challenging to work with because it is slippery and requires more care when handling.

Rayon is a man-made fabric that is often used for batik because it has a similar drape and texture to silk, but it is less expensive. However, it is not as durable as cotton or silk, and it may not hold up as well over time. When selecting fabric for batik, it's important to choose a tightly woven fabric with a smooth surface. Avoid fabrics with a loose weave or a fuzzy surface, as they will be more difficult to work with and may not take the dye evenly. Additionally, heavier-weight fabrics will be more durable and hold up better over time than lightweight fabrics.

Prepare the fabric

The fabric to be dyed is first washed to remove any impurities and then soaked in a solution of water and alum to improve the adherence of the wax.

Choose your wax

Wax is a critical component of the batik process, used to create areas of the fabric that resist dye. Beeswax, paraffin wax, or a blend of the two can be used. Beeswax is traditional and gives a slightly yellow tint to the fabric, while paraffin wax is less expensive and easier to find.

Create your design

Draw your design on paper or directly onto the fabric with a pencil. Think about the size and scale of your design and how it will look when repeated across the fabric.

Apply the wax

The wax is applied to the fabric using a tool called a tjanting, which is a small spouted copper container with a wooden handle. The tjanting is filled with melted wax, which is then used to draw intricate patterns on the fabric. Other tools such as stamps, brushes, and stencils can also be used to apply wax.

Dye the fabric

Prepare your dye according to the manufacturer's instructions and dip your fabric into the dye bath. Depending on the dye and the desired color, you may need to dip the fabric several times to achieve the desired hue. The specific chemicals required for dyeing batik will depend on the type of dye being used, the fabric is dyed, and the specific techniques being employed. However, some common chemicals and materials used in the batik dyeing process include:
  • Dye - Various types of dye can be used for batik, including natural dyes made from plants, as well as synthetic dyes such as Procion MX, a fiber-reactive dye that works well on cotton.
  • Soda ash - A common additive used with Procion MX dyes, soda ash helps to fix the dye to the fabric.
  • Urea - Urea is often added to dye mixtures to help the dye penetrate the fabric more evenly and deeply.
  • Thiox - Thiox is a reducing agent that can be used to remove the color from fabric, creating a lighter area that can be overdyed with a different color.
  • Salt - When using natural dyes, salt can be added to the dye bath to help the dye adhere to the fabric.
  • Vinegar - Similarly, vinegar can be added to natural dye baths to help set the color.
  • Mordants - Some natural dyes require the use of a mordant to help the dye adhere to the fabric. Common mordants include alum, iron, and tannic acid.

It is important to note that the batik dyeing process can involve several steps, and the specific chemicals used may vary depending on the desired outcome. It is also important to follow safety guidelines when working with chemicals, such as wearing gloves, goggles, and a respirator, and working in a well-ventilated area.

Remove the wax

Once the fabric has been dyed, you need to remove the wax to reveal the design. Place the fabric between two sheets of paper and iron on low heat to melt the wax. As the wax melts, the paper will absorb it, revealing the design.

Finishing touches

Once the wax is removed, rinse the fabric in cold water to remove any excess dye. Hang the fabric to dry and then iron it to set the color.

The process of batik printing can be repeated several times with different colors and designs to create a more intricate pattern. It is a time-consuming and labor-intensive process, but the results are beautiful and unique fabrics that are highly valued in Indonesian culture and beyond.[1]

Get more ideas on batik printing instructions.

3. History of Batik Printing and Dyeing

The batik printing technique has been used in Indonesia for at least a thousand years. It was traditionally used to create textiles for ceremonial and religious purposes and was considered a symbol of status and wealth. The intricate patterns and designs were passed down through generations and were closely guarded secrets, with each family developing their unique style.

From 5,000 BC to the 5th century

Samples of batik clothing can be found in some parts of India and Egypt, where the material was traded. Interestingly, a wax indigo cloth from around 5000 BC that demonstrated the use of wax in textile manufacturing at that time was discovered by archaeologists in the tomb of Pharaoh as evidence of this.

The Toraja Regency on Sulawesi Island is where archaeologists discovered the earliest batik textile, dating to the fifth century.

From 5th to 8th century

During this time, some Asian nations, including China and Japan, adopted and used the wax-resist dyeing method.

Chinese artisans relied heavily on the batik methods as a source of income during the Han (220–206 BC) and Sui Dynasties (AD 581-618). Chinese ethnic minorities like the Miao, Bouyei, and Gejia, who are located in the Guizhou province, continue to use traditional batik techniques to create their fabrics today.

Ancient Japanese textile artisans from the Nara Period (710–784) and the Heian Period made widespread use of batik (794-1185).

From 9th to 15th century

During this time, traders from Gujarat, India, and the Arab world exchanged a lot of textiles with Indonesian royals. According to rumors, batik clothing was also traded.

From 16th to 19th century

In terms of its philosophy and themes, batik underwent numerous changes during this period with the emergence of the Islamic kingdoms. Some ideas with Hindu or Buddhist roots were translated into Arabic while preserving the fundamental theme. This served to align the art with the prevalent social hierarchies, Islamic beliefs, and societal customs of the time.

Batik printing became more widely known outside of Indonesia during the 19th century when Dutch traders brought batik fabrics back to Europe. The intricate designs and vibrant colors of the fabrics were greatly admired, and batik printing became popular in Europe and the United States.

20th century onwards

During the 20th century, batik production declined in Indonesia due to competition from cheaper, mass-produced textiles. However, the Indonesian government recognized the importance of preserving this traditional art form and established batik schools to train new generations of batik artisans.

Today, batik printing is recognized as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage, and is still an important part of Indonesian culture. Batik fabrics are used for a wide range of purposes, from clothing and home decor to contemporary art and fashion design.[2]

4. Application of batik design in today’s fashion and clothing

Batik printing is a traditional textile printing method that originated in Indonesia, which involves applying wax onto fabric to create a resist pattern, and then dyeing the fabric to create a colorful design. Batik printing has been used for centuries to create unique and beautiful textiles, and today, it continues to be a popular method in the fashion industry.

One of the main applications of batik printing in present fashion is in creating unique and vibrant prints for clothing and accessories. Designers and fashion houses around the world use batik printing to create one-of-a-kind fabrics that can be used in a variety of ways, from statement dresses to vibrant scarves and accessories.

In addition to its aesthetic appeal, batik printing is also a sustainable and eco-friendly printing method. It typically uses natural dyes and materials, such as cotton, which makes it an attractive option for environmentally conscious consumers. Many fashion brands are incorporating batik prints into their collections as part of broader sustainability and ethical fashion initiatives.

Moreover, batik printing is often used as a way to preserve cultural heritage and promote traditional craftsmanship. In Indonesia, where batik printing originated, there are many artisans and communities that specialize in the technique. By incorporating batik prints into modern fashion, designers, and brands can help to support and preserve this traditional craft.

Batik, a traditional Indonesian textile art form, has gained popularity in the modern fashion industry as a versatile fabric with a unique aesthetic. Here are some uses of batik in modern fashion:

Clothing: Batik fabrics are commonly used to create a range of clothing items, from dresses and skirts to shirts and jackets. Designers use traditional batik patterns and motifs to create unique pieces that are both fashionable and culturally significant.

Accessories: Batik fabrics can also be used to create a variety of accessories, such as scarves, bags, and hats. These items add a pop of color and pattern to any outfit and can be a great way to incorporate batik into your wardrobe without committing to a full clothing piece.

Home decor: Batik fabrics can be used to create home decor items, such as curtains, pillow covers, and tablecloths. These items add a touch of cultural flair to any room and can help create a cohesive design scheme.

Upholstery: Batik fabrics can also be used for upholstery, adding a unique and colorful touch to furniture pieces such as chairs, sofas, and ottomans.

Mixed media: Batik fabrics can be combined with other materials, such as leather or denim, to create mixed-media fashion pieces. This combination of textures and materials can create a one-of-a-kind look.

Modernizing Traditional Designs: Designers are also incorporating batik patterns into modern fashion designs, creating a fusion of traditional and modern fashion. This approach helps to preserve the cultural heritage of batik while also making it relevant to modern fashion trends.

Sustainable Fashion: Batik is often made using natural materials and traditional techniques, making it a sustainable option in the fashion industry. As the fashion industry continues to prioritize sustainability, batik is becoming an increasingly popular choice for eco-conscious designers and consumers.

Overall, the use of batik in modern fashion has helped to preserve and celebrate this traditional art form while also incorporating it into contemporary design.


In conclusion, batik printing continues to be a relevant and popular printing method in present fashion due to its unique aesthetic appeal, eco-friendliness, and cultural significance. As consumers continue to prioritize sustainability and seek out unique, handmade pieces, batik printing will likely continue to be an important part of the fashion industry for years to come.



About the Author:Mouli Mondal is a college student at the Government College of Engineering & Textile Technology, Serampore. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Textile Technology. She has a strong interest in textiles and is eager to continue learning and growing in the textile field. In her free time, she loves writing articles.

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