Art of Batik

Origin And Overview

Batik is the art of decorating fabrics using wax and dye using a resist process. The psychedelic shades, patterns, and the smell of these fabrics is an absolute delight to the senses. It is one of the most highly evolved art forms that is truly unique to Indonesia. But every time this ancient technique came into contact with foreign traders during colonization, it only developed to appeal to these cultures. The word Batik is said to have been derived from the words ‘amba’, meaning cloth, and, ‘batik’, meaning little dot. A darling of the textile realm, it is one of the few handmade materials in a world filled with machine-made ones. It is widely used in dresses, home decor, and furnishings.


The two main types of Batik are,

Hand Drawn: In this type, the outlines are hand-drawn with hot liquid wax using tjanting needles. Fabrics with very intricate details and multiple shades or hues are produced using this Batik technique.

Block Printed: A copper block or wooden stamp replaces the tjanting needles in this type of batik, to apply wax on the cloth. Similar patterns or motifs are repeated on a given fabric with this technique.

The hand-drawn batik is time-consuming and expensive compared to its block printed counterpart. Hence block printed batiks are preferred for mass production needs and the hand-drawn ones for exclusive pieces.

Material Needed

A piece of cloth, fabric dye, wax, dye tub, tjanting needles and/or copper blocks and/or wooden stamp, pot or pan to melt wax, large paintbrush to apply wax, pencil, latex free rubber gloves, newspapers, and clothes iron. Vibrant and intense colors bring out the best of this art.


There are 4 parts to this process namely drawing, waxing, dying, and finishing. It is important to have 4 separate spaces, one for each of these parts, to avoid any mess. Cotton or muslin cloth is picked out and designs are sketched directly on it using a pencil. Tjanting needles are used to draw with hot wax on the cloth over the pencil lines. The size of the needles varies depending upon the details. The wax will resist any dye from penetrating the fabric. After this first layer of wax is complete, the cloth is placed in a dye tub. Once the dye is dry, the second layer of wax is applied over the entire dyed piece of cloth with a thick brush. This is done to seal the entire piece. Upon drying, selected areas are cracked to allow further layers of dye to penetrate.

The fabric is placed again in the dye tub to color the cracked areas. The steps of waxing and dying are repeated until desired colors and motifs of desire are achieved. Finally, the piece of cloth is placed between two sheets of newspaper and ironed. Numerous repeats of iron are required to remove all the wax completely. The piece is a finished batik novelty once all the wax is removed. Replacing the tjanting needles with the copper blocks or stamps will let one create block printed Batik materials. It takes a lot of work but nonetheless is a unique and enjoyable experience.

Getting Started

Starting with a small cotton cloth and some easy motifs will be the most ideal way to familiarise oneself with the process. Create your first piece of this aesthetic marvel and reward yourself with a new wardrobe piece or a home decoration item.