How to Batik for Beginners

How to Batik: Exploring the sense and creativity

Obviously, there is no way one can tell whether others have some "batik sense" and creativity within or not, if you wish to learn how to batik then all you need to do is just explore any possibilities and enjoy the fun while you are learning it. Any new sketch of batik drawn on fabric or wooden material will lead one to new excitement of producing his/her own batiks. However, before you learn how to create batiks whether on fabric or any other materials using various batik supplies available in the market, let us know about batik little bit further. This way you can have a glimpse of light on how to batik as the activity also can be done at home with your spouse or the kids.

What exactly is Batik?

If you ever polish your shoes with colored substance then without you probably knowing it, you already have the very basic on how to batik. To simplified, batik is an art of coloring special mixture color substances on materials, just like paintings. Yet, a painting needs no further process to be enjoyed, as batik usually worn over time and painted on specified materials, further process is required.  The process of mixing color substances itself is one of a kind as well as choosing the right material for the mixture to be placed on, the mixture color substances is usually called dye. Knowing what and how of the dye mixture  and the process is essential in how to produce batik.

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Various Batik Designs
Various Batik Designs
Various Batik Designs

A glance of Indonesian Batik

I am happened to be from Indonesia, for you who is not familiar with the term "Indonesia" it is a far away passed along by the equator line country in Southeast Asia. The country consists of multicultural and native tradition, and batik has become our national heritage. Since Indonesia consists of thousand of islands in which each brings particular custom and culture you can find any kind of batik products in almost every part of the country and surely each brings its own special uniqueness.

Javanese Batik has been known in northern coast of Java Island from Pekalongan all the way through Madura and the Balinese produce excellent Bali Batiks as in particular places in Bali Island villagers has been learning how to batik from their parents and ancestor since they were kids. Bali batiks has been known for their deep and interesting motives that are rarely seen in other part of the world, both Javanese and Bali Batik has been drawing interests of many people from other countries including American, European and Middle East and so have other tradition-based batiks from many parts of Indonesia.

Learning how people of Indonesia create Batik

As I mentioned earlier Batik has been part of Indonesian lives. In most part of the country newly born Indonesian babies wrapped up in Batik as the second layer, and later on as a grown up he/she would often wear Batik dress in schools as well as in many office, family or communal occasions, most people would also wear it in attending to the wedding party as he/she gets married.

How Indonesian produce batik is something you might want to find out in order to gather as much as knowledge as you can on how to create excellent batiks, whether you wish to learn how to batik on fabric, cloth or even on Wooden material. Yet, everyone has their own taste, sense and cultural background which leads one to produce unique batik arts , traditionally or modern; and each one also has different phase of learning, therefore hopefully you would not mind that I took the liberty to share a bit knowhow on how to batik.

How to batik fabric

Now days, there are various of batik arts has been produced by batik artists from all over the world, and they are made of different materials for different purposes - you can have beautiful batik paper, batik tablecloth, or nice batik wall hanging available in the market to be placed at your home, however let's find out how to batik on a sheet of fabric for a start.

There are certain tools to be prepared in order to batik, although people use slightly different kind of materials and equipments, the following are tools in processing batik that are commonly used by batik artists or people who are learning how to batik fabric:

Tools/Equipments for Batik:

  • Tjanting - Indonesian refer it as Canting (the letter 'Tj' in Tjanting has been replaced with 'C' over Enhanced Pronunciation of Indonesian Language back in 1972), Canting is a traditional media used by batikers to place liquid wax onto the fabrics. This special designed tool made of the combination of bamboo/wood and cooper for both materials have high temperature resistance. The cooper (as the 'head' of canting)is specifically made to contain hot melted wax, the head has a small tube below used to flow the melted wax onto fabrics. Batikers has various sizes of canting, big size canting used to draw the wax onto particular wide area of the sketch as small canting with tighter tube used to fill in more detail or complex area, and there are also several sizes in between according to the complexity of the basic batik designs (sketches).
  • Wax - Paraffin is commonly used by first timers learning how to batik, Indonesian batik artists use it as a mixture with Beeswax along with animal fats in order to produce more flexibility, liquidity and provide better resistance of fractures. Both waxes usually come in granules/flakes and blocks.
  • Wok/Pot - Indonesian refer it as "Wajan", a small size wok used to boil the wax into liquid. Special Designed Bamboo/Wooden Bar - Javanese refer it as "Gawangan (Gawang=Goal, as in soccer), It is used to hang the fabric down as it provides easiness for batikers in placing the wax on, some people refer it as frame. It is supposed to be sturdy yet light in weight as well as portable, this way you can move it to any place at your home. The design formed the letter "U" turned upside down with strong unshakable foundation. Although you can customize the size of "Gawangan" to be comfort used, the height of "Gawangan" usually equal to the distance between the floor to the eyes of the batikers (batik artist) as she/he sits down on the floor and added by 20/25cms. The wide is usually the weight of the fabrics used (mostly 85cms) or wider.
  • Pins - You might want to use these to pinned the fabric onto the bar in order to avoid the fabric to slide down, however as you improve the skills these pins might disturbing you to get to hold on the fabric properly since you have to move fast enough in order to 'draw" hot melted wax onto it.
  • Dye - Now, to be honest this particular element is little bit tricky since everyone has their own taste and preference in ways of coloring not to mention the availability of the substance, yet there are two kinds of dye that mostly used:

    1. Natural Dye
    2. Artificial (Chemical) Dye
    I will share further more about Natural Dye used in batik process as for know we use Chemical Dye (usually comes in powder form) in order to learn how to batik from basic.
  • Dye Bath - Dye bath is used to dip the waxed fabrics to get the preferred colors, it can be made of wood or special designed concrete, for those who newly learn how to batik fabrics especially at home, you can simply use a bucket with enough depth to entirely submerged the fabric, the more wide the bucket the better since we want to have the dye to be absorbed perfectly into every inch of area of fabric.
  • Fabrics for batik:

    - Cotton
    - Silk
    - Linen
    - Leather (rarely used)

    Note: You might want to use as natural substance as possible for fabrics because you need the wax that is placed on the fabrics to be soaked perfectly furthermore artificial fabrics are not likely suitable as they cannot absorbed dye properly due the lack of thread count.

I suppose all the materials mentioned above can be purchased online or you can also have batik supplies available at local art retailers.

How to batik: step by step process that you can do at home

Since we are learning how to batik from basic, first of all let us learn how to batik on a maximal 40x40cms dimension of fabric as with this size of fabric will improve our knowledge and experience in order to move onto wider dimension of material.

  1. Sketch batik motives on a sheet of fabric.

    For you who might newly learn how to batik on fabrics you can sketch any basic motive you prefer with a pencil. Make sure you do it on the both sides of the fabric with the same identical motive since each fabric has two surfaces. In order to do this you can just retrace the line you make on other side of fabric. Sketching is part of batik process that require imagination and creativity as well as lots of references, dig up your inner arts as much as possible and do not afraid of making mistakes as you can always erase the sketch (if you make any) with brushes / eraser. You can sketch various of motives, whether its modern, classic or traditional, or any motives that come across your mind. You might want to consider using some papers first if you have to.

    Remember, at this step you can start thinking of the colors and their combination that you will use later on next steps, this is essential since you want to have a nice looking batik at the end. Mark on particular area for each color you want to place onto with the pencil, just a simple blur mark will do. Since batik-ing requires a lot of patience as well as passion, for a start you can choose one light color and see the result, and improve your skills afterward.
  2. Waxing

    Firstly put some of the wax into the wok, please do not put too much of it - you might want to add several drops of resin to add the liquidity, observe the thickness of the mixture as you heat up the wok since this is important. You don’t want to have the mixture too thick because this will interrupt the heated wax flowing within the tube of the canting, neither you want it to be too liquid as this will make the heated wax flows down to fast and the hot wax will spill on the fabric unexpectedly or on you - that is something you really don't want to be happened.

    When you think you already have nice mixture of wax, half-filled the canting head as you dip it into the wok, do not entirely fill up canting head with heated wax since (I hate to say this) first timers often do the waxing process to fast, they do not know what to do next after the particular area (usually dots / small area) of fabric has been covered with wax, the ideal way of waxing is to empty the canting 'drawing' heated wax onto fabric, because the unused wax will ruin the mixture if you spill it back into the wok.

    Batik-ing is about covering. Cover the area that has not been marked with heated wax and retrace the lines that have been drawn by pencil. Do the process of waxing until you cover all the areas that you don’t want them to be colored and let the wax dry completely (hardened)
  3. Bath-Dyeing

    Put some water into the bath enough to entirely submerge the fabric. Place the fabric into the bath and leave it dipped for 5-10 minutes, let it taste the water. Pick up the fabric, squeeze it out of the water and hang it down, please do not hang it dry under direct sun. Put some light color (one color) into the water and measure the brightness, if you think you don't get nice mixture put some water (or more color) accordingly. After you get the preferred mixture directly dip the fabric for 10-15 minutes for it to absorbed the color, makes sure it doesn't get folded to avoid the wax being fractured. Immerse the fabric again if you think you don’t get preferred brightness, and do this instead of adding more color in the middle of the process.

    When it's all done, pick up the fabric and hang it dry overnight, avoid using any heater machines as they would melt the wax.
  4. Wax removing.

    This should be simple. Use sharp scrapper, knife or some sort of razor to remove all the hardened wax, you also might want to equipped yourself with brushes to remove all the wax crumbs that might still stocked onto fabric. Do the scraping gently make sure you don't cut the fabric, and make sure to get a perfectly clean and smooth fabric before you go to the next process.
  5. Boiling

    Dip the fabric into boiling water; let it submerged about 3-5 minutes. This process would tighten the color soaked into fabric as well making the fabric more flexible.

The number of colors in a batik art shows how many times it was submerged in the dye bath and how many times melted wax had to be drawn onto it and scrapped-off of it. Of course you can always experiment with more delicate design and more choices of colors as you learn more skills and experiences, and who knows when you do, you will get more excitement learning how to make batiks professionally.

Comments 9 comments

Susana S profile image

Susana S 5 years ago

This is a wonderful first hub with so much quality information on how to batik - well done!

equatorian profile image

equatorian 5 years ago Author

Thanks for visiting susana, :)

Christy Chen profile image

Christy Chen 5 years ago from Indonesia

Hi! I thought I would like to write about batik too, but there is no way I can create a better hub than yours! Congrats :)

equatorian profile image

equatorian 5 years ago Author

@Christy : Thanks Christy . ,..and of course you can create a better hub than me. :).

S09 5 years ago

Thank you for the info, I am about to do a batik project with my class but i try this weekend and the dye is bleeding under the wax!!!!! The wax doesn't soak through the fabric. I need to fix that problem quickly!!!!

I am using bee wax and fabric dye on cotton. I didn't prewash the fabric, is it my problem or is it because my wax isn't hot enough???

s0909 5 years ago

Thank you for the info, I am about to do a batik project with my class but i try this weekend and the dye is bleeding under the wax!!!!! The wax doesn't soak through the fabric. I need to fix that problem quickly!!!!

I am using bee wax and fabric dye on cotton. I didn't prewash the fabric, is it my problem or is it because my wax isn't hot enough???

I post twice as apparently my first comment wasn't accepted, so sorry for the confusion....

Batik Canting100 5 years ago

Nice Writing !!

I'am also pruduction Batik Hand writing with natural Dyes Indigoferra Tinctoria and Mahogani tree's in Semarang,Indonesia. ( )

Best Regards and God Bless You All's.

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sen.sush23 profile image

sen.sush23 4 years ago from Kolkata, India

Nice hub. However, there are some details of the wax preparation that needs to be explained if someone wants to try their hand at batik by reading your hub. You may add that.

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