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How To: DIY Batik T-Shirt

Updated on December 3, 2014

Crafting A Batik-Inspired Tee

Batik, a type of patterned cloth created through some kind of resist technique, is a part of ancient Indonesian heritage. Although other forms of decorated cloth can be found in several countries throughout Asia, Africa and Middle East, the Indonesians have developed this resist technique into a work of art.

Batik is a result of a harmonious combination of patience and creativity in the process of applying resist, dyeing and finishing process. All Batik motifs are created with hot wax (also called 'malam') using a pen-like device. Then, the prepared cloth is completely immersed in a vat of dye solution. Part of the cloth covered with wax will not absorb the color into its fibers. The wax is eventually removed either by full immersion in hot / boiling water or by ironing. Up to this era, Indonesian people has recorded about three thousand well-known batik motifs, including flowers, leaves, intertwining twigs or branches, birds or other kind of animals, geometric forms (overlapping circles, back-to-back oval shapes, lines and triangles, etc) and many more.

This cultural treasure can be found throughout Indonesia, particularly in the island of Java where the designs are often intricate, whimsical and extravagant and are filled with symbolism. Therefore, Batik is not just a piece of painted cloth with interesting images. It also carries a deep meaning and a story woven inside every thread.

(Image taken from

Batik Kawung
Batik Kawung

The Art of Batik

"Batiking" is essentially painting on a piece of cloth. The two main requirements are 'Tjanting' (a small pen-like container with a small spout) and resist. Firstly, the intricate designs are drawn on the cloth with a pencil and then, hot melted wax is applied following the pencil lines by using a Tjanting. Areas that are not meant to be colored are filled with this resisting medium. The wax painted cloth is then immersed in a basin of dye. After the coloring process, the resist is removed by scraping, hot water immersion or by ironing. The waxed areas will not take the pigment and therefore, maintain the original color of the cloth. In this technique, the wax is resistant to the dye, and so, is called the resist-dye process.

Traditional batik 'malam' is combination between soft beeswax and brittle paraffin with the ratio of 60:40. The addition of paraffin will create crackles, a characteristic effect of Batik, where color can leak through the thin cracks creating soft wavy lines.

Modern wax is a synthetic form of wax which is more stable, consistent, and often reusable.

To simplify, there are two main groups of batik designs: geometric and non-geometric patterns. Geometric motifs include Parang motif, Banji, Ceplok, Limar and Kawung motif. Kawung, which is hailed from Java, is one of the oldest batik patterns known in Indonesia. The non-geometric patterns include Lunglungan and also Buketan.

(Image taken from

Tools In Batik Technique

Several stuffs need to be prepared.

Preparation and Rules

Before Batiking

First, we need to choose the fabric of our t-shirt. Since natural fibers such as cotton and silk are best for dyeing, pick cotton as it is easier to draw on because it is sturdier. Tightly woven cotton fabric is recommended because the resulting color will be more intense.

Second, we need to wash the shirt to remove any chemical residue that might interfere with the dyeing process, then let it dry. No softener is needed.

Third, iron it. We want to erase any wrinkle so it will be easier to draw on.

diy batik applying wax
diy batik applying wax

The Design

Sketching and Applying the Wax

Many beautiful batik designs can be found on the internet. Choose one of the designs you like, print the image and copy it on your shirt, either by sketching with a pencil or tracing with a carbon paper. Here I use simple geometric motif as an experiment.

After the initial sketch is done, place a piece of wax paper inside the shirt. Its purpose is to prevent the resist to seep through the whole shirt. Next, melt the wax on an electric skillet or crock pot. Make sure the wax does not get too hot. Then, using a 'Tjanting', apply the wax by following the pencil sketch lines. Let it cool for a couple of hours.

diy batik dye
diy batik dye

From Dyeing to Finishing

While waiting for the wax to dry, choose the dye of your preference and mix it with water. The ratio depends on what kind of dye you use and the color intensity you want. Some colorant will need warm water to blend well, so we have to wait for the mixed solution to cool before the process. Then immerse the t-shirt in the solution for about 30 minutes or more. This also depends on the two factors mentioned before. After dyeing, leave the shirt to dry for a few hours. Sometimes, the wait can be up to 24 hours, just to be sure the color has set.

When removing the wax by ironing, always be sure to place a piece of wax paper inside the shirt and on top of the design so wax will not stick to your iron. Dunking the whole shirt in hot water is also effective to remove wax. Whichever method you prefer. After that, you can wash the shirt in mild soap to remove excess dye and let it dry.

Your Batik T-shirt is finished and ready to wear.

(Full information about How To Batik can be found on

diy batik shirt
diy batik shirt

Another Batiking Method

Painting on Fabric

In this method, we use ordinary acrylic paint to create the Batik pattern on the shirt. Firstly, choose the colors to use and set them on a palette for convenience. The preparation before painting is similar to that of the dye immersion method. Wash the fabric in mild soap without softener, air-dry and iron to eliminate wrinkles.

Draw the pattern on fabric with a pencil or trace a printed pattern using carbon paper or chalk. Place wax paper inside the shirt to prevent wax leaking to the back of the shirt. Then draw the pattern with melted wax by following the sketched lines. Wait for the wax to cool and dry.

After the wax has set, paint the colors inside spaces between the waxed lines which will prevent to paint to bleed into other areas. Wait for the paint to dry and set before ironing. You might need to wait for 24 hours for the acrylic paint to stick to fabric and not rub off when washed.

After 24 hours of wait, place wax paper inside and over the shirt and iron it part by part until the entire resist is removed.

Your Batik-inspired t-shirt is done.

Books About Batik

About Indonesian Batik

A description of the art and tradition of Indonesian Batik by KADIN Indonesia Foundation and Indonesia Batik Museum Institute (2007).


A Sample of the Simple Design - The Geometric Idea

batik geometric pattern
batik geometric pattern

For this project, I used a very simple design consisted of triangular shapes, circles and rectangles. The design itself doesn't have any meaning, only that it looks interesting and somewhat batik-like. This image of a geometric persuasion is easier to sketch on cloth than its non-geometric counterpart that sometimes requires hours of etching back and forth to create the complicated details.

Another Simple Batik Design - Extremely Simplified Kawung Motif

batik kawung design
batik kawung design

Kawung motif is one of the geometric patterns of Indonesian Batik. One of the most prominent motif used is the overlapping circles. Usually the design contains other elements or other geometric forms. But you can use this simplified version for practice.

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What Do You Think of Batik?

Submit a Comment

  • Lady Lorelei profile image

    Lorelei Cohen 

    4 years ago from Canada

    Beautiful handicraft fabric making. We have lost so much of the old crafts and they are so uniquely exquisite.

  • profile image

    Lynn Klobuchar 

    5 years ago

    Always have liked the look of batik. Might have to give it a try when I have some spare time on my hands.

  • Jogalog profile image


    5 years ago

    I remember doing this at school. I would love to have a go again.

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    I love batik - it's been years and years since I tried my hand at it.

  • Rangoon House profile image


    6 years ago from Australia

    I love Batik, especially in tablecloths and serviettes. Although in saying that, I also have some cushions and tissue box covers in Batik. This has been very informative and I greatly admire the skill.

  • Gayle Dowell profile image

    Gayle Dowell 

    6 years ago from Kansas

    Beautiful. I would love to try batik, but I know that it looks easier than it is. Someday I'll try it!

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    I did batik years and years ago. It's a wonderful way to renew old clothing.

  • profile image


    6 years ago

    I have been wanting to try the batik technique. I'm thinking of trying it now following your instructions. It looks easier than I thought! Thanks for your article.

  • Magda2012 profile image


    6 years ago

    Batik has a good design and very unique. it's beautiful. Good lens.


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