Batik techniques: painting on cloth

The art of "batiking" is similar to the one of drawing or painting on a piece of cloth.
The main tool, the canting ('tjanting'), is used in stead of a pencil or a brush, and liquid wax (see paragraph here below)in stead of paint.

Indonesian woman drawings batik motifs with liquide wax.

Finely detailed designs are first drawn freehand with a pencil on the textile. Then hot liquid wax is applied.
Here above, a Javanese woman applying wax in the intricately involved patterns with a canting (tjanting), a small copper container with a long slender spout.

From time to time she blows on the tip of the canting to secure an easy flow of the wax. Areas not slated for coloring are filed with the wax.
The cloth is then passed through a vat of dye.
The wax is removed with hot water, scraped from the portions of the dried material still to be dyed. The parts that were covered by the wax did not absorb the dye and thus remain white (or whatever color the original cloth was previously dyied). Since the wax behave as a resisting medium, this process is called resist-dye process.

Next, other areas are waxed over. this is repeated during each phase of the coloring process, up to four or more times, until the overall pattern and effect are achieved.

canting for batik

A canting with more than a spout (it can be up to seven) is used for patterns with dot forms. Basically, as an art, batiking is painting. The canting is used to produce the picture; its size depending on the type and degree of fineness of the lines or points desired

Different models and size of cantings used for drawing motif on batik


A traditional recipe for batik wax is a mix of beeswax and paraffin, about 60%/40%. Beeswax is soft, pliable, and blocks completely: no cracking. Paraffin is more brittle, and lets dye penetrate wherever cracks form. Crackle is a characteristic batik effect, a scatter of thin dark wavy lines, a batik hallmark. Some dyers seek crackle, freezing and crumpling the cloth to make more. Others avoid, if they can, any effect that seems uncontrolled. For more crackle, more paraffin. Any clean, low-oil paraffin, melting from 130 - 150° F will work. Beeswax should be light yellow or tan and clear of debris. But most batik today is done with synthetic micro-crystalline waxes. They’re more consistent, more often reusable, penetrate better, can be heated (safely) to higher temperatures. They usually fall between beeswax and paraffin in price and in working properties. They can be blended with other waxes for intermediate effects.

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