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Unique Batiks

Unique Batiks HomepageIndonesian HouseThe process of making BatikBatik process Step 1

As you can see this is a hugely time consuming process and is carried out in this way on the most simplest designs. The more elaborate designs take even longer.

The more accomplished artists paint freehand onto the cloth with wax cantings as would an artist with a brush.. But with batik artists they must paint in the negative as the areas they apply wax to will not change colour when dyed!

As you look through the galleries I’m sure that you’ll notice the difference.



The word batik is thought to be derived from the word 'ambatik' which translated means 'a cloth with little dots'. The suffix 'tik' means little dot, drop, point or to make dots. Batik may also originate from the Javanese word 'tritik' which describes a resist process for dying where the patterns are reserved on the textiles by tying and sewing areas prior to dying, similar to tie dye techniques.


Design Tools


Although the art form of batik is very intricate, the tools that are used are still very simple. The canting, believed to be a purely Javanese invention, is a small thin wall spouted copper container (sometimes called a wax pen) that is connected to a short bamboo handle. Normally it is approximately 11 cm. in length. The copper container is filled with melted wax and the artisan then uses the canting to draw the design on the cloth.

Canting have different sizes of spouts (numbered to correspond to the size) to achieve varied design effects. The spout can vary from 1 mm in diameter for very fine detailed work to wider spouts used to fill in large design areas. Dots and parallel lines may be drawn with canting that have up to 9 spouts. Sometimes a wad of cotton is fastened over the mouth of the canting or attached to a stick that acts as a brush to fill in very large areas.




Traditional colors for Central Javanese batik were made from natural ingredients and consisted primarily of beige, blue, brown and black.

The oldest color that was used in traditional batik making was blue. The color was made from the leaves of the Indigo plant. The leaves were mixed with molasses sugar and lime and left to stand overnight. Sometimes sap from the Tinggi tree was added to act as a fixing agent. Lighter blue was achieved by leaving the cloth in the dye bath for short periods of time. For darker colors, the cloth would be left in the dye bath for days and may have been submerged up to 8 - 10 times a day.

In traditional batik, the second color applied was a brown color called soga. The color could range from light yellow to a dark brown. The dye came from the bark of the Soga tree. Another color that was traditionally used was a dark red color called mengkuda. This dye was created from the leaves of the Morinda Citrifolia.

The final hue depended on how long the cloth was soaked in the dye bath and how often it was dipped. Skilled artisans can create many variations of these traditional colors. Aside from blue, green would be achieved by mixing blue with yellow; purple was obtained by mixing blue and red. The soga brown color mixed with indigo would produce a dark blue-black color.




After the initial wax has been applied, the fabric is ready for the first dye bath. Traditionally dying was done in earthenware tubs. Today most batik factories use large concrete vats. Above the vats are ropes with pulleys that the fabric is draped over after it has been dipped into the dye bath.

The waxed fabric is immersed in the dye bath of the first color. The amount of time it is left in the bath determines the hue of the color; darker colors require longer periods or numerous immersions. The fabric is then put into a cold water bath to harden the wax.

When the desired color has been achieved and the fabric has dried, wax is reapplied over the areas that the artisan wishes to maintain the first dye color or another color at a later stage in the dying process.

When an area that has been covered with wax previously needs to be exposed so that it can be dyed, the applied wax is scraped away with a small knife. The area is then sponged with hot water and resized with rice starch before it is re-immersed in the subsequent dye bath.

If a marble effect is desired, the wax is intentionally cracked before being placed in the dye bath. The dye seeps into the tiny cracks that create the fine lines that are characteristic of batik. Traditionally, cracks were a sign of inferior cloth especially on indigo color batik. On brown batik, however, the marble effect was accepted.

The number of colors in batik represents how many times it was immersed in the dye bath and how many times wax had to be applied and removed. A multicolored batik represents a lot more work that a single or two-color piece. Numerous dye processes are usually reflected in the price of the cloth. Nowadays, chemical dyes have pretty much replaced traditional dyes, so colors are endless and much more liberally used.


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The following is an extract from a great award winning website.

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Step 2:

The first wax is applied over the penciled-in outline of the pattern. Almost always the original cloth is white or beige.

Step 3:

The cloth is dyed in the first dye bath. In this case the first dyebath is yellow. The area of the cloth where the wax was applied in Step 1 will remain white.

A second application of wax is then made to the areas required to stay yellow.

Step 4:

The cloth is dyed in the second dye bath. In this case orange. The areas previously coated in wax will retain their colour.

A further application of wax is then made to the areas required to stay orange.

Step 5:

The cloth is then dyed red.

Step 6:

In the next stage before the final dying a cracking effect is required on the background. A different grade of wax is used so it can be cracked and the other areas required to stay red are again waxed.

Step 7:

The final dye bath is used.. In this case black.

Step 8:

The final step is to remove all the wax, first by scraping and then by boiling. Hydrochloric Acid is used to fix the colours and the sun helps brighten the colours too!

Step 1:

A faint pencil outline is applied to clean cotton cloth