Genue Inc.
April 11, 2018

Indonesian Batik Dyeing

traditional batik design featuring a royal blue background with white, yellow, and pink flowers

Traditional Batik Design


In modern surface design–when working on paper, fabric or wood–the design is most commonly printed using a variety of methods, from silkscreen to digital printing. While some of these are more cutting edge than others, printing as a whole is a modern concept. One of the earliest methods of creating a pattern on a paper, or textile, specifically, is a waxed resist technique. The Indonesian version of this is called Batik dyeing, and it is the most widely known iteration.



batik dyeing process completed by a man with a red hat and brown sweater painting magenta over white wax flower prints

Batik dyeing process

Batik dyeing was introduced in Indonesia sometime during the 6th or 7th century via either India or Sri Lanka. The materials needed to Batik were readily available in Indonesia, namely cotton, beeswax, and natural plant-based dyes.


To create a wax resist design, the pattern is hand drawn first in pencil, and then drawn again with wax. Although traditionally done with beeswax, it is common now to use a mixture of paraffin and beeswax on cotton. The cloth is then submerged in dye, thus dyeing all areas not covered in wax. The wax is then removed, and drawn again if another color is desired. The wax can either be stamped or drawn by hand using a tool called the canting, which requires considerably more skill, but creates finer lines and patterns than a stamp. On the island of Java, Indonesia Batik dyeing really took hold, creating some of the most technically advanced designs, incorporating dozens of color combinations into a single pattern.


hand dyed indonesian batik featuring a royal blue background with gold flowers

Java Batik


In 2009 UNESCO designated Indonesian Batik a “Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.” While it is still possible to find traditional hand-dyed Indonesian Batik, once the look became popular in the home and fashion markets, the designs, colors and motifs were translated into mass-produced, printed versions of their hand-dyed inspirations. These are beautiful, and available at any large fabric retailer.



batik painting featuring yellow lily pads with pink flowers floating on blue water

Batik Painting; Terri Haugen


Even though hand dyed and waxed Batik is harder to find now in yardage, many contemporary textile artists are incorporating this traditional technique into modern art pieces.  Can you think of ways to incorporate Batik into your surface design?

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