Theory is that Batik art went from the Coromandel Coast in India to Southeast Asia which in turn developed its own designs and really came to be known to the world from Indonesia. In fact “batik” is a Javanese word meaning wax painting. Batik later came to be revived in Shantiniketan, near Calcutta, and has now gone to many parts of India, including Calcutta, .
The design in Batik paintings is produced by a negative dyeing method, being marked out in wax before the fabric is dipped so that the waxed portions do not take the dye and stand out in the original colour of the fabric.
‘Batik’ is a resist technique because no dye can penetrate the parts of the fabric covered with wax. The wax is heated and the hot melted wax is applied on the fabric in the form of a design by using brush or any other such equipment. The waxed material is then dyed in any cold ice dye. In the dyeing process minute cracks occur in the wax, letting in tiny specks of dye. This produces fine veins of colour which are characteristic of batik. This 'crackle effect' is a unique aesthetic of batik and very much suits Indian subjects like dancing and dynamic deities. It also contributes to the overall mood of the batik painting, by adding its own energy to the composition. The wax is then removed at the end of this process.
The best materials for batik paintings are cotton, silk and rayon. Among these, cotton is the best suited. The surface of the material should be as smooth as possible. The choice of fabric depends on what one is going to do with the batik piece. The material should be free of starch and properly ironed.
The selected design is drawn on the fabric. The type of wax selected is according to the particular design. A standard combination contains equal quantities of bees wax and paraffin wax. If the quantity of paraffin wax is increased then more cracks result for the higher the paraffin content the more friable the wax.
The wax mixture is heated. It should be uniformly heated and must not smoke or over-boil. This melted wax is applied on the fabric with the help of a brush or a T-janting. For better effect the material should be waxed twice on each side. Only the portions that are required blank (white) should be waxed.
The dyes for batik are called ‘naphthol dyes’. They are also known as cold or ice dyes.