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You are here: Home > All About Hand Dyeing > Instructions > How to Dye with Fiber Reactive Dye > How to Batik


Books on Batik

Creative Batik

Batik: Fabled
Cloth of Java

Batik: Design, Style, & History

Chinese Indigo Batik Designs

Batik: 75 Selected Masterpieces

Batik for Artists and Quilters


for making batik:

Procion MX dye
Procion MX Fiber Reactive Cold Water Dye

When mixed with soda ash, Procion dyes are permanent, colorfast, and very washable. You can easily create a palette of brilliant colors ranging from light pastels to deep, vibrant hues.

Tjanting Tools (Needles)

Tjanting Wax Pens

These tools are for applying wax in fine lines. Hot wax is poured into the needle. It then flows through the needle spout. You can tip the tool forward to start the wax flow, and tip it back to stop it.

Batik Wax
Jacquard Batik Wax

This product is a specially formulated 50/50 blend of paraffin and microcrystalline waxes. Professional quality, withstands hot water, less expensive than beeswax, and produces the distinctive crackle effect for traditional batik.

Wax Melter Kit

Wax Melter Kit

A simple way to melt wax for batik, crayon painting, candle decorating, ceramic resist, jewelry, sculpture, and lapidary work. The Wax Melter operates on household current.

Soda Ash
Dye Fixer

Procion MX Fiber Reactive Cold Water Dye

Dye activator for Procion dye. Soda ash fixes Procion dyes to cotton or silk at room temperature, with no need for hot water that will melt your wax.

Jacquard Urea

Urea is a humectant that helps keep your fabric moist while the dye reacts with the fiber. It also increases the solubility of dyes.

Plastic Squeeze Bottles
Plastic Squeeze Bottles

Clear polyethylene bottles with caps and easy-squeeze action. Use them to store and dispense dye.

Dust masks
3M Non-Toxic Particle Mask

Always wear a dust mask or respirator when measuring out dyes and other powders. Breathing dye powder can cause an allergy to the dyes.

Nitrile Disposable Gloves
Nitrile Powder-Free Disposable Gloves

Always wear gloves when working with dyes.

Liquid Castile Soap

Dr. Bonner's liquid soap helps in boiling wax out of finished batiks. A true soap works better than the detergents found in most liquid soaps.

Soy Wax

Soy wax is softer than batik wax and does not resist dye as well, but it is much easier to remove, so some batikers prefer it.

Elmer's Washable Blue Glue Gel

Elmer's Washable Blue School Glue Gel can be used as a water-soluble resist for dyes. It does not give the same cracks as batik wax, but it is safer for use by children.

How to Batik

You can batik silk, cotton, and rayon with the same easy fiber reactive dye and soda ash recipe that is so popular in other forms of hand dyeing. The advantage of this type of dye is that with it, unlike all purpose dye, you can use cool water (that won't melt wax!), while unlike naphthol dye, fiber reactive dye is reasonably non-toxic, and unlike vat dye, the method is very simple and easy.

For pictures of successful batik - essential in helping you decide what you want to create - see my Gallery and some of the sites on my Links to Other Galleries page.

Getting Started

This is just as in the How to Tie Dye page: study the How to Dye basic recipe first. Make sure you have all the chemicals and supplies you need for dyeing: Procion MX dyes, urea, sodium carbonate (soda ash), thin rubber or plastic gloves, measuring cups and spoons, squirt bottles to put the dye solution into for application, dust mask for measuring out dyes, and a bucket for pre-soaking the fabric in sodium carbonate solution. Be sure to pre-wash all clothing to remove invisible finishes that can prevent the dye from getting to the fabric. (In place of the Procion MX dye, you can substitute any type of fiber reactive dye that can use temperatures below the softening point of wax, such as Cibacron F/Sabracron F or Drimarene K dye; Dylon Cold Water Dye is an example of the latter, but avoid Dylon Multi Purpose dye, which is a hot water dye.)

Additional Supplies for Batik

You'll need to buy both beeswax and paraffin to mix together; some cheap paintbrushes for covering large sections (don't waste good ones on this); a tjanting, or several, with which to apply the wax; and some way to keep the wax at a constant temperature. I failed at batik until I acquired an electric skillet for the sole purpose of melting the wax. I'd been using wax that was melted, in a double boiler, but not hot enough to penetrate the fabric. Batik instantly changed from impossibly difficult to easily manageable the day I bought an electric skillet.

You can substitute synthetic "sticky wax" or "microcrystalline wax" for beeswax, if you prefer. It is best to use a mixture of beeswax (or its substitutes) and paraffin, because parafin alone crackles too much, while beeswax alone doesn't crackle at all. (If you don't like the crackle effect, use pure beeswax, or its substitutes, without paraffin.)

Each of your tools needs a ridge on it to prevent it from sliding down into the scalding hot melted wax. If they do not already have a ridge of some sort, you can make one by wrapping many layers of tape at just one place on the handle of the tool.

Tjantings for drawing with melted wax are available from Dick Blick, PRO Chemical & Dye, Dharma Trading, and other dye suppliers. (See the Sources for Dyeing Supplies page for contact information.)


Draw with melted wax wherever you want the fabric to remain a lighter color. If the wax does not seem to penetrate the fabric, it is probably not hot enough; check the temperature. Use an electric skillet to maintain the wax at the correct temperature. (Beware of dangerous overheating; wax can burn, causing a dangerous house fire, or just smoke that can cause lung damage.) It's best if your design can tolerate a few random light spots from accidental drips of wax. Hold a rag in your other hand, ready to catch unwanted drips before they fall.

I usually stretch the garment over a cookie sheet or other baking implement, depending on the size of the garment; this prevents the wax from getting through to the other side of the garment, and makes it easier to control the fabric, as well. I have used a wooden stretcher bar frame, such as is used for mounting canvases for paintings, attaching a silk garment by means of wire clips strung on rubber bands that wrapped around the frame--it's certainly a lot more trouble that way, but the tension is sometimes useful for painting woven silks. I like to use a pencil to mark out my design on the cloth beforehand.

Apply dye when the wax is cool. (If you're in a hurry, refrigerate.) You can wait for days or even weeks after waxing to proceed to dyeing, if you prefer. Crumple the fabric if you want a lot of veining, then pre-soak in sodium carbonate and apply dye as described in How to Dye. Use only cool water dye such as the Procion MX dye I recommend, not any sort of hot water dye, and be sure that your soda ash and your dye mixtures are at room temperature, not hot, since even a little melting may ruin your design. Wash the excess dye out, after the full "batching" time of 2 to 24 hours has passed, using cold water only. You don't need melted wax in your washer. Obviously, you must not let anything waxy get into your hot air dryer.

Repeat? For traditonal, multiple-step batik, air-dry, and repeat the waxing and dyeing steps as desired, starting with the lightest colors and progressing toward the darker ones, first spending some time to plot the appropriate order for the colors and how each color will mix with the previous ones. For modern "faux" batik, a single round, involving direct application of different fiber reactive dye colors where they are wanted, is sufficient.

Removing the wax can be the hardest part.

Alternatives to boiling:

Batiking without wax

You may occasionally read of batiking with alternative resists. Beware of water-soluble resists; I found the hard way that Deka's Silk Resist, for example, washes right out during the sodium carbonate pre-soak step of dyeing. If you use a washable resist, not only will you lack the interesting cracks and veins, but you will also need to find an alternative to the use of the washing soda pre-soak, such as applying sodium carbonate solution or Dharma's After-Fix afterwards, or drying the fabric after pre-soaking in soda ash, before applying the resist. This also requires a much more frugal hand with the dye solutions than I am accustomed to applying, as large excesses of dye solution will also wash away any water-soluble resist. Alternative resists can be extremely valuable, resulting in wonderful results - but these results will never be very close approximations of true wax batik.

Soy wax for batik

Soy wax is processed hydrogenated vegetable oil which is hard at room temperature. It can be used for immersion dyed batiks, with the advantage that it will wash out in hotwater in your washing machine. Some batik artists have gotten excellent results withthis resist. However, others have been disappointed by its not blocking the dye as completely, or by its wearing away in the dye bath. It is worth experimenting with. Use the hardest type of soy wax, from a dye supplier or labeled as being suitable for making pillar-type candles; do not use the softer type intended for use in containers.

Elmer's Washable Blue Glue Gel

You can also use Elmer's washable blue gel glue as a resist. It will last through a brief immersion period. To wash it out, first soak it in cold water. There will be none of the cracks associated with traditional wax batik, but the safety of using cold glue gel instead of hot wax makes it preferable for projects that children will work on.

Next: Low water immersion dyeing....

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