IMG_0532People ask how to start batik without making a big investment in supplies. I will have to recommend getting some old sheets, some RIT dye or ready-mixed dye at your local craft store, along with paraffin wax and cheap brushes. ( has extensive supplies and that is where I purchased my tjanting tool.)

Buy the primary colors of your dye: Red, blue, yellow — and from them you can make infinite combinations. You will also need something to keep your wax hot. An old electric frying pan works well, and wax can be heated in a double boiler. Never put wax directly on the stove, or overheat it, as wax is extremely flammable. You can make something to stretch out of canvas stretchers, or as I have done in my studio, I have added 2x4s and 2x2s to plywood so that I can stretch larger fabric over that to apply the wax.

After you have applied your design with a brush or a tjanting, it is ready for your first dye bath. If you want to start with very small batik, you can actually dye fabric in a mason jar. As you get to a larger size, you will probably want to get plastic pails. Immerse your fabric in your dye bath starting with the lightest shade that you want to use, and stir it frequently to keep the color even. The batik should remain in the dye for 15 minutes to half an hour, depending on how strong the dye was mixed and how dark the color is.

After your fabric is appearing a shade darker than you desire (because it is wet), remove it from your dye bath and rinse thoroughly in a tub or sink. At this point, I would normally add a setting stage to my dye process, but as you’re learning, you won’t need to do this.

Once your fabric is dry, you can add another stage of wax to it. And when you’ve finished your design, go on to another dye bath in a slightly darker shade. Here you will notice that some colors are complimentary and will make a nice new combination as yellow and red will make orange. The opposite is true. If you take red and green, you will make brown. So you may want to use test strips as you get ready to dye your fabric. I will do many stages of dye baths as I’m moving on, and at a certain point in the process, very often I will bleach sections out so that I can use colors that would otherwise make a muddy shade.

You don’t need to make a complicated batik with ten dye baths and tons of color combinations. You can remain simple, especially in the beginning. Another thing that you can try is painting dye or even colored inks on small sections of your design, where you have little areas surrounded by wax. This can give you some bright accents of different colors that after they are dry, you can protect with wax and avoid doing a whole dye bath to get these little jewels of color.

When you are satisfied that you have reached the end of your dyeing, your batik, when dry, will be ready to iron out between paper towel and newspapers, or plain newsprint if you can find it. In the pictures below you will see me ironing my batik out between plain newsprint. If it has print on it, the print can be transferred to the fabric, so never have a newspaper next to your artwork. You can keep it away with paper towel.

After you have ironed as much as you can out, the batik should be completed. The iron also acts to set the dyes a little bit more, and your batik will be ready to frame, add to a wall hanging, or make something fun out of.

My batik process is much more complicated and if you find you like doing batik, I would urge you to go to my other tutorials in my website to see the many other things I do in mixing dyes, painting, setting dye, wax etching and multiple dye baths.