Batik Wax Printing using Procion MX Dyes

In Batik, melted wax is applied to fabric to act as a resist to dye or paint. The wax is applied using a carved wooden block or stamp, or free hand with a tjanting or brush. When the wax has Batik patterned clothhardened, the fabric is either submerged in a dye bath or painted with the dye. The waxed areas will remain undyed.

When the fabric has dried, more wax patterning can be applied before dyeing or painting the fabric with another colour. This second application of wax will mask off areas of the fabric that were dyed with the first colour. The areas not treated with the wax will absorb the second dye colour which will blend with the first dye colour.

Painting with Procion MX Fibre Reactive Dyes

Procion MX dyes are formulated for use on cellulose fibres such as cotton, linen and viscose. When combined with Soda Ash and water, the dyes react chemically with the fabric making a permanent bond with the fibre. They are ideal for Batik work because the water does not need to be heated and will not melt the wax  resist.

  • Stir 10g (1 heaped teaspoon) of Soda Ash into 900ml of warm water. If you make this solution in a jar or plastic bottle, you can screw on the lid and shake it well to ensure the Soda Ash has dissolved. Any leftover solution will keep in a cupboard for up to 2 months.
  • Dissolve 1 teaspoon of Procion MX dye powder in 2 tablespoons of the Soda Ash solution. This will make approximately 30ml of dye to paint with.

Once activated, Procion MX dyes are effective for up to 2 hours. The dye will no longer bond to fabric after this time and will rinse out if the fabric is washed. Any remaining inactive dye can be used on paper.

The Procion MX dyes can also be used on silk fabric (made from protein fibre), although more superior colour results on silk and wool are attainable from Acid dyes

How to build up a Pattern with Batik Wax & Dye

Please refer to our Blog post How to Batik using a Tjanting for information on how to prepare your fabric for Batik work and how to remove the wax resist.

If you carefully plan your colours and application of the wax, you can create complex patterning on the cloth. The diagrams below use a simple pattern to demonstrate the technique. 

Step 1

The image shows cotton fabric stretched over a frame with silk pins.  The fabric is depicted as blue for illustration purposes. If you want to make your first “layer” white, leave the fabric undyed. Remember that light colours will not dye over dark colours, so start with your lightest colour first.

Cotton fabric for Batik

Step 2 – melting the batik wax

Slowly melt the batik wax granules in a glass bowl placed on top of a saucepan of boiling water. Keep the wax molten by reducing the heat to a simmer. If the wax starts to smoke turned down the heat immediately. Electric wax pots offer a safer, long term option as they are thermostatically controlled.

Stamp made from string wrapped around woodTraditionally, carved wood blocks or copper Tjaps are used for stamping batik wax onto the fabric. You can easily make a stamp from heat resistant items around your home. This simple stamp is made by wrapping cotton string around a length of wood. 

Step 3 – planning your design

Decide where you want to stamp the wax onto the fabric. Mapping out a rough design with an autofade pen / vanishing fabric marker may help you to decide where to apply the wax.

Step 4 – applying the melted wax

Dip the stamp into the wax pot and allow it to warm to the same temperature as the melted wax. Lift the stamp out of the wax and allow the excess to drip back into the wax pot.

While the wax is still molten on the stamp, quickly press onto the fabric. It is worth checking both sides of the material to ensure that the wax has fully penetrated.

Repeat this process until you have created the first stage of your resist patterning.

Batik Wax on cotton fabric

Step 5 – painting on the dye

Now make your Procion MX dye and Soda Ash solution and apply with a large soft brush or sponge applicator.

In the example below, red dye was painted over the blue fabric, this is why the colour is now purple. Note that the areas stamped with wax have remained blue.

Red dye over blue dye on cotton

Repeat steps 4-5 above to add another colour to the fabric. In this example, the previous application of wax is still in place (blue) and and a second application of wax has been applied to the purple fabric. Black dye has been brushed over the fabric leaving the waxed areas to show through.

3 colour Batik design

Other Ways to Create Batik Patterns

Batik design built up using just one colour – Indigo. The indigo blue intensifies with each submersion into the Indigo dye vat.

Indigo Batik

Wax applied with tjantingA random design built up using different methods to apply the wax. The original colour was yellow with the wax applied using stamps or woodblocks. The second colour was blue and the wax put onto the fabric with a paint brush or tjanting.

A tjanting is a small brass or copper bowl with a narrow spout mounted on a handle. The tjanting is filled from the wax pot and the spout used to create the wax design on the fabric.

The tjanting is returned to the wax pot regularly to ensure that the wax remains molten and continues to flow from the spout.

batik patterns on fabric

Drips of wax have been splashed onto this handmade Lokta paper before spraying it with different dye colours. This will work equally well on fabric.

Lokta paper with Batik Pattern