01 November 2011

Wood Block Printing - The Process (part 3)

ps: this method works only for printing with dark colours on a lighter shade of fabric.

This is a craft you are meant to enjoy....so don't fret the small imperfections in your first few attempts!! Enjoy the process.....it is a handicraft!!!
This is the third and penultimate post in a series of three - sorry four - detailing the process of block printing as I know it. There are probably many other ways of doing this but what I am writing here is just the way I know...:)

I had thought I would do three posts in total but when I started with this as the final post I realised it was becoming too long a post. So I had to break this up into two posts. Again, try as I might, I couldn't break the 'how-to' part of it in two - so I have put the process and proportions of mixing the colours in another post....coming right after this one....

If you are reading this for the first time -
please read part 1 that's a basic introduction,
move on to part 2 which lists all the supplies you'll need for this.

check out part 4 for the actual mixing of the colours.
So here goes....

Final notes before you start:-
An important rule - which I call the "salt rule" - it is always better to add just a few drops of dye to the fixer-binder mixture, mix it up well and then add more if you like - like salt to a dish, you can always add more (colour) if it is less but like salt once you add too much of it you cannot take away from the mix...:)

It helps to have a large work space, like your dining table, to work on because you want to print a large area in one go otherwise you will  have to wait for the paint to dry before you shift the fabric to print the next part. (The floor works well too).

If working on a ready made garment like a shirt or a t-shirt remember to put a sheet of plastic between the layers of the garment i.e. the front and the back so when you print one side the colour does't seep into the other layer.

Be ready for a few sore hands because every time you place the block on the fabric you need to hit the block with your fist to get the colour properly onto the cloth....:)  :)

Mix a sufficient batch for every project. Always have a few tbsps extra rather than less. This is because even if you measure as accurately as you can a second time, you will never, never get the same shade again.

You can mark the places you want the printing to be on your project with a pencil before you start printing. Or you can do what I do - just eyeball it and go ahead...:)

If you print at a spot and feel the print does not turn out as you wanted it to i.e the colour didn't print evenly, please do not print over the same spot again to try and get the colour better - you will never be able to get your block on the same spot again and will end up with a double image....believe me, I know this for a fact!!!! You can always touch it up later with a paint brush.

Let's move on.....
I mixed two batches of colour...one blue - and did I drool when I saw the blue!!!!!And was I tempted to use just this!!!! - and one green.

PS: I LOVE BLUE!!!!!!!! 
The blue was so tempting, but the dupatta/stole I wanted to print was an off-white, cream colour and I knew the blue wouldn't go with it so I used the green...sigh!! 

Here's the actual process:
By now, I presume you have washed the fabric once so the starch is removed and you have it all ironed and ready...
Take your plastic box/ tub and pour in all the ingredients...if you use the proportions I used for this dupatta, be warned, I had some leftovers.....if it just a trial, then I suggest you mix up a smaller batch.
Lay out newspapers on your work surface.
Mix your colour up. Do it well so there are no white streaks visible.
Check the shade by dabbing a smear of the colour on a scrap of cloth. Add a few more drops of the dye if you find the shade too light.
(Why was I still testing 'the blue'??? Because I was still tempted to go for 'the blue'...:)) 
The colour will always appear darker in the mixing tub than it will turn out on the fabric so always check the hue before printing and add more dye if you like.

Once happy with the shade put the lid on and let it rest for 10-15 minutes.
Fold up your old sheet, spread on the work top taking care to remove all creases so you get an even surface to work on. 
Lay your fabric on top and pin it to the sheet, if you like, so it won't shift while you work.
Take your steel/glass plate and spoon onto it 4-5 tbsp of the dye mix. DO NOT POUR OUT THE ENTIRE AMOUNT ONTO THE PLATE. (See 'note' at the end of post).
Wet the sponge with water and squeeze out as much of the water as you can....you do not need to dry it.

Lay it on top of the colour and with a spoon press it down so the colour seeps through it and the sponge absorbs it.
Always do a trial run before you actually start printing .....on scrap fabric try out your block ......take your block and press it pattern side down, onto the sponge to smear it with the colour.....so it looks like this...
..wipe the sides of the block on the sponge to get the extra paint off the sides.
sorry....got a terrible picture..... 
Try not to load too much colour on the block as this will give you a blob of paint on the cloth and not the defined outline you are looking for....see the print on the left motif??? See what I mean??
Now on to your main printing....
The steps remain the same throughout......
- dab the block on the sponge,
-check for extra paint on the side of the block...wipe off the extra....
-place the block straight down on the cloth, hit the top of the block with your fist once,
-pick the block straight off the fabric as briskly as you can,

-repeat for next print. 
-once done, wait for the paint to dry before you move the cloth to print on the next part. Don't worry, it just takes 5-10 minutes for it to dry.
- 'dry' the finished product for 4-5 days in the sun. This is like a heat treatment needed to set the colour and to let the smells of the dyes go away.Wash only after a fortnight.

To begin.......press onto a scrap to test....seems okay...:)
Now on to your final fabric........
For every print dab your block on the sponge afresh.
The printing....
..the result....
'Note' - You will notice after sometime that the colour on the sponge seems to be running out. All you need to do is pour out a few teaspoonfuls of the mix on the sponge and rub it in with the back of the spoon so the extra goo goes down the sponge onto the plate. Make sense???
...rub in with the back of the spoon.....
Once the borders were done, I took another block and printed motifs at random in the main body of the dupatta. Once I reached the centre I reversed the direction of the motif...
And blogger flipped my image once again!!!!
That's all for now folks, finally!!!!!! 
I'll post the mixing of the colours and how to look after your blocks tomorrow...I promise....tomorrow....
Please feel free to post your queries and I'll answer them here so it helps anyone else who finds the same confusion.
Eagerly looking forward to your feedback.
Ciao! Take care!



  1. Lovely! you tempt me too much to try this.. bookmarking the entire series for an attempt for later date. thank you so much for doing this series.

  2. Wow!!!The dupatta looks so beautiful after the printing!!One more thing added to my endless list of to-try things!!Thank you so much Rupi for taking the time and putting so much effort in making such a detailed tutorial!!

  3. Superb!! Thanks for such a detailed post

  4. Replies
    1. hi iam searching for wooden blocks pls can u help me?

  5. Good to know that, wooden buti! Where are you based?

  6. Your blog is lovely! It keeps me motivated..
    Can you please let me know how much each of these wooden blocks might cost?


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