What is Hand Block Printing?

Hand Block Printing is the practice of printing patterns on textiles, with the help of carved wooden blocks. It is the simplest, slowest and most ancient technique of textile printing. Block printing by hand is a slow process. However, it has the capability of yielding highly artistic results, some of which are unobtainable by any other technique.

The Process:

As mentioned above, the process is the simplest and slowest of all methods. The block maker transfers the design to the wooden blocks by way of carving out the wood. The wood is carved around the heavier masses first, leaving the finer and more detailed work until the end in order to avoid any risk of damaging it when the larger parts are cut. Once this is completed, the block looks like a flat carving, with the design standing out. Detailed work, which is difficult to carve in wood, is built up in strips of brass or copper, which is curled to shape into the flat surface of the block.

As demonstrated above in the picture, the printer then prepares the mud paste, also called “dabu paste” in tradition terms. The printer then dips the block into the mud paste and applies it firmly and steadily on the cloth. The next impression is made in a similar way, with the printer making sure that it looks exactly like the first. Pins at corners of the block match exactly so that the pattern continues without a break. Each of the following impressions is made accurately in the same way until the whole cloth is entirely printed. The cloth is then dusted with sand and then left for drying in sunlight, which could take several hours. After the mud paste gets dried, the cloth is dipped into the dyes. The resulting dyed cloth is washed to remove all remaining traces of the mud paste, which shows the original resisted area to be white.