Block printing specialists - online craft supplies, workshops & textile holidays

Jaipur – Textile Printing Techniques

Jaipur – Textile Printing Techniques

Jaipur – Textile Printing Techniques

The textile printing techniques in Jaipur are closely linked to villages and traditions with each village having its own different designs and history. In today’s email we are going to focus on two different designs that you will come across on our trips to Jaipur.

Dabu Printing

The Process of Dabu Printing starts with the preparation of mud resist the clay is prepared by finely sieving it. Calcium hydroxide (Chuna in Hindi), naturally pounded wheat chaff (Beedan in hindi,clay-lime-gum-insect eaten wheat mixture), and gum (gound in hindi) are the main ingredients to make the mud resist. The dug out mud from the dry pond is soaked in water in a separate tank overnight. The mud resist is freshly prepared before every printing.

The mixture of beedan and gound are along with mud are doughed to make a sticky paste. The special resist paste technique is commonly known as ‘dhabu’. Dhabu’ acts as resist and prevents the penetration of dye during dyeing on areas covered with ‘dhabu’. This technique is used only for creating patterns with indigo blue. Since the resist paste ‘dhabu’ is thick and sticky hence finer definitions cannot be achieved. It is applied with wooden block on the fabric and saw dust is sprinkled over it. Saw dust has two major functions at this stage-first to absorb water from the Dhabu paste and give additional layers of resist. The saw dust also acts as a binder which prevents color penetration while dyeing. The area where clay and sawdust mixture is present does not catch the dye and remains colorless.

After printing, the fabric is left outside in the sun for drying before dipping in indigo tanks. Small printing table- “patias” are used for dhabu printing and the printer applies dhabu sitting on the floor. It is done mostly by women and old printers, who cannot stand for a long time. The art of making ‘dhabu’paste is kept secret and the recipe is taught only to daughters-in-law. Every family has its own recipe to make the paste.


Bagru Printing

The traditional printing process in sanganer and Bagru can be described as follows:

Scouring– locally called ‘Hari Sarana’
The fabric that comes from mills of handloom sector contains natural and added impurities such as starch, oil and dust. To get goods and even penetration of colours, the fabric is boiled with soap and desizing agents. Traditionally cow dung was used for scouring. Cow dung contains a lot of alkali, Cow dung and water are mixed together and the cloth (running cloth ‘than’cut in required length) is then left dipped in that paste overnight. The process of washing is a long one, generally carried out by the ladies. The next day, the clothes are washed and spread on large open grounds. Before the clothes dry completely, more water is sprinkled on them and thus they are made wet again. This process of sprinkling water and drying is repeated 5-6 times a day. This procedure is carried out unit the cloth becomes white and bright. Generally, as per requirement, this process in done for 3 to 6 days. After this the cloth is washed with pure water. Since it is tedious and time consuming, soaps have replaced the cow dung in this process.

Tannin- locally called ‘Peela Karana’
‘Harda’Washed fabric is treated with myrobalan (harda) which contains tannic acid. Tannic acid attracts the mordants, which are applied with hand woodblock. ‘Harda’ powder is mixed with water, and the cloth is submerged in it, squeezed and dried flat on the ground. Once the fabric is dried, it is folded and beaten with a wooden mallet to remove excess ‘harda’ powder and open up the fiber to accept the dye. This process in known as ‘peela karna’. The tannic acid of  myrobalam (harda) forms black colour with ferrous ( syahee )which is traditionally made by reaction of old rusted horse shoe nails with jaggery.

Printing (mordanting)- locally called ‘chapai’
The fabric is printed with two mordant- ferrous (‘syahee’) made out of rusted horse shoe nails, and alum (‘begar’). Usually ferrous is printed with the outline block (‘rekh’). As it immediately shows a black impression, it is easy for another printer to place the filler block (‘datta’) with beggar or alum. The background block (Gudh’) comes later.

Ageing-locally called ‘Sukhai’
The printed fabric is left hanging at the printing areas for at least three-four days so that the prints(mordant paste) penetrates into the fiber structure. Longer the ageing better is the result.

Washing- locally called ‘Dhulai’
The printed fabric is washed in running water. It is important to understand the need of running/flowing water. While washing the printed fabric in running water the excess mordants come out and get washed away with the flow of water without getting stuck back to the cloth. Water shortage has forced the printers to cut short this process due to which, the colors do not get fixed up properly and later “bleed” and people think that natural dyes are not fast.

Dyeing (fixing of color) – locally called ‘Ghan Rangai’
Dyeing is a process in which the dye reacts with two mordants at two different locations on the same print giving two different shades of colors. As mentioned earlier ‘alizarin’ is used as the dye throughout Rajasthan. The colours obtained in conjunction with the two mordants are red (with alum) and block (with ferrous). Dyeing is carried out in large copper vessels (‘tambri’) which are heated by wood fire. Alizarin is filled in small cloth-bags (‘potali’) and dipped in the vessel. The quantity of alizarin dye is calculated by the experienced dyer. ‘Dhawadi phool’, a local flower is boiled along with alizarin to avoid patches and staining. Once the dyed fabric is ready (usually it takes half-an-hour), it is taken out of the copper vessel and left on the ground for drying.

Sun-bleaching– locally called ‘Tapai’
Alizarin often”over dyes” the unprinted area giving an off-white or yellow tinge all over the fabric which makes the print look dull. In order to make the ground look ‘white’ again the fabric is sun-bleached. In this process the fabric is laid flat on a river bed, a mild solution of cow dung and water is sprinkled over the fabric. This process is repeated again when the fabric is dried. The interaction of alkali (of cow dung) and thermal heat (sun ray) bleach the ground color making it look white again. Sometimes this process in carried out before the tannin (‘harda’) treatment but due to shortage of water this process is cut short and these days the ‘off- white’ color of the background has become a part of natural dyeing process.


Flora and Paul’s thoughts on a Colouricious trip to Jaipur

Flora and Paul joined us in January and kindly took the time to write to us to tell us about their experiences.

I now know the full meaning of magical. It’s a trip to the beautiful exciting and vibrant city of Jaipur. My husband and I travelled with a delightful group of ladies [and three husbands] Jamie and Kim arranged an experience to astound all textile enthusiasts. We tried our hand at block, indigo and even mud printing. Breaking only to be tempted to try Indian delicacies with spiced tea.

A guided walking tour around Sanganer provided a window on the lives and work of the block carvers and of course we were all tempted to buy some wonderful wooden blocks.

Another day found us up close and friendly with some special elephants. We were able not only to feed them a boot full of bananas but we also painted their amble sides.

Visits to museums especially the Anokhi museum and the City Palace were superb. Many of us had garments made for us after visiting one of several fabric stores even one purchase of a wedding outfit.

The Blue factory also provided some lovely pottery to further strain my suitcase. On a free afternoon we took a tuc tuc into the Pink City to visit the textile bazaars then walked through the flower and spice markets.

We also had time to join Jamie around the hotel poolside where we could share our experiences of the day and indulge in some art work in our travel journals. The hotel owners – Colonel and Mrs Singh could not have been more welcoming. Mrs Singh even showed us how to put on and wear a sari as one of the group had brought one with her to wear at our leaving dinner.

This is but a very tiny portion of the memories which I took with me suffice to say the Jamie and her team have shown me a country full of wonder and surprises. India has captured my heart and not surprisingly We have booked a return trip.

Thank you so much Jamie
Flora and Paul


As we mentioned last week, Kim Thittichai joined us on our Jaipur trip in January and kindly took the time to write about her experience with us in her blog. Today we have part 2 of her story. Please click on the image below to read all about it.


If you are interested in joining us on a trip to Jaipur, then please visit our website and reserve your place. We have spaces left on our trip in December this year plus all of our trips in 2018. Pick the time and itinerary that suits you and we look forward to seeing you.

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.