Block Printing Ink



India is a house of the technique of block printing from ancient period. Over the years, artisans have improvised designs and motifs, as well as the blocks and colors that are used. Block printing inks or dyes have shifted from the traditional vegetable and mineral colors to chemical, synthetic colors.

The synthetic block printing inks have the advantage of being longer lasting as well as being available in a wider range of colors. Here is a look at some of the inks and dyes used in the process of block printing:

Vegetable or Natural Block Printing Inks

Black : This color is produced by mixing an acidic solution of iron (rusted nails/horse shoes etc) with jaggery (unrefined country sugar) that has been allowed to rot for about a fortnight.

Red : This dye is made by a material such as alizarin with alum. The resulting colors range from pink to dark red. The color red is also extracted from the madder root.

Blue : Is obtained from the indigo bush found all over India.

Pomegranate skins, the bark of the mango tree, vinegar and slaked lime are also used to make block printing inks.

Synthetic Block Printing Inks :
Block Printing Pigment Inks

These colors are first mixed with kerosene and binder before they are used. Once mixed, they can be stored for a few days. Pigment inks are popular because of this and also because they give a variety of hues. They can also be mixed with each other to create new shades. Moreover, they do not change color once they dry on the cloth. Therefore the artist knows exactly what shade he will get once the fabric is printed.

It must be kept in mind that it is vital that the consistency of this block printing ink be right; if too think it will stick out in lumps on the textile.

Block Printing Rapid Fast Colors

These inks come in the standard colors: black, orange, brown, red and mustard. Unlike pigment inks that may be mixed to create unique colors, rapid fast colors are limited in color variation, and also it is not possible to know the final color from before. When using these colors, the ground color and the color in the design are printed in one step. Rapid fast colors cannot be stored.

Block Printing Discharge Dyes

If printing in white or other light color has to be done on a dark cloth, the block printing ink to be used is the discharge dye. This dye contains a chemical that reacts with the dark color and bleaches it, while at the same time coloring the bleached area with the desired light color.

Block Printing Reactive Inks

These dyes on reacting produce a third color. The cloth is dyed one color, and then the design is printed with another. The two react to produce a third shade.

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