Introduction to Printing Tradition of India




Various traditional techniques of fabric printing are used in India. The common ones being tie and dye, block printing and hand printing.

Tie & Dye

The technique of tie and dye or knot printing, as the name indicates, involves tying of fabric in accordance with the overall design scheme, before the process of dying. Fabric is tied in small and big knots so that the colour does not penetrate the tied areas. This process leads to the creation of colourful concentric circles and oblong rectangles, in all shapes and size.

Water is heated in big cauldrons and the required colour or dye is added to the water. Dying always starts with lighter shades and the darkest shades are used at the end. After each successive dying the cloth is untied and dried. New areas of the cloth are again tied keepings in mind the final design or pattern. The process of tying, dying and drying is repeated till the desired result is achieved. This process is both time consuming and labour intensive but the results are stunning. The womenfolk do tying, while men are involved in dying the fabric.


Traditionally bright and basic colours like: red, yellow, black and green are used. Now a days lighter shades of browns, pinks and blue colour are being used, to create contrasting effect. Tie and dye work can be seen on sari, chunni or dupatta, kurta, suits and other dress materials.

Block Printing

Block printing is popular in India. Bleached cotton and silk fabric is printed with the help of wooden blocks. These wooden blocks have beautiful carved designs on them. Firstly the outline block is prepared, which is followed by blocks for filling in different colours. Only three or four colours are used. Traditional motifs and designs are used in this technique. Generally floral patterns, human and animal figures are represented. Usually natural dyes are used to colour the fabric.

The important centers of block printing in Rajasthan are Jaipur, Sanganer, Bagroo, Pali and Barmer. Sanganer is famous for the finest block printed cottons. The Bagru prints are popular for their floral designs, while prints from Barmer are known for their bold geometric patterns, called 'Ajrakh'. The printers of Barmer use darker shades of blues and reds.

Resist Printing

In the resist printing technique, material like clay, wax, resin or the mixture of all this is used and applied over the area which is to be printed, to resist the dye. The fabric is then immersed in the dye bath. After dying, the material attached to the fabric to resist the dye is removed. The seepage of dye into the edged of the resist areas creates a tonal effect. The tonal effect thus produced is subtle and soft.

Resist printing technique is popular in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and other parts of the country.