Master Indian Hand Block Printing Using Traditional Wood Block Stamps (wood print blocks)
Master Traditional Indian
Hand Block Printing
Adapt traditional Indian block printing ● Wood Block Stamp (also called a “wood
techniques with modern supplies stocked in your print block”)
own cupboard. Make the process eco-friendly by
conserving water, using organic cotton, sourcing ● Fabric to be printed
fair trade wood block stamps, and using the sun to
dry your unique prints. ● Fabric Dye (such as RIT liquid dye)
All materials can be sourced locally or online from ● A piece of cardboard as wide as your
US retailers, minimizing your carbon footprint.
Best of all, it decreases the use of toxic dye and
sweat shop labor practices in many Indian
● Small plastic container to hold the dye
● Paper Towels
● A bucket
● Vinegar (to set the dye)
Prep the Fabric
1. Iron your fabric to remove all the
2. Tape the fabric edges to the piece of
cardboard. This has a couple of purposes:
it keeps the fabric from ﬂapping in the
wind if you print outside. It ensures there
are no wrinkles in your printing surface.
And it gives a slight “cushion” for the
stamp which makes a better print.
Make A Custom “Ink Pad”
3. Measure about 4 tablespoons of fabric
dye into your plastic container (or
4. Take 3 paper towels and fold them in
half so they’re doubly thick. Press them
into the dye. When they’ve soaked up
most of the dye, grab the ends and ﬂip it
over. This is your ink pad.
Print Your Fabric
5. Press your wood block stamp into the
ink pad. Rock the stamp back and forth to
make sure dye gets on all parts of the
stamp. This is especially important for large
stamps with a lot of detail - otherwise the
peacock’s wings will be light and feathery
while its tail and head will be dark black.
(You may wish to wear a pair of rubber
6. Place the stamp where you want it on the
fabric. To get the best impression, give it a
sharp whack with the heel of your hand
(Indian technique), tap it with a hammer
(Montana-style) or lean on it with your
whole body (kids’ version). This helps
complicated designs print evenly, and is
very important for large stamps.
Tips & Technique
7. Traditional prints repeat over the entire
length of the fabric. For larger, complicated
stamps, the patterns might even overlap.
Traditional Wood Block Stamps have
“markers” (such as the peacock’s tail or
ﬂower’s stem) which are used to repeat the
pattern. Indian print masters use these
marketers to create symmetrical patterns.
8. Re-apply ink after each print. Your ink
pad will last for about 20-30 prints of the
large stamps, and twice that many for the
small stamps. When your print starts to get
a little faint, ﬂip the pad over. When you run
out of dye on both sides, pour 1-2
tablespoons of dye directly onto the paper
towels to “refresh” your pad.
Finish It Up
9. After you’ve ﬁnished printing, spread
your fabric in the sun to let the dye dry. Do
NOT put it in the dryer - the dye is not yet
set and may leave a stain.
10. To clean up, wash the stamps in a
bucket of cold water. Rub them with your
hand (or a brush) to get off the excess dye.
Keep rinsing until the water you pour over
them runs clear. They will be permanently
“antiqued” the color of the dye, however
don’t worry - you can use a different color
dye next time. Make sure they are
completely dry before you put them away -
otherwise they will develop mold. Stored
dry they should last for years.
Set The Print
11. After the dye on your fabric dries, wring
your fabric in cold water to wash out any
excess dye. The water will turn the color of
the dye, so don’t let the fabric soak! Pour
out the dyed water and repeat the process
until the water is clear.
12. To set the print permanently, pour
about 2 cups of vinegar into a fresh bucket
of cold water. The water should be
completely clear. Let the fabric soak for 15-
13. Finally, hang your fabric up to dry.
Make sure to wash your new fabric once or
twice by itself before combining it with your
clothes - you don’t want to accidentally tie-
dye your white undies. After that, wash and
● Buy Wood Block Stamps online at
A Trade For A Trade.com
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