Ultimate Guide to Indian Block Printed Fabrics

block printed fabrics featured image

If you are an artistic individual, you would certainly go for the block printed fabrics over a normal mechanical printed fabric. Why? Block printed fabrics carry the hard labor, hundreds of years of tradition, and the immense passion of the artisans who created them. It is truly a priceless item to wear and cherish until it wears out. So what is the story behind block printed fabrics?


A brief history on Block Printed Fabrics

Block printing is an ancient form of designing and writing that is dated as early as 4500 years ago. It originated in China. But the Indian artisans were responsible for taking this tradition to a whole level. They made geometric and visually rich expressions from block printing.

During the 1700s, the Mughal Emperors wore finely printed garments and made them a royal item. It was exported to many countries around the world until the industrial revolution. Indian’s were forced to buy cheap alternatives of their own designs that were produced by the Europeans.

The artisans at that time were mostly serving the royal communities and the foreign markets. When the Indian market flooded with cheap imported clothes, the artist communities began to fall into poverty. Until the early 1970s, the artisans struggled to make a living by selling the block printed fabrics.

Only then with the help of the Indian government and numerous national and international companies, an effort to bring back the culture was made. Today, block printed fabrics represent a different story. It is highly valued among fashion enthusiasts. India is now the largest block printed fabrics manufacturer in the world.


What is the process of block printing?

There are three different methods of block printing.

  1. Direct printing:

In the direct printing technique, the fabric is bleached and designs are printed on them using wooden blocks. The steps are:

A. Carving the block:

block carving for prints

An experienced artisan will carve out the desired pattern on a block of teak wood. The block will have patterns protruding outside of its handle. In traditional block printing, natural designs, myths, religious customs, animals, geometric patterns, or plants are carved out.

B. Base dying:

base dying procedure

The base fabric used for this type of block printing is either white or color. It is dyed and dried in the sun before further processing.

C. Creating the color:

color mixing for block printing

The desired color for printing is created often using natural or artificial sources.

D. Preparing the dyed fabric:

Preparing the dyed fabric for printing

The dried fabric is laid on a wooden table of length 6 meters and 50 inches wide. The cloth will be firmly fixed on the table using pins and a cotton layer will be placed under it to print and absorb the color evenly on the fabric.

E. Block printing:

An artist printing on a fabric using wood blocks

The desired colors will be filled in a tray that is filled with layers of gauze cloth. The artisan will carefully dip the block in the tray and place it over the garment to make a ‘block print’. This process is repeated over and over to finally obtain the desired fabric.

“Block printing is called as Chappana in the villages, which literally means stamping in Hindi”


  1. Resist printing: The artisans cover the areas of the fabric that needs to be protected from dyeing with a mixture of clay and resin. The dyed fabric is then washed to form a different color from the covered area. This process creates a unique rippled effect on the prints. Blocks are used to further elaborate the patterns.
  2. Discharge printing: A chemical is used to remove portions of dye from the fabric. The artisans treat the fabric further to produce a colorful design.


Who makes block printed fabrics in India?

Block printing in India is still continued by the artisans from villages from various states. The knowledge is passed on to the younger generation through hereditary. Some families in these villages have been block printing as early as 300 years ago. They have secret knowledge when it came to natural plant dyes. Today we can see them in:

  1. Gujarat:

An intricate block printing style has been practiced by artisans in Gujarat. The Paithapur families are told to be the artists behind the region’s block printed fabrics. They use the mud resist printing technique. They are called Sodagiri prints.

The artisans of the Dhamadka village produce geometric patterned designs called Ajrakh. It is reported that they use red, black, and indigo as their choice of colors.

Dancing girls, animals, and birds are block printed in black and red designs in the village of Kutch. Other popular hubs of block printing in Gujarat are Bhavnagar, Vasna, Rajkot, Jamnagar, Jetpur, and Porbandar.

  1. Rajasthan:

The block prints made in Rajasthan is popular throughout the world. Many foreign companies and brands have tied up with local artisans to export them to a wider audience. They commonly print birds, animals, goddesses, etc. They are scattered in the areas of Jaipur, Bagru, Sanganer, Pali, and Barmer.

Bagru region produces Syahi-begar prints, which is a combination of black and yellow ochre or cream, and Dabu prints, which are resits prints.

Sanganer region produced calico printed bed covers, quilts, and saris. These are bold and popular patterns like lines and diagonals.

Barmer region is popular for its red chilly prints and also horses, camels, peacocks, and lions. They are locally called Sikar and Shekahawat prints.

  1. Punjab:

Punjab has its own unique characteristics when compared to other region’s block prints. The artisans of Punjab are called Chhimba. The prints floral and geometrical patterns with chemical dyes.

  1. West Bengal:

The Serampur region of West Bengal is known as the block printing hub of the region. They are the latest region to adapt and produce block printed fabrics. They only learned the skills in the late twentieth century.

  1. Andhra Pradesh:

In Andhra Pradesh, block printing leads to Kalamkari fabrics. You can read all about kalamkari fabrics here.


Caring Block printed fabrics

Block printed fabrics are easy-care items. You can wash using mild detergents and cold water. It can withhold regular ironing as well. As a user, please avoid getting stains on them. Removing tough stains can cause disfiguration in prints.


If you have any requirements in block printed fabrics, please contact us. We can develop any designs and patterns in sustainable fabrics.

Credits: https://passionlilie.com/pages/block-printing

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