You don’t need special paint or even fabric to create a batik painting. You can easily create a beautiful batik style painting on paper, using watercolors.
Photos and painting via CakeSpy
Batik (pronounced “bah-teek”) is a form of Indonesian textile art in which wax is applied to cloth, then brightly colored paint is applied. Once the paint is try, the wax is removed, leaving a white imprint where the wax previously rested. The result is an exotic play of bright and negative space.
The batik painting technique is quite easy to move to paper, because the effect is really quite similar to what you might do with masking fluid and watercolor paint. Creating batik-style art on paper is a fantastic way to introduce yourself to the technique with minimal investment in supplies.
How to paint a batik on paper
- Paper (vellum Bristol board was used for this tutorial)
- Masking fluid (non-permanent)
- paint brush
- Watercolor paint or concentrated watercolor dyes
- Rubber eraser
Choose a reference image. You can easily find vector images of batik patterns online, or you can decide to create your own batik image. You’ll want to create an image with strong outlines, with lots of “closed” areas in which to play with watercolor by letting the colors bleed, but within finite edges.
Very lightly pencil in an outline of your image. Be very light with the pencil, because after the masking fluid is applied and removed, it can prove more difficult to erase dark lines.
Using your paint brush, brush masking fluid in strong, even lines over your pencil outline. Once again, be sure to “close” lines of your drawing.
Let the masking fluid dry for several minutes, until it has completely set.
Start painting! Using one color at a time, paint all of the areas using that color.
There is opportunity for creative expression here. You can paint each area with a simple watercolor wash then go back to refine, or you could get very painterly and add splashes of different colors, letting the paint bleed. The beauty is that you have these closed areas in which to paint, so you have a lot of freedom.
Being careful not to put your hand in the wet paint, add any last refinements. One nice way to refine is to add a sliver of darker tone right next to the line of the masking fluid. This will add a nice contrast once the masking fluid is removed, exposing the white paper.
Let the paint dry completely. If the paint is still lightly wet, it can make removing the masking fluid difficult and messy, and can tear the paper.
Note: If you see dots of paint atop the masking fluid, don’t panic. The fluid has bonded to the paper, and is protecting it from the paint; these spots will come off when you remove the masking fluid.
Once the paint is dry, gently remove the masking fluid. If the masking fluid is very thickly applied, like on this piece, you may find that you can use your fingers to pull it off. If you’re scared that your intricate design will be ruined, use a rubber eraser to rub off the masking fluid.
Erase any pencil lines, and make any small tweaks (adding a little more color if there is too much white space, for example). Let dry, and enjoy your exotic art.
Now that you’ve mastered the technique, get creative!
Easy variations to try with the batik style
A monochrome batik-style watercolor:
Bold, bright block letters and images in batik style: