Resist dyeing

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A nembok process in batik-making method especially for batik tulis (handmade batik).
Batik, created using the technique of wax-resist dyeing originated from Indonesia.

Resist dyeing (resist-dyeing) is a traditional method of dyeing textiles with patterns. Methods are used to "resist" or prevent the dye from reaching all the cloth, thereby creating a pattern and ground. The most common forms use wax, some type of paste made from starch or mud,[1] or a mechanical resist that manipulates the cloth such as tying or stitching. Another form of resist involves using a chemical agent in a specific type of dye that will repel another type of dye printed over the top. The best-known varieties today include tie-dye, batik, and ikat.

Basic methods[edit]

Wax or paste[edit]

In wax or paste resists, melted wax or some form of paste is applied to cloth before being dipped in dye. Wherever the resist medium has seeped through the fabric, the dye will not penetrate. Sometimes several colors are used, with a series of steps including dyeing, drying, and the repeated application of the resist. The resist may also be applied to another piece of cloth to make a stencil, which is then placed over the cloth, and dye applied to the assembly; this is known as resist printing.[2]


In stencilled resists, a stencil is placed over the fabric where it is to be shielded from ink, similar to how screen prints are made.


Mechanical resist dyeing ties, stitched or clamps the cloth using clothespegs or wooden blocks to shield areas of the fabric from the dye.


Chemical resist dyeing is a modern textile printing method, commonly achieved using two different classes of fiber reactive dyes, one of which must be of the vinyl sulfone type. A chemical-resisting agent is combined with dye Type A, and printed using the screenprint method and allowed to dry. A second dye, Type B, is then printed overtop. The resist agent in Type A chemically prevents Type B from reacting with the fabric, resulting in a crisp pattern/ground relationship.[3]


Resist dyeing has been very widely used in Asia, Africa, and Europe since ancient times. The earliest extant pieces of resist-dyed fabric were found in Egypt, dating to the 4th century AD.[citation needed] Cloths used for mummy wrappings were sometimes coated with wax, scratched with a sharp stylus, and dyed with a mixture of blood and ashes.[citation needed] After dyeing, the cloth was washed in hot water to remove the wax.[citation needed]

In Asia, this technique was practiced in China during the Tang dynasty (618–907 AD),[citation needed] Indonesia,[4][5] India,[citation needed] and Japan in the Nara period (645–794 AD).[citation needed] In Africa, it was originally practiced by the Yoruba people in Nigeria, and the Soninke and Wolof in Senegal.[1]

Traditions using wax or paste[edit]

Rōketsuzome printing wheels at Roketsuzome Yamamoto, Kyoto.

Traditions using tying or stitching[edit]

  • Indonesia[6][7] is well-known for the tradition of ikat weaving, where only the warp or weft is dyed before a fabric is woven.
  • Indian textiles featured tied or stitched resists.[citation needed]
  • The Yoruba people of Nigeria produce Adire textiles, which are tied before being dyed with indigo
  • In Japan, shibori is a tie-dye technique known for its use on kimono and other traditional textiles. It has been produced in Japan for centuries, following the technique's likely introduction from China.

Traditions using printing[edit]

  • In Japan, both katazome and bingata use stencilled resist-dyeing methods to create highly-detailed resist-dyed fabrics. Beni itajime is a block-resist dyeing method that was common throughout the Meiji period (1868-1912), used to create red lining fabrics with crisp white designs.
  • In China, the jia xie method, invented around 500 AD, uses wooden blocks to dye patterns onto fabric, usually silk. An upper and a lower block is made, with carved out compartments opening to the back, fitted with plugs. The cloth, usually folded a number of times, is inserted and clamped between the two blocks. By unplugging the different compartments and filling them with dyes of different colours, a multi-coloured pattern can be printed over quite a large area of folded cloth.[8]

Other traditions[edit]

A mix of modern and traditional Ukrainian pysanky

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Batik in Africa". The Batik Guild. Retrieved April 29, 2014.
  2. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 June 2003. Retrieved 12 January 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ "Vinyl Sulfone Fiber Reactive Dyes: Using Remazol Dyes for Chemical Resist Dyeing". All About Hand Dyeing. September 30, 2011. Retrieved April 13, 2016.
  4. ^ a b "Batik". UNESCO. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
  5. ^ a b Tirta, Iwan; Steen, Gareth L.; Urso, Deborah M.; Alisjahbana, Mario (1996). Batik: A Play of Lights and Shades. Vol. 1. Gaya Favorit Press. ISBN 978-979-515-313-9.
  6. ^ Gillow, John; Dawson, Barry. (1995) Traditional Indonesian Textiles. Thames and Hudson. ISBN 0-500-27820-2
  7. ^ What is ikat? Transnational Ikat: An Asian Textile on the Move. Holy Cross Website. Retrieved 19 March 2017.
  8. ^ Shelagh Vainker in Anne Farrer (ed), "Caves of the Thousand Buddhas" , 1990, British Museum publications, ISBN 0-7141-1447-2