Block Printing in India

Here’s a short brief about the arduous process of Block Printing

About Block Printing:

Origin of block printing: China, around 2000 years ago! It spread to India in the 12th century.
Commonly used fabric: Cotton, silk and jute.
Block Printing Mediums: Textiles, decorative items, bedding, wallpaper etc.

Process of Block Printing:

The process of block printing is a labor intensive process and requires precision.

Handling the fabric:

The fabric on which the block printing is to be done is first washed, bleached, dyed and then dried out. The fabric is stretched on a printing table tightly to avoid any kind of movement.

Making the printing blocks:

The original document of the design to be printed is placed on a large smooth wooden block, fixed into place and reversed. The craftsmen carve the image into the wooden block with great finesse.

step-1
Skilled artisans carving a wooden block

Coloring Process:

A piece of woolen fabric is stretched over a small frame to make a ‘sieve’. A small tub is filled with starch paste and a waterproof cloth stretched on a frame is placed on the paste. The sieve is filled with the color and then placed on the waterproof fabric. The printer charges the block by pressing it on the wool and then carefully places it on the fabric in the required position.

step2
The Color Sieve

Printing Process:

The outline of the design is printed on the fabric by an experienced artisan. The color is evened out on a tray with a wedge of wood. The block is then dipped into the color .When the block is applied to the fabric, it is pressed very hard to make a good impression.

step4
Blocks being pressed on the fabric

Post Treatment Process:

The fabric is then dried in the sun, rolled in newspaper and steamed in boilers. After which, the fabric is washed, dried and ironed out.

Block Printing Centers in India:

Hand Block Printing is spread over various centers across India. Large scale block printing is done mainly in:
• Gujarat
• Rajasthan
• Andhra Pradesh
• Uttar Pradesh
• West Bengal
• Punjab

What makes it so special?

Despite quicker and more inexpensive means of textile designing and printing, block printing has resisted mechanization and the process is still done by hand.
Hand block printing has retained its popularity because of its ability to achieve the natural feel and the three dimensional artistic characteristics that cannot be replicated by mass produced and machine-made printed fabrics.

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