Wax Resist: Batik

I've always wanted to try and create a project that had a batik effect. I love the look of batik, the way little cracks of the wax create a very unique design on the fabric. No two batik designs are the same.

I've learned the actual batik technique back in college, with the hot wax and dye baths. It was so fun and amazing. I still have them floating around my house. I think I wanted to build a career in batik but then reality set in and I figured I really couldn't do much with a degree in batik, you know? Heh.

So I wanted to try something with my students that is way less complicated than hot wax and dyes but would sort of give the same effect, using a wax resist technique.

  • Finding the right kind of paper is key. You don't want to use a thick watercolor paper because when you get to the crumbling step, it will rip and tear in the sharp edges. And you don't want to use a super flimsy piece of paper because it won't stand up to all the oil pastel you will put on it. I settled on some Canson (student grade) watercolor paper. Choose whatever size you'd like. We used a 9 X 12 size sheet due to time issues, but I think a larger size would be more interesting visually.
  • Most students will want to use a pencil to sketch out their design. Just encourage them to use light strokes. I found that drawing organic, natural shapes (round, large and wavy) worked best with the batik technique.
  • Be sure to instruct students to allow space in between each shape. This white part of the paper will mimic the effect of the wax in the traditional technique. It's very important that they leave a space in between their shapes.
  • When the students begin to color in their shapes, make sure they are pressing down with the oil pastel crayon. This will ensure that their colors remain vibrant and true. They should use a variety of colors, but using monochromatic color scheme will look great, too.
  • Once their entire sheet of paper has been filled in and colored, have each student crumble up their paper slowly. Some students will really get into it and crumble it up and abuse the process, but make them do the crumbling softly, or else they will rip their paper.
  • The students should straighten out their crumbled paper. Repeat the process. The goal is make cracks in the oil pastel because this is whats going to give it the wax resist look and feel.
  • Flatten out the piece of paper as best you can. You might want to have your students lay their paper under a heavy book or their heavy school folder for a few minutes while you read them a story about batik.
  • Now they are ready for the next step: watercolor. I used a very light gray watercolor in my example, and for some reason it didn't really show up in the scan of the image. You could use black, which makes for a very dramatic effect. Dark blue works well, too. The watercolor will seep onto the non-colored parts of your design.
  • Lay out your batik-inspired designs to dry.
  • As the watercolor dries, you will begin to notice how the watercolor has seeped into the fine little cracks of oil pastel, creating a really cool batik effect.

I created the design above as an example for my 3rd-6th grade students.

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  1. This looks like a cool project. I once learned a batik process using rubber cement, but now I can't remember what it was. Maybe I'll try yours instead.

  2. Do you have more examples? I'd love to see them!

  3. Thank you,

    I tried another technique with my kids (home school art) and it didn't quite pan out. This was much better and the batik design was evident.

  4. A quick way of flattening the crumpled paper is to have a hot iron ready to press the paper after you apply the dye or water colour.- Work is dry in minutes- great when you have large classes.

  5. Hi! I've had great success with this project over the years- but we use regular crayon instead of oil pastels and instead of watercolor, we use shoe polish! The liquid kind that comes in an applicator bottle. I like the way it actually can be buffed so the whole picture has a slight sheen.
    I like the idea of leaving spaces between the shapes- when working with crayon, we've used gray crayon and the effect is a bit like stained glass!


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