Woodblock Printing On Textiles

Nowadays, it’s common to transfer ink to fabrics through commercial printing. Rather than dyeing individual threads, it is often easier to transfer the entire design at once. However, the tools needed to do this weren’t always accessible. People relied on block printing before the development of modern technology. The process of block printing entails carving the required pattern onto a sizable block, dousing it in ink or dye, and then stamping it onto the cloth. Although blocks might be formed of stone, wood was the material of choice.

Actually, the procedure is extremely reminiscent of how the earliest printed books were made. Even though it sounds easy, each block can only have one colour of ink or dye applied to it, and only to the portion of the block that contains the overall pattern that uses that color. This is a time-honored method that has been applied frequently throughout human history all across the world, at least as far back as the ancient civilizations of India, Egypt, China, and Assyria.

What is Woodblock Printing?

Block printing is a relief printing technique that involves using a hand-cut block of wood or linoleum to print images on cloth. The block is carved, ink is added, and printing follows. Hence, block printing is called that. More than two thousand years have passed since the invention of this method. It has its roots in China, where, until the 1800s, it was the most widely used printing technique for books and images in East Asia. Initially, block-printed fabrics were the norm; silk fabrics were the most popular. It wasn’t until many centuries later that it was used to make textiles, which are currently most likely the material of choice for block printing.

The Wood Block Printing Method

Block printing involves more than just pressing blocks against fabric. Each wooden block must be carved, then the fabric must be ready, the dyes mixed, and the finishing touches applied. Each block printing method demands patience, talent, and artistic ability. The culmination of these tasks results in our exquisite block-printed fabrics.

The woodblock is prepared as a relief matrix, which entails cutting away with a knife or chisel the areas that will be displayed in “white,” leaving the text or image that will be displayed in “black” at the original surface level. The block was cut with the wood’s grain in mind. It only takes inking the block and bringing it into firm contact with the fabric to get a high-quality print. The complexity is increased by the fact that text prints naturally “in reverse” or mirror-image. Although the term “xylography” is not frequently used in English, it refers to the art of carving woodcuts. In colour printing, many blocks, each for a single colour, are employed; however, overprinting two colours may produce extra colours on the print. It is possible to precisely register and print several colours by keying the textile to a frame around the woodblocks.

How to Make a Block for Fabric Printing?

The basis of the block printing method is hand-carved wooden blocks. Block carving is time-consuming and requires outstanding expertise. Block carving is a skill that wood carvers practise and pass along through the centuries. The hardest part of the block printing procedure is carving the outline block. It’s the costliest block because it serves as the framework for the design. This sculpture is being worked on by the most talented artisan in a block-making shop.

Traditionally, the design for the wooden block is sketched out on paper. This design is placed on a piece of hardwood, and then it is nailed into the surface. Unwanted parts of the wooden surface are removed after removing the paper, leaving the design protruding. In order to print by hand, dye is spread across the surface of the created relief. To print in various colours, you must create numerous blocks. Anything can be used to create the blocks. Utilize what is nearby by simply looking around. Printing can be done with a pair of dice, cut-out cardboard, and felt stencil pieces. To create a grip on the print, hot glue the pieces to a piece of cardboard. Additionally, an acrylic sheet works well as a base board for the stamps. Fruits and vegetables are both acceptable. Block printing can be done by carving any design into a potato.

Other Equipment is Required

You also need a printing table and a colour sieve in addition to the carved block. The table is made up of a sturdy wood or iron framework that supports a thick stone slab that varies in size according to the breadth of the fabric that will be printed. A substantial piece of woollen printer’s blanket is tightly stretched over the stone tabletop to provide the elasticity required to give the block the best possible chance of leaving a positive impression on the fabric.

A few iron brackets are attached to the table’s one end to hold the roll of fabric that will be printed, and the other end has a row of guide rollers that reach the ceiling and are used to hang and dry freshly printed items. The starch-paste-filled swimming tub serves as the foundation of the colour sieve, which also includes a frame suspended above it and a piece of tightly stretched Mackintosh or oiled calico covering the bottom. A frame identical to the last but coated in fine woollen cloth is placed on this colour sieve specifically, and when it is in place, it creates a sort of elastic colour trough over the bottom of which the colour is uniformly spread using a brush.


In conclusion, block printing is fantastic because it gives you complete control over the colours, theme, and repetition of your print. With so much power, you may design cloth specifically for your purpose. One of the simplest methods for producing personalised cloth at home is this one. When using block printing techniques on fabric, positioning is crucial.

Because printing is done from the outside in, the border is printed before the main design. On the outline block, the block carver chisels registration points that aid in aligning the subsequent blocks. Here, the printer uses only his hands; no other rulers are employed. Block-printed textiles are easier to differentiate from mass-produced textiles that are frequently marketed as “hand block prints” because of their registration stamps and uniqueness.

Updated on: 10-Apr-2023


Kickstart Your Career

Get certified by completing the course

Get Started