Types of Block Printing Techniques That Bring the Art to Life

Types of Block Printing Techniques That Bring the Art to Life


Block printing is a timeless art form that involves carving a design or pattern on a block and imprinting it on a textile with the help of vibrant dyes. Right from traditional woodblock and linoleum block print to digital hybrid techniques, it provides an array of creative possibilities applicable even today. The versatile art form, varied types of block printing techniques, and advanced block printing ideas captivate craftsmen and artists worldwide. 

Classic yet simple block printing designs are an enduring fascination where tradition converges with innovation in an artistic expression. Embracing such aesthetics of block print patterns, 17 Looms, crafted by Pinkvilla, has introduced the Amara collection, honoring the revered art form. The tale of the print blocker and its encounter with textiles is indeed worth exploring.  

History of Block Printing



Block printing is a process passed on from centuries to centuries. It is not only one of the earliest but also the simplest yet alluring work of art. The process involves the printing of patterns by employing engraved blocks, starting right from cutting and carving to imprinting. This enchanting form of textile printing is capable of yielding whimsical results. 


The art was developed and modified in Europe in the 19th century whose artistic dots can be traced to date. Historians acknowledge the Chinese as having introduced this form of textile printing. Moreover, for over 500 years, block carving and printing have been practiced in Rajasthan, India. To date, artisans employ varied block printing techniques to bring the art to life. 


Block Printing Techniques 


1. Woodblock Printing



Woodblock printing is a technique where a design is carved on a piece of wood. It is then inked and pressed onto paper or fabric to create a masterpiece.


2. Linocut Printing: Linocut is similar to woodblock printing. Instead of wood, linoleum is used. Since the material is easier to carve, it is the most popular choice among artists.


3. Stamp Printing: Stamps are typically pre-designed. They have prints, images, and patterns on the surface, which can easily be imprinted on paper, fabric, or even walls. This is the easiest way to reproduce a particular design.


4. Screen Printing with Block Designs: It involves creating a stencil on a screen and then using that stencil to imprint the design. This is a great technique to add texture and depth to the desired prints.


5. Resist Printing: In this method, a resist paste is applied to the fabric that features a specific pattern or design. It is then dyed. The resist areas do not absorb the dye and thus give birth to a patterned effect.


6. Discharge Printing: It involves the removal of color from a dyed fabric to create alluring patterns. The discharge agent is applied to the fabric, which chemically takes off the dye, leaving a lighter hue to the design. 

    Modern Digital Block Printing Techniques



    1. Digital Hybrid Printing: It combines traditional and digital printing methods to achieve specific patterns and effects that are not possible with traditional methods alone.


    2. Inkjet Printing: This technique involves the usage of a printer. Specialized inkjet printers are used to directly paste the desired design onto the fabric. 


    3. Laser Printing: This technique makes the use of laser technology to create precise and detailed patterns on fabric.


    4. UV Digital Printing: It seeks the help of ultraviolet light to cure inks on the fabric, resulting in vibrant and durable prints. 

      To master the art of fabric printing, the presence of printmaking tools is of due importance. Right from blocks to different types of printing fabrics, everything counts to bring block printing basics to life.


      Materials And Tools Used in Block Printing

      For creating a wide variety of prints, get to know the types of blocks you need to get your hands on. 


      Types of Blocks


      1. Wood



      Wood is one of the classic materials for block printing. It is durable and can easily be used to create a wide variety of prints. In this technique, a block of wood is sliced horizontally and cut into pieces, considering the design and pattern that one requires. A wooden block has a maximum size of 6 inches in diameter and is 1½ inches thick. Basswood, birch, plywood, etc., are a few woods used for carving.


      2. Linoleum 



      Compared to wood, linoleum is a softer material and is easier to carve. It is completely free from grain and doesn’t produce fine lines. It is cheaper and the go-to block to work faster and quicker. This type of block is also one of the popular choices for novice enthusiasts, beginners, as well as experienced artists alike. Battleship linoleum, soft-cut linoleum, and rubber linoleum are the three types of linoleum most commonly used to make blocks.

      3. Foam 



      Foam is the most inexpensive material used to make a block for textile printing. It is extremely light in weight but not very long-lasting. It is only suitable for casting selective prints. Craft foam, EVA foam, and styrofoam are the three types of foam used for block printing.

      Fabric Inks And Dyes Used Commonly for Block Printing


      The inks come in two main varieties for block printing — water-based and oil-based. Water-based inks dry quickly, offering an impeccable translucency with subtle gradations of tone. These are easier to clean and thus are user-friendly. 


      On the other hand, oil-based inks have a longer shelf life. Though oil-based inks take time to dry, they are highly appreciated for their rich colors, promising excellent coverage. For cleaning, such types of ink may require special solvents. 


      Likewise, different types of dyes are used for fabrics like silk and cotton.

      1. Natural Or Vegetable Dyes: This type of dye is extracted from nature, especially vegetables, fruits, leaves, etc. They don’t harm the environment and have immense traditional importance. A few natural dyes include indigo blue extracted from the indigo plant, red obtained from alum and alizarin, and green procured from the skin of pomegranate.


      2. Discharge Dyes: Such types of dyes are largely used to print on a darker background. They possess a chemical that reacts with the dark fabric base and then, bleaches out the dark color. In this method, a wide range of white and other light colors can be printed on the darker textile shade.


      3. Pigment Dyes: These are ready-to-use dyes available on the market. These dyes are applied as it is and their shade does not change after washing.


      4. Reactive Dyes: These are the chemical dyes that are blended to produce the desired color. Artists dye the fabric to be printed in one chemical and then reprint it with another chemical. These two chemicals react with each other and produce a third color. 

        Suitable Fabrics And Materials



        The most commonly used fabrics and materials for hand-block printing are linen, cotton, hemp, and other natural fibers. These fabrics blend well and seamlessly bring out the intricacies of a print on the weave.

        To start with block printing, you will need a few essential tools for creating beautiful and intricate designs, which are as follows - 


        Tools Required for Block Printing

        1. Color Plates 



        Color plates are widely used for the proper application of color on the block. Colors are poured into a wooden tray called saaj wherein a wire mesh is placed with a piece of felt.


        2. Scale And Chalks

        A scale is used for marking the areas to be printed. In addition, chalks have sharp edges which are used to create fine lines so that artisans can mark the areas to be printed while leaving appropriate gaps for cutting and stitching.

        3. Carving Tools



        Nails and hammers are used to carve the desired design on a wooden block.  


        4. Brushes

        Metal or nylon brushes are used to clean the wooden and metal blocks after every use.


        These tools will help you achieve the desired results. Each of the tools and printing techniques is beneficial in achieving different aesthetic and functional outcomes in textile design. The type of block printing technique used for the process is altogether a distinctive story that weaves tales of timelessness with a touch of modesty. 17 Looms offers the opportunity to experience the beauty of block prints with its Amara collection, showcasing vibrant prints and patterns brought to life by skilled craftsmen. 

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