Resist Printing on fabric : 3 DIY methods

resist printing

Resist Printing refers to printing on fabric that results in an undyed pattern in the shape of the resist applied on a dyed background. It is a negative printing method. 

In this fabric printing method, a resist is applied on the fabric that will keep the dye from penetrating the cloth. When you dye the fabric, the dye will color only the areas not blocked by the resist.

Resist can be anything that will ‘resist’ or block the penetration of dye on the fabric surface. 

resist printing on fabric

How is resist printing done?

A densely woven thin fabric in natural fibers – this the preferred fabric to do resist painting – thin smooth silks, thin cotton, linen, rayon are all suitable. The kind of fabric on which the paint or dye will penetrate easily. Prewash the fabric in hot water with detergent before doing any type of dyeing/printing.   

1. Tie and dye 

resist printing on fabric

Tie and Dye is one of the most popular resist printing method. Rubber bands or waxed cords/strings are used to tightly tie the fabric which is wrapped or folded or coiled or twisted, before dyeing.  

Decide on where you do not want the color; tie that place tightly with waxed thread – this is how it works. After you have dyed the fabric, you will find that wherever the threads have been in contact (considering where you tied and how tightly it was tied) are left undyed.

Learn more on tie-dye in these posts: What is tie-dye? 8 different types ; How to do tie and dye – basic methods used; 10 easy to do tie-dye designs; How to tie-dye a t-shirt

Shibori is a tie and dye technique that originated in Japan – it involves wrapping the fabric over objects like pipes, rocks, and then tying with waxed thread.

2. Liquid resist applied on the fabric

In this method, liquid products are applied to the fabric as resist before dyeing the fabric. This is a  very common method of doing resist printing. You need a resist material that will make fine, crisp lines that do not spread or bleed. Batik Printing is printing done in this way. Silk painting is another one.

You can use many things like wheat flour paste, water-soluble gutta (a rubber product), soy wax, glue gel, oatmeal paste, mashed potato/cassava paste as the resist. Dhabu printing (Indian printing method) uses mud as a resist. In Japan a rice paste is used. Rice is pounded to make a fine or coarse paste for this.

Batik Printing

In Batik printing beautiful designs are made on the fabric with the help of wax ( beeswax/paraffin wax) as a resist. If you are using wax you have to dye the fabric with a printing process that does not use heat. You may have to repeatedly do the process of applying wax, remove it, then dye it any number of times to get the process right with different colors and beautiful designs. 

Painting using Silk paint Water-Based Resist

To use the gutta type resist you have to fill the applicator bottles about 3/4th full with your gutta resist and then use it to outline the surface of the fabric. The fabric should be stretched tightly on a frame for the best result. You have to ensure that all lines are connected so that paint does not escape and spread to adjacent areas. These resists are water-soluble, you have to ensure that the paint does not saturate the gutta, especially if you have diluted the paint. Water-based resists are to be applied only on dry fabric.

Usually, the resist washes out easily with warm water after the paint has been heat-set. But some resist can be permanent after it is applied and heat-set – this can be used in the Serti silk painting technique.

Other than using the gutta with the applicator bottles, you can also use it with stamps or with stencils

3. Things are kept on the fabric

This works at leaving the design in an undyed state (the color of the base fabric) while the rest of the fabric is dyed or painted.

Stencil printing work this way – You can use it with paint or with bleach. Bleach can be sprayed on top of the stencil for a different effect (this works as a discharge printing method). 

Javanese & Japanese stencil Prints are very famous for their beautiful designs. You can do this type of printing by cutting out a design from paper and then place it on your fabric. This can then be painted. You have to use a thick fabric.

Negative block printing also works this way.

A block is used as a resist – parts of the block are hollowed out to leave the rest in relief for this method. The block will have 2 parts – to be attached to either side of the fabric.

This is done by professionals in this way – first, the fabric is stretched. One part of the block is kept on the top and the other is kept on the back and then they are clamped together. These blocks will have small holes through which you can pour the dye and those will fill the designs with color where you want them to be.  The unexposed portions will remain white while the rest of the fabric will be dyed.  After the dye is dried, the fabric is taken out of the block.  

resist printing

Continuing the process of dyeing

You may have to leave the fabric with the resist over night for it to completely dry.

After the resist is dried, the fabric is piece dyed. The whole fabric is immersed in the dye solution and kept like that for sufficient time (usually 20 minutes or as your dye instructions specify). After the dyeing is done, the tying / resist paste is removed. Most resists can be removed with a warm water wash. You will get a uniformly dyed fabric with undyed portions that show as patterns.

Related posts : Fabric printing methods ; Best T-shirt printing methods ; How to paint on fabric ; DIY block printingFabric glossary

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