Batik is an extremely versatile technique. Once the basic principle— that certain media will repel other media— is understood, it may be utilized in an infinite variety of ways. One of the most rewarding applications of the resist technique is paper batik. It is simple and inexpensive to do and produces exciting results with a wide range of effects. Paper batik is within the range of the very young child, yet it is also a legitimate graphic technique important to the mature artist. Some unusual contemporary drawings, illustrations, and advertising art incorporate aspects of the resist techniques described here.
The steps for making paper batiks are similar to those for making cloth batiks, the main difference being that the papers are generally not immersed in dye baths. In paper batik the resist is usually brushed or drawn on the paper and covered with another medium, which either rolls off or is scraped or washed off the resist.
Before beginning any extensive project involving much time, it is highly recommended that you experiment with your materials on paper. Paper batik materials, like any others, have their potentials and limitations. A few preliminary exercises in applying the resist and developing dye application techniques will help you discover these and set your goals accordingly. An important consideration in paper batik is choosing the right kind of paper for the texture or effect you wish to achieve. Although most kinds of paper are suitable, some are not because they are structurally weak. Since the batik process subjects paper to considerable wear,
only the sturdier papers should be used. Newsprint, although one of the most popular and available of all papers,
should not be used because it will not withstand hard rubbing with crayon or wax. It is therefore especially difficult to control, particularly by young children. Beginners of any age should avoid fragile papers, such as art tissue, as they require unusual care throughout the batik process.
Mimeograph bond and similar papers are recommended for basic experiments. Construction paper, which is quite sturdy, stands up well under repeated rubbing, scrubbing, and wetting. Bristol and poster boards are good when smooth surfaces are desired, and they are easy to work on. For variations in texture, charcoal and rough watercolor paper are particularly rewarding. The “tooth” of these papers holds both resist and dye media well, and promotes interesting application techniques. The wide variety of elegant Oriental papers is suited to both modern and traditional approaches to batiking. Because these papers are interlaced with straw or silk fibers, they stand up well under rough treatment and are particularly suitable for crackling effects.
The color of the paper affects the appearance of the finished work, no mattei what resist or coloring media are used over it. For the beginner white paper is suggested. Its surface acts as a reflector for the translucent crayons and gives a brilliance of contrast not possible with colored papers. Colored papers, on the other hand, may be used to create unexpected color mixtures and subtleties which are desirable when brilliance or strong contrast are not the most important aspects of the work. For example, yellow crayon on white paper is sunny and luminescent; the same crayon on blue paper achieves a greenish hue and a duller effect. Generally, light colored crayons that appear bright and clear against white are likely to be muddy and drab on colored grounds.
The paper batik technique that most closely resembles fabric batiking is roll-off. In roll-off, the design is applied in wax, and the dye or pigment brushed or dabbed over the paper. The coloring medium will be resisted by the wax and roll off to stain only the unwaxed parts of the paper. Like fabric batiking, roll-off allows a great deal of versatility and uniqueness in approach. The artist may build up his paper batik in various stages by separate waxing and dyeing, or he may combine the numerous kinds and colors of resist media and set them off by a single dyeing.
The most successful and easy to use roll-off resist media are crayon and paraffin. Crayons come in a wide variety of kinds, colors, and sizes, and a bit of experimentation is necessary to determine which are the most successful as resist media. Generally, the most effective crayons are the waxiest. Since a heavy application involving considerable amounts of crayon is necessary—unless
one is doing a finely detailed linear work— large kindergarten crayons are recommended. These are cheap and cover well. The recently developed oil crayons, which are more expensive than the kindergarten crayons, blend easily into a wide variety of colors and effects and will prove particularly rewarding for the mature artist. Pressed crayons do not work well as resists. They are too hard and do not deposit as waxy a residue as do the softer crayons and oil crayons.
Paraffin is an excellent and inexpensive resist material, if a colored resist is not desired. It may be used in block form like a crayon or melted and brushed on, as in fabric batiking. Candle stumps may also be used and are easier to handle than a block of paraffin. Either paraffin or candles on colored paper will protect the original color of the paper and allow it to show through the dye media. Melted paraffin will penetrate thin papers and protect both sides, permitting immersion in a dye bath for the crackle effect. in a dye bath for the crackle effect.
Since paraffin or candles serve little purpose in most finished batiks, the medium may be removed by placing the batik between newsprint or other absorbent papers and pressing it with a warm iron. Sometimes, however, the strength and luminosity that the wax gives is quite desirable in a finished work. For a translucent panel, such as a shoji screen, the wax-impregnated papers
are very effective.
After the waxed lines or areas are put down, the dye media are applied. These media may be watercolors, inks, fabric dyes, or tempera paints. Watercolors, fabric dyes, and colored inks are transparent and easily roll off waxed areas. Tempera, or poster, paints must be thinned; otherwise the pigment particles and the binders used in the paints tend to cover the wax design. If adequately thinned and quickly applied, tempera rolls off easily too. An important aspect in applying the paint or dye is the way in which you brush it on. All media should be applied with soft watercolor brushes, pointed ones for details and broad flat ones for
washes. Avoid stiff bristle brushes, since they are likely to scratch through the resist. Work quickly and smoothly with little stroking or rubbing back and forth. The more you scrub with the brush, the more likely the paint will cover the resist.