Painted Batik or Batik Lukis Malaysia

I was curious whether there is a difference between batik produced in Malaysia and batiks made elsewhere. The traditional method of batiking is applying melted wax to design outlines on fabric to create the resist, and immersion of that fabric in natural or chemical dye to add color to the overall design. The wax may be boiled off, and another round of waxing and over dyeing will be repeated.

Although this traditional technique is still used, especially in the states of Kelantan and Terengganu where most cotton batik sarongs are produced, Malaysian batik artists employ many other techniques in combination with the traditional such as tie-dye, discharge of dye or wax splatter. However, it is the direct painting method (sometimes referred to as rainbow painting) that has given Malaysian batik artists the freedom of expression to produce the wearable art loved by Malaysians.

It is also the unique combination of cool silk textile,  a dye type (Remazol, a vinyl sulphone dye) that does not require hours of  batching, and the hot and humid conditions found in tropical Malaysia that enable artists to produce these amazing pieces of cloth later made into clothes and scarves around the country.

The painterly freedom enjoyed by Malaysian batik artists has produced a particularly vivid “brand” of batik unique to Malaysia, with choices of bright, tropical colors and motifs. Check out our instagram champacabatik for more pictures.


Japanese batik or Rozomé


The art of applying dye and wax resist to bolts of silk for the purposes of the kimono has existed in Japan since the 8th century. However, the special quality of the Japanese rozomé lies in the skill of the artisan when applying dye to the background. The difficulty is in ensuring a gradual and seamless colour gradation from dark to light, without obvious streaks or lines. This is achieved through a very patient application of dye in layers, using special blending brushes such as the jizome or hikizome brush for large backgrounds and surikome brushes for smaller areas. The resultant radiant backgrounds have a luminosity that is today characteristic of Japanese rozomé.

chinese wave pattern

Fill-in colour of the subject is achieved through dyeing and over-dyeing which is repeated sometimes up to 20 times, or painting as done in French silk painting. Today, artists apply acid dyes to silk because wax can be applied on top of acid dyes as soon as they dry, as opposed to fibre reactive dyes which must be batched first.



Pysanky: Batik on Eggs

This is a traditional Ukrainian and Polish craft whereby liquid wax is applied in a design on the shell of an egg, by means of a mini tool called a “kitska“. The kitska is similar to a tjanting (see our earlier blog Wax-Resist Method) except the spout is very tiny and the wax flows out in a very thin, fine line.


Decorating an Easter egg with wax

Afterwards, the egg shell is carefully dyed, either in natural (plant derived) dyes or chemical dyes. Like the batik dye and overdye method, the waxing and dyeing process can be repeated as many times as the shell would absorb the dye.

The wax is finally removed by holding it close to a candle, or a heat source.

Do they do it with the egg still inside or an empty egg-shell? Most people blow out the egg before the waxing and dyeing, but in the old days, the egg would be set out to be allowed to dry out naturally, although sometimes, the danger of gases building up can explode your dyed egg.

Malaysian Batik Today

From a historical perspective, printed cloth in the Malay peninsular came in the forms of batik pelangi (tie-dyed and stitch or bound resist) (see previous blog post) (from 1770s), wax resist and dye by hand traditional batik (from 1910s), chopped batik (1920s after the first world war) and “kain telepok” (dyed silk printed with gum treated wooden stamps and gold leafed). In the Malay Annals believed to have originated in the 18th century, a type of printed patterned cloth referred to as “kain serasah” had been mentioned whereby purportedly a local sultan had ordered his admiral to obtain the same from India.

In the 1950s, batik was introduced as an art form by Chuah Thean Teng, thus beginning a movement for batik painting with artists such as Ramli Malik, Khalil Ibrahim, Tay Mo-Leong, Fatimah Chik, Toya, Koay Soo Kau, Cheong Soo Pieng, Seah Kim Joo. Soon, commercial interests and a booming tourist trade ensured the popularity of batik chop into the array of batik products that could be found in Malaysia. Eventually, you would even find faux batik in the form of “batik digital” (digitally printed batik designs) and “batik skrin” (screen printed fabric with batik designs).

Today, Malaysia is most known for its “batik lukis” or hand drawn (with tjanting wax application) and hand dyed batik. This form  of batik was first introduced in the 1960s eventually receiving support from the government as a recognized national craft. Malaysian batik lukis is distinctly elegant and artistic due to the free-form expression allowed in this technique with floral, geometric and abstract designs. Malaysian batik artisans today are skilled in a number of craft techniques, combining styles to produce a batik design “brand” is purely Malaysian.

Check our our other blogs on champaca.uspink batik

Kain Pelangi in the history of Malaysian Batik

Kain Pelangi or “Rainbow Scarf” is a resist + dye fabric using sewing stitches in designs which were pulled through the fabric to bunch or “ruch” the fabric, tied and then dyed. It was first introduced in the Kelantan and Trengganu states in the east coast of peninsula Malaysia in the early 18th century and originated from the Bandhani cloths of Jodhpur India. Obviously, this was introduced by Indian merchants and became popular amongst the populace of the east coast. Ladies used these as scarves or head coverings .

Although strictly not made using the wax-resist technique of batik, it is part of the history of batik in Malaysia. The makers of this fabric used natural dye from brazilwood, turmeric, pomegranate, mangosteen skin, indigo, orseille, logwood, madderwood, henna mixed with tamarind seeds and gambe, onion skins and safflower to color the fabric.

This technique later became out of fashion since the 2nd World War, and today you will find the simpler rainbow design produced by circular tie dye methods as illustrated in the photo.

Indonesian Batik

Indonesian batik is the most famous and recognizable batik in the world, wherein in 2009, the Indonesian government was able to have Javanese batik included in UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

It is true that for the Javanese, particularly the royalty and aristocracy of Yogyakarta and Surakarta, that batik is an inseparable element of life, being a statement of one’s station in life as specific designs may only be worn by members of certain classes of society.

In addition to Javanese batik, there are also Balinese batik, Pekalongan batik, Hakokai batik and Papua batik.

Here is an excellent blog on the different types of Indonesian batik

The components of the Wax resist

Each culture has its own preference for the type of wax used in batik making. The wax could simply be a single wax type (for example beeswax), but the recipe can also depend on the fabric used, the design and the wax application method desired. The types of wax that can be found in a batik wax mixture include-

  • Paraffin
  • Beeswax
  • Resin from the Damar tree
  • Microwax (sticky wax)
  • Colophony or gum rosin (not resin) from Indonesian Pine
  • Animal fat or vegetable fat
  • Recycled wax


Animal fats or vegetable fats are used for liquidity. It melts at 45-49C and is added to lower the melting point of beeswax, used especially during the dry / hot season to make harder wax.

Paraffin is used for friability (crackle) and melts at 51.7C or 125F. It is easy for paraffin to penetrate fabric, easy to release but it is susceptible to extended exposure to alkaline solution (such as soda ash in fibre reactive dye solutions). Add more paraffin if you want more crackle.

Beeswax is for malleability and melts at 61.1C or 142-149F.

Micro wax or sticky wax melts at 79.4C or 175F. It gives flexibility to paraffin. A combined prepared mix of 50:50 paraffin and sticky wax melts at 61.2C or 150F.

Colophony or gum rosin is for giving a very defined outline to the wax (very necessary for crisp print in batik chop). It has a very high melting point. Between 70-80C or 158-176F. Easy to penetrate fabric, but also very easy to crack.

Damar Resin is for adhesiveness and acts as a binder. It melts at around 120C or 248F. Adding it to beeswax will raise the melting temperature to 62C or 145F thus not allowing it to harden too quickly during the chopping process. It will also harden it.

Recycled wax improves paraffin resilience against alkaline solution which is often used in naphtol and fiber reactive dyes.

The type of wax with the highest melting temperature is usually melted first before adding the other types.

A recent discovery is soy wax, which is water-soluble. It melts at 43.3-60C or 110-140F and is safer to use but does not crackle unless frozen. One disadvantage is that if you throw it down the drain, especially if you have mixed with detergent in order to wash it out, it will clog your drains. A second disadvantage is that it is highly susceptible to soda ash, which is required to fix dyes.


Yunnan La Ran (Yunnan Wax Printing) or Chinese Batik

The minority peoples of Yunnan in Guizhou, China have been practicing this technique of surface design since, some say, the Qin dynasty (221-207BC) but definitely since the Han dynasty (206BC-24AD). These minorities (the Miao, the Bouyei and the Gejia) continue to live in the Southwestern regions of China and to practice this craft until today.


Fabric used for traditional Miao minority costumes hanging to dr

They used beeswax and wormwax as resists, applying the wax to the cloth with the thin blade of a bronze knife. Traditional designs were geometric, but with later influence from the Hans, figurative designs were introduced. The designs which were generally based on realism, are artistic and free flowing and reflect the cultural elements of each community. The traditional colour used was blue from the indigo, but later other colours were added. Batik technique was used to decorate hemp and cotton cloth. Modern day batik Chinese batik is artistic and depending on the artist, may even be romantic.

Hmong Hill Tribe Batik

The hill tribes of Laos, Vietnam , Burma and Thailand originally migrated from China. There are 6 major tribes : Karen, Hmong (originally the Miao), the Yao, the Akha, the Lisu and the Lahu.

The Hmong carried with them their knowledge of batik craft, decorating their clothing today pretty much the same way as the Miao in south west China did since the Qin dynasty.

The Blue Hmong people of Laos draw symbols on hemp cloth, applying wax with the canting tool. The hemp is cultivated locally and has low environmental effect. Once the cloth has been covered in the wax, it is left to harden before dyeing in indigo, a natural dye.

The Black Hmong of Vietnam too decorate their fabric with the batik technique.

Batik Tjap or Batik Chop

The use of a block chop is most often found in Indonesian and Malaysian batik. This method of applying wax is used when repetitive designs are required, for example for sarongs and batik shirts. Although chops can be made from wood, tin or any metal, copper is best for heat conductivity to ensure that the wax does not harden during the transferring process from stamp to fabric.

For a video on how the block chop is made, please click this link  How a batik tjap is made.

After the wax mixture is melted, a pad made from folded cloth that is semi immersed in the the melting pan serves as a stamp pad. This video will show you the stamping process Batik wax stamping