Thursday, August 15, 2013

A Crash Course in Batik Painting

There's a certain pleasure to be had from creating something with your own hands. Batik is a popular souvenir from Malaysia. Designs are created on cloth by first applying wax and then fabric dyes. It's pretty, versatile, easy to pack in your suitcase, and relatively cheap. If you're in Penang for an extended stay of a few weeks or more, take a break from all that touring of temples, noshing on street food and lying out on the beach to try crafting your own piece of batik art. It's also a fun group activity whether you're having a party or entertaining kids.

Learning the process at Rozana's Batik

My first experience with batik was a class set up by Spiral Synergy at Rozana's Refreshing Batik Fine Heart Gallery. Yes, that's "fine heart," not "fine art." Rozana can rightfully be declared an artist whose medium of choice is batik. She has a passion for passing on her knowledge to others, so she makes quite a delightful teacher.

Rozana demonstrates using a tjanting to apply wax over the design.

When my friend and I arrived, we were faced with a totally blank square of thin, white cotton cloth.  It took me a while to dither around looking at books to try to come up with a design. Meanwhile, my friend lightly sketched a butterfly onto the cloth. Rozana demonstrated how to dip the tjanting into the bowl of hot wax, filling the small reservoir, and then running it along the hand drawn lines so that the wax flowed out the small, hollow tube at the tip. She made it look so effortless, but it was harder than it appears. A slow, uneven pace delivers thick, blobby lines. If you go too quick, the wax has gaps where colors would bleed together in the wrong place. These wax lines block the fabric dyes from reaching the cloth so that once the wax is removed, the area beneath it is the original color (in this case, white).

Painting on the dyes and blending the colors.

Next, Rozana showed us how to paint the vibrant dyes onto the fabric. By applying one color such as dark red on one side and blue on the other, she coaxed the colors towards the middle to create a purplish blend of the two. The picture above show various stages of the process.

Then, she let us unleash our creative energies onto our own pieces. After a couple hours, I had my own personal batik masterpiece. Rozana slipped it into a clear plastic bag and gave us instructions on how to iron off the wax and set the dye.

Top Right: Original sketch on paper and then traced onto the cotton.
Top left: Trying my best to make it not look like the work of a small child.
Bottom: My finished floral piece with a geometric border.

A few of my friends have also taken their children to 2-hour classes at Rozana's. The kids are welcome to draw their own picture whether it be of a robot, airplane or other beloved subject which the teacher will then wax for them to paint. Otherwise, they can choose one of the pre-drawn and waxed designs. See Rozana's Facebook photos for some of her kid and adult customers' creations.

Rozana is a wonderful teacher, designer and artist.

Group party at Craft Batik

When it was time for another friend's baby shower, we decided that painting batik baby blankets would be the perfect way to commemorate her "Made in Malaysia" baby. I made arrangements beforehand at Craft Batik which has a good setup for large groups. We could each make our own 14x14 inch square or up to six people could work together on a large 1.5 meter rectangular piece. I decided upon the large pieces and then chose three seascape designs for Craft Batik to draw and wax before we arrived. Other themes available are butterflies or floral designs.

On the party day, the guests gathered and were first shown around the small factory. This is a popular stop on package tours around the island of Penang. Unlike other factory tours that I've been on, this is an actual, working factory, not one that's just in action when the tourists are around. Craft Batik does both hand drawn wax as well as block printing. When blocks are used, the design is an up to 9 inch square pattern that is repeated over and over across the fabric.

Blocks are dipped into the hot was and then stamped onto the fabric.

Painting the fabric dyes onto the block print design which is destined for elementary school uniforms.

Finally, it was our turn to start working. Outside on a covered veranda, three large pieces were stretched across wooden frames waiting for us to start painting. (Note: White linen pants are a poor choice of attire when working with fabric dyes.) As a personal touch, we each signed our names in pencil, and the employee helping us applied the wax for us. I will admit, that I enjoy painting far more than doing the wax, so I didn't mind letting her do this step.

Making batik blankets for a Texan "Made in Malaysia" baby.

Batik turned out to be a great party activity. We divided up with five ladies per piece and chatted away as we painted, oohing and aahing at each other's work. We were scheduled for just an hour but ended up taking more like 90 minutes to complete the project. Perhaps it was all that talking instead of focusing on painting?

Many hands make light work.

When we were finished, we left the fabric to dry and browsed around the showroom before heading over to Ferringhi Coffee Garden which is the perfect place for a ladies luncheon. The next week, I returned to Craft Batik to pick up the blankets. They had already removed the wax and set the dye for us so that no extra work was needed. Out of the three designs, the mama-to-be selected one which we sent to a seamstress to be made into a quilt.

The finished batik baby blanket

Craft Batik can also work with children. I think it's a fabulous kids birthday party idea or a good school group outing. Another friend enjoyed this shower so much that she brought a couple visitors here to paint individual squares when they were in Penang for a few weeks.

Have you ever tried making your own batik? If you don't have time or the inclination while you're in Penang to try it for yourself, I encourage you to drop by either place as they have a showroom and lovely handicrafts for purchase. Sam's Batik on Penang Road is another popular shop, too.

Painting is not a drop-in activity. Make sure you make prior arrangements.
Stop by and shop anytime without appointment.

Rozana's Batik
  • Contact Rozana (; telephone 6-014-247-5347) or Spiral Synergy (; mobile 6-016-457-0221)
  • If you want to draw your own design, have some ideas before you show up so that you can get right to work
  • Rozana can also do tie-dye with you or your children
  • Allot 2-3 hours for session
  • At the end of your session, you'll be able to take home your piece
  • Cost is RM50 for one large square
  • Gallery at 81B, 81C Lebuh Acheh, Georgetown open Monday-Saturday 10:30AM - 6PM.

Craft Batik
  • Website:
  • Contact Miss Fazilah at telephone 6-04-885-1284 or
  • Plan on one visit to select design and make arrangements, one visit for painting, and a return visit to pick up finished products
  • Cost is RM30 for one 14 x 14 inch square or RM150 for a 1.5 meter rectangular piece
  • Showroom next to Factory open daily 9AM - 5:30PM at 669, Mk. 2, Teluk Bahang 11050  Penang)
  • Another showroom (no factory) near the Botanical Garden open daily 9AM - 5:30PM

Sam's Batik House

This post is part of "Travel Photo Thursday" on Budget Travelers Sandbox, Pret-a-vivre,  and "Oh, the Places I've been!" on The Tablescaper. Check them out for more around-the-world travel inspiration.


  1. Having just been to Malaysia, I feel really stupid not knowing what batik painting was. I heard about it, but with little kids, didn't have time to find out what it was all about. Thanks for sharing. Batik painting looks like fun, and is really beautiful!

    1. Yes, the little ones do keep you busy. If you're ever back in Penang for an extended stay, this might be a fun family activity.

  2. wow that looks like fun and the colors they use are dazzling, I would love to try this someday...thanks for sharing

    1. It really is fun. Malaysian batik differs from Indonesian (where batik started) in that the colors are much more vibrant.

  3. Everyone has to do this at least once when in Malaysia right. ;-)

    1. Yes, it's a great way to learn the local culture. That and eating plus going to the spa, right?

  4. Hi Michelle, I love Batik! It's great to finally learn the process of this exotic art. I think your floral piece is lovely.
    The batik making party for a baby shower is such a wonderful, unique idea. That baby is lucky to have those beautifully made blankets. When I go to Malaysia, I'd love to go to a batik class. I hope you will still be there when that time comes, which I hope will be soon.

    1. Oh yes, if you come over here, please let me know. I'd love to meet you in person.

  5. What a fantastic way to unleash your creativity - and I love the fact that it's a social affair too. That's one lucky mom and baby to get that batik piece.

  6. I never really knew about the process of batik. Very interesting! It really is fun to get such a hands-on learning experience -- from real experts. Some beautiful work in your photos.

  7. That baby blanket is so beautiful and what a great keepsake. It's such a fun activity you guys had. I never knew the process so this was so interesting to see from start to finish. I love Batiks and that piece you made is lovely.

    1. I'm hoping to take my kids sometime. It seems like a great family activity. Thanks for stopping by.

  8. Learned quite a bit here...nicely presented and I'll have a greater appreciation for Batiking♫♪ My Waltz effort:

  9. What a lovely way to commemorate your group of friends for the new baby -- and it was beautiful as well. I am old enough to have actually done some batiking back in the day... it's nice project if you have the time.

  10. Nicely illustrated story. Batiks were popular here in California in the late 1960's.

  11. Oh wow the colours on that blanket are amazing! I'd love to do something like that

  12. What a beautiful idea for a Baby Gift - the colours, the design and adding personal taste to a gift is way nicer than buying one.
    Would love to take part of the Batik Painting Projects.

  13. I would love to try this some day. I love the colors.

  14. Wow that looks like lots of fun and a very rewarding effort. Thank you for sharing and partying with us.

  15. What a wonderful thing to do. I'd love to try it too. Your colours and designs looked beautiful. By the way, thank you for popping by to my blog earlier this week :)

  16. I did this in school - lots of fun! The best bit is when you wash off the wax to see the final product.

  17. Hi, This is a good goo website. Thx.

  18. Must be really exciting and interesting to do hands-on for this beautiful paintings.
    Know what?

    In Penang, now you can visit a Batik Painting Museum which recently open this month, October 2013 and it is located in the Heritage site.

    This museum aims to tell the historical story of how this art form began in the 1950's and its subsequent development by a good number of talented artists in Malaysia.

    This story began with an artist living in Penang named Chuah Thean Teng(or Teng, Dato'). He was an established artist who was also familiar with the old traditional batik technique of using dye-resist process in the making decorative motifs and designs on fabrics.

    There are about 70 painting being presented in this museum. They begin with Teng's early works done in the 1950's up until the current period.

    Over 25 artists are represented and a small number of artists in other countries also take up Batik Paintings. This museum includes a small section devoted to works by artists in China, Indonesia and Thailand.

    Do go visit this museum when you visit Penang or are in Penang.

    The address:-
    Telephone/Fax: +604-2624 800

    Opening Hours:
    10am - 5pm (Mon - Fri)
    10am - 3pm (Sat)
    9am - 5pm (Sun)
    closed on Public holidays.
    Admission: RM5 (Adult)
    RM1 (Student)

  19. This is really great! It reminded my of my batik painting experience at MyBatik, Kuala Lumpur. I'd recommend everyone to go for batik painting if you were to visit Malaysia, because it is one of Malaysia's ancient traditional arts. I had the privilege to experience batik painting while i was on my visit to the capital city of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur. I stumbled upon MyBatik whilst i was walking around KL, from KLCC. I didn't even know the place existed, it is a beautiful place, very relaxing in the midst of chaotic Kuala Lumpur. I was really pleased with the batik painting that i made there, by myself. I find the price reasonable too. For anyone who is visiting Kuala Lumpur, this is an opportunity not to be missed! Give batik painting a try!

  20. Yes, the little ones do keep you busy. If you're ever back in Penang for an extended stay, this might be a fun family activity. Thanks for sharing the useful information.

  21. Malaysia is definitely a wonderful place to visit. My friends and I went to Kuala Lumpur last week and my aunt brought us to this batik place. It's quite extraordinary. Honestly, I've never liked art but after that experience, I find batik quite fun. It was a little hard to control the thickness of the wax when drawing but it didn't take us long to learn. The workers were really helpful as well. They taught us various techniques of canting as well as different patterns we could draw. I highly recommend anyone who is around KL to visit this place! I guarantee you won't regret it! Here's their official website,

  22. I just went for 1 in Cherating called limbong art... this Lady called Umi...n her 2 daughters who was very helpful.. try it if ur on east cost

  23. I can see that you are putting a lot of efforts into your blog. Keep posting the good work.Some really helpful information in there. Nice to see your site. Thanks!

    Batik Paintings


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