The Fascinating Painting Technique of Watercolor Batik

Published Dec. 13th 2011


“Watercolor batik” is an amazing technique that combines melted wax and watercolors on rice paper to create an exciting-looking painting. Today I’ll be explaining how I use this technique in my own paintings.

If you’re ready, let’s get started!

First, I ink in my drawing on rice paper—which is normally a washi paper with small fibers—using a thin line, waterproof black pen. Then I apply melted paraffin wax to anything I want to stay white, just like using masking fluid.

Notice that even though the daisy petals in this particular painting are white, I wanted a little color on them first so I just spattered some wax here and there for some whites.

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After using watercolor for some shading on the flowers I applied wax to all of the petals to protect them from further applications of paint. (Watercolors tend to run outside the ink lines on the rice paper, so to keep a sharp edge you must apply wax.)

As soon as the petals are protected I can paint the leaves right next to the flowers. After the leaves are painted, I applied wax to them as well, and then painted the entire background. With all the detailed areas covered in wax, I don’t have to be so careful with the paint. . . I can paint right over the flowers.

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The last step is to paint melted wax all over the background, let it harden, and then wad up the entire painting to crack the wax—this is the scary part! I then smooth it out and paint a dark color over the entire piece.

The darker color settles in the cracks which will give it that authentic “batik” look. . . but as you can see, here it simply looks like a mess. At this point you just have to trust the process.

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The final step is to use some torn newspaper and an iron to remove all of the wax. As you do, the lighter areas you’ve protected will emerge. It is always a wonderful surprise to see the beautiful and unique results of this process!

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For more from Martha Kisling, please visit marthakisling.blogspot.com.

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