Dyeing, Resist

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Resist printing is a method used to apply a design on a fabric. It requires the covering of parts of the fabric in a way that will keep the dye from penetrating the open areas. The cover may be a variety of materials. Other than flat bed silk-screening and rotary silk-screening, resist-printing processes are hand methods. Wax is used in batik, while string or rubber bands are used in the tie-dye process. Similar to tie-dye is the ikat process, where the warp yarns are tied before dyeing. Another similar process to tie-dye is Shibori, where the fabric is given a three-dimensional form and folded, stitched, plaited, or twisted.

Also similar to tie-dye is the process called tritik. To prepare the fabric for dyeing, the fabric is stitched by hand or machine in the planned design. The thread is then pulled to draw the fabric. Where the fabric is close together it resists the dye.

Stencil printing is another form of resist printing. To make the stencil, designs are cut out of wood, paper, waxed paper, thin metal, or cardboard to cover the parts that will not be dyed. The open design areas need to be fastened to the adjacent areas; the attachments are usually noticeable in the print. A separate stencil is made for each color. The stencil is placed over the fabric. A color paste is applied to the open areas or the dye may be applied by an airbrush or spray gun. The stencil is removed and the next stencil is placed on the fabric.

Silk-screen printing is a process to apply designs either by hand or by automatic methods. The screen is coated with a material that is then removed in the design areas. Screens at one time were made from silk but in the early 2000s screens are either made from synthetic fibers or a metal mesh. A screen will be prepared for each color in the design. The screens are placed individually on top of the fabric by hand and the dye paste is forced onto the fabric through the open (design) areas of the screen by a squeegee. The screen is removed and moved to the next position on the fabric.

Flat bed silk-screening and rotary silk-screen printing are automatic methods. Flat silk-screening is similar to hand silk-screening but the fabric moves on a conveyor belt at regular intervals. The screens are placed above and are lowered automatically. Flat silk-screen printing is economically feasible for small runs and large designs.

Rotary silk-screen printing is a much faster system and used more often. Instead of flat screens, the screens are cylindrical and the dye paste is inside the roller. The squeegee forces the dye paste out of the roller on the fabric as it rotates. The design repeat is only as large as the circumference of the roller. Colorfastness of resist prints will be dependent on the dyestuff, the fiber, the pretreatment and absorbency of the fabric used, and the method of application.

See alsoBatik; Ikat; Tie-Dyeing .


Bosence, Susan. Hand Block Printing and Resist Dyeing. London: David and Charles, 1985.

Wells, Kate. Fabric Dyeing and Printing. Loveland, Colo.: Interweave Press, 1997.

Robyne Williams