Conquer Batik with this Handy Resource Guide 

Batik is the art of using wax resist and dye to decorate fabric. The art of batik has been practiced for centuries all over in the world, predominately in Asia and Africa. Including a batik lesson in your art curriculum allows you to teach the history of batik specific to a region of your choice. The beauty of teaching batik is the cross curricular connections. The downside is that batik can be intimidating. I understand that the thought of using hot wax and permanent dyes with students can be terrifying and possibly out of the question. Rest assured, it is possible to incorporate soy wax batik in your curriculum with some education, preparation, organization, and planning. Today I’ll share my experience with batik in my classroom as well as amazing resources you can use to get started in yours!

batik guide

My love and fascination with batik started a couple of years ago, after I participated in a fine arts class at a local arts guild. The professor had extensive experience with fabric dyeing and taught us how to create batik using soy wax instead of the traditional batik method using beeswax. The advantage of using soy wax over beeswax is that soy is less toxic and easier to remove because it’s washable.

I suggest you start small when teaching fabric dyeing for the first time. I introduced it to my students in an after school art class of 15 students in grades 6th through 8th. I provided each student with 12, 3″x14″ pieces of fabric and a silk scarf. Students practiced different dyeing techniques on the 3″x14″ pieces. The last dyeing technique I demonstrated was batik. Students then created batik scarves.

A grandparent volunteer generously offered to sew a quilt with the dyed fabric pieces. This is the finished piece.

fabric dyeing quilt

If you’re looking to do batik in your classroom, but feel overwhelmed, consider starting with the following three steps.

1. Research Fabric Dyeing
Whether or not you take an official class, it’s a good idea to research the fabric dyeing process. I recommend reading about dyes through the Dharma Trading Company. You can also find a lot of great video resources on YouTube.

2. Brush Up On Your Batik Skills
I took a weekend workshop which helped me learn how to batik. If a local class isn’t available, you can register for an online fabric dyeing class such as “The Art of Cloth Dyeing” with  Jane Dunnewold. Like any new technique, it’s important that you are comfortable with the process and have some experience before you teach it to your students, especially when that process involves hot wax and permanent dyes.

3. Gather Your Materials
In order to do Batik in the classroom, you will need the following items:

  • fiber reactive procion dyes
  • soy wax
  • fabric
  • plastic gloves
  • an electric frying pan or small crock pot for melting wax
  • plastic for covering tables
  • cardboard scraps for placing fabric on top when dyeing
  • printing materials (rubber bands, paint brushes, metal items, sponges, etc…)
  • plastic wrap for wrapping dyed fabric while it sets
  • hot water and soap for the rinsing process
  • newspaper or newsprint and an iron for getting out the remaining wax left on the fabric

Here are some additional resources and references to get you started! 

If you’re looking for more information about the history of batik, check out The Batik Guild and Batiks Galore.

To purchase batik supplies and learn more about the process, visit Dharma Trading Company.

For another simple batik tutorial, head on over to the blog sew sew art.

For more information about safety, read this handout from Pro Chemical & Dye

Of course if the traditional method of batik isn’t the best fit for your classroom, you can teach batik using paper and oil pastels or crayons.

Have you ever taught batik in your classroom? I’d love to hear any tips you have to share!



Cassidy Reinken

This article was written by former AOE writer and life-long learner, Cassidy Reinken.


  • arteacher

    How is beeswax considered toxic?

    • Great question, and I’m not sure I can answer your question. My experience and research is with soy therefore I haven’t read a lot about beeswax. From what I understand beeswax is “less toxic” than soy wax, but not necessarily toxic per say. (This is what I was told in the batik class.) I believe the issue is when you let the wax get too hot. Of course working with students you would naturally want to pay close attention to the temperature of the wax. Dharma trading has all MSDS sheets on their website if you want to look into it further. Thanks for asking.

  • Vicky Siegel

    Awesome article! I teach elem. art, but my daughter is taking high school art classes and just learned the art of batik! Can’t wait for her to teach me this summer!!

    • That’s great! It sounds like an awesome mother daughter activity!

  • Mary depalma

    If a true wax method is not possible or practical i have done a batik technique using washabale glue and watered down acrylic paint. Basically you apply the glue according to your design, let it dry, then paint with the watered down paint. Then wash the fabric to remove the glue. The results are quite impressive and it allows much younger students to experience batik.