Block printing is a technique used to print images or patterns with a block or mould (usually in wood) onto fabric. The process is labour intensive as the blocks, carved out of wood, need to be printed side by side until the entire fabric is printed. While block-printing just refers to the technique of printing with carved blocks by hand, several variations exist with resist and discharge dyes.
The first step in block printing is the creation of the pattern on the block of wood. This can be done using a knife or chisel, and the parts that are left blank are carved out and removed, so that the parts that are dipped in the dye form a pattern on the fabric. It produces a mirror image of the pattern; therefore the carvers have to be careful while carving the wood.
The woodblock is then placed a container with the dye and then stamped on the fabric, leaving behind the pattern of the block. At one point, only vegetable dyes were used to create the colour, but now chemical dyes have replaced the use of vegetable pigments in most parts of India. Brass Tacks uses a combination of natural and chemical dyes.
Block printing provides a sustainable livelihood for many in Indian villages as it involves an entire community in block-making, designing, printing, dyeing, and washing.