Originated from the lands of Rajasthan, Dabu print is an ancient hand block printing technique. Dabu print fabric has its own charm and beauty that is recognized around the world. The practice of Dabu print, almost died in the last century; but it was revived by artisans and today, it is a flourishing business across the globe. Dabu print fabric is known for displaying subtle depth. Many fashion designers have taken inspiration from Dabu print fabric and have created beautiful garment collections.
Dabu printing is a labour-intensive task and requires several steps in printing and dyeing procedure. Dabu printing is a mud resisting type of hand block printing. Generally, Dabu print is used to adorn traditional ethnic wear, but it can also be used to decorate home décor products. Final Dabu print on fabric looks very similar to Batik; but the technique used is completely different. Dabu print is a combination of highly skilled labour and beautiful motifs. Artisans tend to produce traditional and classic prints that are considered authentic. Many young fashion designers learn the Dabu print technique from the regional artisans and give it a western twist.
Dabu printing is a slow process but it yields artistic results. Rajasthan being the home to Dabu printing technique, the motifs used have a traditional approach to its existence. Dabu print fabric involves natural dyes and pastes which make it environmentally suitable. A lot of manual labour and extensive struggle is required to create Dabu print fabric. Dabu sarees and Dabu print kurtis are widely accepted by current generation. Process of creating Dabu print fabric is so prolonged that the outcome is worth it. A timeless craft, Dabu print involves raw materials; mud and water.
Dabu printing process is very complicated. It involves a lot of people in different stages for various steps. Separate set of people are appointed for printing, washing and dyeing Dabu print fabric. Plain fabric is first washed to remove any impurities, which may interfere the dyeing process. Designs are then hand printed on the fabric using blocks dipped in fast dyes. After this, mud resist is used that makes this print so unique. After printing is done, the Dabu print fabric is spread in the sun, where it dries out. Next, the fabric is dipped in vat of dye, dried again and finally washed thoroughly to remove excess dye. Parts of the fabric that are uncovered with mud resist are of different colour than the rest of the fabric.
Traditional Dabu prints are made up of natural dyes and pastes. Dyes like Kashish which is grey-brown, indigo which is blue and colours like yellow and red are derived from fruits like pomegranate; are used as natural dyes. A lot more colour options are available to artisans today. Since they are not restricted to natural dyes and can use synthetic dyes as well. For a rich and colourful look, fabrics can be dyed more than once. This created a double and triple dabu look.
Motifs on Dabu print fabric are picked from nature and its surrounding elements. These motifs are then crafted on wooden blocks. Typical nature inspired motifs include peacocks, mangoes, leaves, sunflower and animal figures. Wavy lines, dots and various geometric shapes are also used. Final design is repeated again and again all over the fabric. Often, the mud paste cracks and leaks, that creates veins similar to Batik.
Dabu print fabric has become famous all over the world. Vibrant colours and unique designs are used in Dabu print fabric. Earlier Dabu print was exclusively used to decorate Dabu sarees, nowadays Dabu print is used in all types of garments and on all fabrics. Silk, crepe and georgette have become very popular among Dabu craftsmen. These fabrics hold the designs and colours very well. However, absorbent and resilient cotton fabrics are most commonly used for Dabu printing. In addition to natural motifs, modern geometric patterns have also evolved since last few years.
Dabu print fabric should be first washed by hand to check colour fastness, after that the fabric can be machine washed with cool water. To avoid ruining bright colours, Dabu print fabric is best air dried. Natural dyes generally don’t fade easily; but multiple machine washes, might speed up the process.