Rubber Cement Batik Painting

I’ve wanted to try rubber cement batik forever with my kids.  We’ve done crayon resist, tie dye – all sorts of paint blocking – but never batik.  Maybe it’s because every time I buy rubber cement my big kids quickly build balls that bounce around our school room.  I had to scrape out the bottom of the rubber cement for this, but we got ‘er done.

What Is Batik?

Batik is a technique where paint is blocked out of certain areas of a painting, usually with hot wax.  Where the wax has been applied, the paint won’t stick.  Sometimes once the wax is applied it is dipped into ink or dye rather than painted.  Any spots that have wax on them won’t let the paint or dye stick, so once the wax is melted back off, you can see the designs.  It is an ancient art form that has been done across time and all over the globe.  Asian countries are especially known for using this art form.  Often the wax designs are quite detailed and intricate before any paint or dye is even applied.

Look carefully and see how there are areas of the painting left white where it has been painted. These areas were blocked out with wax before the paint was applied. The paint won't adhere to areas where the wax has been applied. This photo is from Tropenmuseum, part of the National Museum of World Cultures [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.
She is using the Batik technique.  Chances are, she’ll use several layers, applying wax and then paint, wax and then paint, wax and then paint, to create a layered effect.  Photo is from Tropenmuseum, part of the National Museum of World Cultures [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

Make Your Own Batik Painting

You can make your own version pretty simply.  Rubber cement is a perfect tool for demonstrating this technique on paper because it blocks out the paint without having to use really hot wax or melt it off afterward.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Water color paints
  • paint brushes
  • water
  • watercolor paper
  • rubber cement
  • pencil

First, paint a design on the paper using the rubber cement.  If your design is really detailed you can sketch it out on the paper before you apply the rubber cement if you’d like.  Also, unless you’re blocking out a large area, use a regular paintbrush rather than the large brush the rubber cement comes with.  You’ll be able to make clearer lines and smaller details.  When you’re done applying the rubber cement, let it dry.  It’s quick!

Now use the watercolors and paint over the whole paper, covering every inch, including where you painted the rubber cement.  You can use just one color or lots of different colors.  Let the paint dry.  Once it’s dry, rub the rubber cement and peel it off.  You’ll see the batik technique in action!

You can repeat it several times if you want to layer extra details or colors on that you missed the first time.  You can also just do a few paint touch ups if you need to.  We had to touch up just a few spots where the rubber cement stuck a bit and took a little extra off.  We also added a few details later – like eyeballs.  In fact, one of my sons really wanted to put wiggly eyes on his batik turtle, so wiggly eyes it was!

 Additional Layers:

  • Batik is an art form within many Asian and African countries.  Indonesia is particularly famous for its intricate batik textiles.  They produce thousands of different patterns, which tend to be mostly nature-centered.
  • After trying this project, try tie dying fabric and then compare the two processes.  Both processes utilize resisting colors in certain areas of the textile.
  • This technique began as a hobby for wealthy women in Indonesia.  Their designs depicted their families and geographical regions typically.  Today many people still believe certain batik designs can bring luck, wealth, health, and other good fortunes.
  • Batik is often used on fabrics which are then made into sarongs.  Use an old sheet to create a sarong.  Design your own.  You could use a batik or tie dye method, or just use fabric markers to create your own good luck design.

More From Layers of Learning

If you liked trying rubber cement batik, you’ll probably enjoy these other fun art lessons:

All of our units also include art sections with all kinds of cool art projects to try.  You can visit our catalog to see all the topics we offer.

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