Decorative Techniques Used in Textiles

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Stephanie Przybylek

Stephanie has taught studio art and art history classes to audiences of all ages. She holds a master's degree in Art History.

Styles and decorations are incorporated into textiles for visual appeal. Explore examples of decorated textiles, and learn about decorative techniques used in textiles such as printing, dyeing, and sewing. Updated: 01/12/2022


Have you ever worn a tie-dyed T-shirt or painted on a pair of jeans? These are both examples of decorated textiles.

We use textiles for many reasons, including for clothing and in our homes. They surround us, and over time, people have developed many ways to decorate them. Decorative techniques used in textiles can produce a wide variety of results and interesting appearances. Some methods are as simple as taking a paintbrush and painting on a textile. Other methods are more complicated. Let's look at some of them.

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  • 0:04 Textiles
  • 0:39 Printing and Dyeing
  • 2:22 Sewing
  • 3:26 Lesson Summary
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Printing and Dyeing

In addition to painting on textiles, you can decorate them by printing on them using dyes and inks. A dye is different than paint because, when used, it causes a chemical reaction that bonds it to the textile fibers. Ink is a dye with a substance like water or alcohol added to make it thinner. Dyes and inks soak into textiles. They're more permanent than paint, which tends to be a surface layer.

Block printing is an ancient technique that uses blocks with patterns carved on them. The blocks can be made of wood, gourds, or another material. The pattern side of the block is dipped in ink or dye and pressed onto the fabric, with each repeat of the design done by hand. As you can imagine, it takes a long time to block print a whole textile.

In resist printing, areas of a textile are treated with a substance like wax that repels dye, which is called a resist. Fabrics can also be tied with substances like rubber bands that resist dye. Then the fabric is dyed. When the dyeing process is complete, the resist is removed. The finished textile has patterns on it where the resist was applied or tied. Techniques like batik and tie-dyeing are examples of resist printing.

A much newer method of decorating textiles is digital printing. It uses a large printer with inkjet technology (yes, just like your home computer printer) to apply thousands of tiny drops according to a pattern. This method is very environmentally friendly because it tends to use less dye than traditional methods.

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