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Overview of
Various Artistic Techniques


Block-printed cotton

These cottons are printed with wooden blocks which have been carved with different motifs. Some printed cottons are made with 16 steps (blocks), to produce intricate patterns of colour and design.

Tie-dyed cotton

Tie-dye originated in India. The best-known method consists of knotting and tying textiles with threads, then dipping the cloth in dyes from the lightest colour to the darkest.


There are many styles and techniques of embroidery in India, including:

  • Beadwork, called pachipati.
  • Mirror-work, called shisha, found primarily in the state of Punjab.
  • Cowrie-shell embroidery, created by the Naga people of the Northeast.
  • Pictorial quilts, known as sujeni (a kind of quantha), found in Bengal. These quilts are made of layers of old sari or dhoti fabric, stitched together with coloured threads, which are usually taken from the edges of sari pieces. Revived as a self-help project, sujeni depicts daily life in the region of Bihar. One person does the drawing, then a group of women fill in the colours.
  • Quantha are quilted and embroidered shawls, coverlets and bags, made by young women in Bengal and Bihar with layers of cloth from worn-out clothing.


The name kalamkari is derived from the word kalam which means "pen" – the tool used in this craft. The kalamkari is a cloth handpainted with vegetable dyes. Only four basic colors are used: black, red, yellow and blue. In the Hindu tradition, kalamkari depict great epic narratives and iconic religious themes. Kalamkari produced by Muslim artists depict trees and geometric forms. Human and animal forms are absent in the Muslim tradition.


Tanka is a Tibetan tradition of scroll-painting, depicting meditational deities. Once completed, the tanka is mounted on silk with a veil and a ribbon border.

Woven textiles

  • Phulkari literally means "garden in bloom" and is a form of embroidery popular in the Punjab. It is created in a darning stitch, using silk floss over counted threads on coarse homespun cotton. Women of the Jat Sikh community have become well known for making phulkaris featuring geometric designs and motifs from daily life. These family heirlooms, used as shawls and bed- or floor-coverings, become part of dowries and life-cycle ceremonies.
  • In ikat weaving, the threads for the warp and/or weft are carefully measured and tie-dyed before weaving, so that the pattern only becomes apparent as the cloth is woven. Although most ikat patterns are angular and repetitive, skilled ikat weavers can produce rounded and asymetrical forms of great subtlety. Ikat is practiced in many parts of India, but the best-known centres for traditional ikat are in the state of Orissa in Eastern India.
  • Dhurrie is a type of heavy, woven floor covering. Dhurries usually feature simple geometric designs and tribal motifs.