DIY “Glue” Batik T-shirts

Glue Batik Tshirt Kids- Kid World CitizenBatik is a traditional textile made by hand where artisans use wax to create a design, and then dye the cloth, which resists the vegetable dyes. Originally from Indonesia, batik has symbolic meanings in its colors and designs, and people use the craft to express their creativity and even spirituality. In this easy project, kids substitute hot wax for Elmer’s blue glue and convey their own creativity by choosing images that represent themselves, and colorful paint that reflect their personalities.

First, let’s learn the history of batik and its importance today. Anthropologist believe that the wax resist technique of dyeing cloth began in the 4th BCE in Egypt, and from there spread to Asia (notably India and Japan). In Africa, people in Nigeria and Senegal also employ a similar process. Today, woman and men use batik cloth as a sarong (long fabric wrapped around them into a skirt or dress), and mothers use batik slings to carry their babies. In 2009 UNESCO designated Indonesian batik as a “Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity,” because the craft of batik is intertwined with the cultural identity of the Indonesian people.

While fragile, intangible cultural heritage is an important factor in maintaining cultural diversity in the face of growing globalization. An understanding of {it} helps with intercultural dialogue, and encourages mutual respect for other ways of life.  The importance is… the wealth of knowledge and skills that is transmitted through it from one generation to the next.

Here is a video from the Indonesia Batik Museum Institute. From 1:20- 5:00 you will see how batik is traditionally made by drawing out the intricate designs, detailing them with pine resin or beeswax, and then dyeing the cloth with natural dyes in blue, red, brown, and yellow.

And now it’s time to make our own! Gather your supplies:Elmer Blue Glue Art Project- Kid World Citizen

  • Elmer’s Blue Glue Gel (note: regular white glue doesn’t work as well- said from experience:).
  • a white t-shirt (we upcycled some that had light stains!)
  • acrylic paints (I supposed you could use fabric paints as well- though acrylics work just as nicely. We’ve put the shirts in the washer and dryer and have had no issues with acrylics).

Using Blue Glue For Batik Kids- Kid World Citizen Use the glue to “draw” your image. My 7 year old was able to do this herself, while my 4 year olds dictated to me what they wanted (and helped with details). Wherever you squeeze the glue will eventually be white.

Batik with Blue Glue- Kid World Citizen

I used a brown paper bag inside the t-shirt to keep the back and front separated- this is especially important once you start painting. Let the design completely dry- we waited overnight just to be safe.

Painting Batik at Home Kids- Kid World CitizenKids Painting Batik Craft- Kid World Citizen

Let the kids paint the designs as they wish. My son used a LOT of paint- it was so thick that even after washing his shirt in the washer and dryer, not all of the glue was removed. It also took forever to dry- but you eventually will be able to see the batik effect (or you could always instruct the kids to use less paint if you’d like to do so). We dried ours in the sun!

Batik Drying in the Sun- Kid World Citizen

Next comes the magic! Soak the t-shirts in warm water overnight. The glue will begin to dissolve and reveal the white designs. We were impatient and decided to just throw them in the washer and dryer, where most of the glue came off (my girls kind-of picked off the rest of the glue). How cute are these t-shirts!? :) You can see how Ricky’s still needs to be washed a couple of more times to get off the thick layer of paint over some of his glue:

Kids Craft Making Batik Tshirts- Kid World Citizen

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I love how they turned out! If you try out this project, send me a picture and I’ll post it in the galleryKids Painting Tshirts Batik- Kid World CitizenHomemade Batik for Kids- Kid World Citizen

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    • kidworldcitizen says

      Thank you! I was surprised that regular acrylic paint would remain so bright. I guess that’s why it stains clothes:).

  1. Abby says

    do you let the glue fry first? How long does it take if you do? I want to do this project for a homeschool group, it looks creative and inexpensive.

    • kidworldcitizen says

      YES! Let the glue dry completely before painting. When we did it, we left it overnight— but I have seen other people only letting it dry for an hour or 2. Once it’s dry, paint and then let that dry a couple of hours (or overnight). It is cheap, super-easy- and a great way to recycle shirts with slight stains!:)

  2. says

    Becky – I really love this! Wish I could do something similar here at the library, but our crafts have to be done in an hour. I am hoping to do Sharpie scribbles on T-shirts sometime though. Hope to see you and your lovely children at the library soon! – Kapila

  3. Gwen says

    Hi, I have done this project for a long time at my school and I actually use flour and water, with a touch of glue. So, if you want to save money on glue, you can try it. I use it with a lesson on African Adire cloth designs. Your t-shirts are beautiful!

    • kidworldcitizen says

      That is perfect- especially for a school or Scout group that has more kids! Did you put the flour, water, and glue into a glue bottle to apply it to the shirt? I’m going to have to try that!:)

  4. Nicola says

    Hi! I did this with flour and water – no glue. 1 part flour to 1 part water. Put it in a nozzle bottle and draw with it like you do the glue. Rinse the bottle to use it again next time. The bonus is if you’re in a hurry you can pop the t-shirt in the oven at a low heat and bake the shirt for 5 minutes to dry the flour mixture. I can send you a picture of the end result if you like. It’s how I’ve been doing it for years :) The flour mixture soaks off much more easily than the glue and is obviously less expensive.

  5. Shirley Huinink says

    I’m trying this amazing art with my summer art camp. Always wanted to do batik with kids but the hot wax was the dealbreaker. I’m doing some “sample” shirts…the flour/water works pretty good, but the blue gel glue is the best. I’m also mixing the acrylic paint with equal part water.

  6. says

    Love the idea! My niece and nephew are coming from Pakistan later this month and this is definitely on our to do list… I’ve done batiking with wax.. and with hot glue.. but really love this idea.. and the acrylic paint option! Thanks! I’ll post photos when I get some done!


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