Know your Prints…Screen Printing vs Block Printing

    Hand printed fabrics are special, each piece is unique and made with a lot of attention and care. We absolutely love hand prints and they are one of our favourite go-to techniques for designing something quirky yet very desi. Hand prints are done with various techniques all over the world and the art dates back to many centuries. Here’s a small peek into the world of hand printing!

    The History

    The art of weaving, dyeing and printing had developed well in India and specimens have even been discovered in the Indus Valley Civilization, in as early as 3500 BC. Printing on textiles dates back to as far back as 220 AD, originating in China, where wooden blocks were used to print patterns on fabric. Printing is basically reproducing a pattern which is engraved in a tool such as a wooden block in case of block printing or a cloth stretched over a frame, as in the case of screen printing. 

    The Block Printing Technique

    Out of the two techniques, block printing is the older art. Screen printing is more of a recent technique which developed in the 19th century. In block printing, the printer carves the pattern to be printed on the face of a wooden/mud block with the help of tools. The desired colour is applied to this block face and the block is stamped on the fabric, leaving a print on the cloth. Different blocks of various designs can be combined, mixed and matched, to create beautiful designs. 

    The Screen Printing Technique

    In the case of screen printing, the design to be imprinted is etched on a translucent and stretchable fine fabric, like silk, which is stretched across a screen. The design is engraved into the screen such that it creates a fine mesh which will allow colours to pass through it under pressure of squeegee, a rubber blade attached to a long wooden, metal or plastic handle. It’s used to push the ink through the mesh screen and onto the surface being printed. The part of the design which is not to be printed is covered with a stencil. The next part of the design to be printed is now uncovered and the other parts of the design are now covered with the stencil. The desired colour is spread over the screen and the next part of the design is imprinted on the fabric. Screen printing for multi colored prints can also be done by creating separate screens for individual colors depending on number of colors in the design.

    Indigenous Block Printing Arts in India

    India is known for a rich heritage of block printing techniques, with indigenous techniques being used since ancient times in various parts of the country. Be it the Ajarakh block print from the Kutch region of Gujarat or Bagh from Madhya Pradesh or Dabu from Rajasthan or Nandana from Madhya Pradesh. No wonder, India has been a powerful exporter of printed fabrics since ages. 


    Mashru Silk Ajrakh Handprinted Kaftan

    This art dates back to the Mohenjodaro era and the legacy has been carried on ever since. The design consists of geometric and floral prints, many-a-times printed on both sides of the fabric. Vegetable dyes and natural dyes are used for printing. The art is symbolic of the rich heritage and culture of the Kutch, Sindh and parts of Rajasthan.

    Checkout our curated Awesome Ajarakh collection here.


    Kautuki- Rust Mustard Yellow Handloom Tussar Silk Saree

    This art is said to be a legacy of the Khatris from Sindh, who migrated and settled on the banks of the Bagh river in Madhya Pradesh. Natural dyes of red and black are used to print geometric shapes on a white background. Various shades of the two colours are obtained due to the chemical properties of the Bagh river’s water. 

    Checkout the special Bagh Bahar collection here.


    Bagru printing is an art form practiced by the Chippas, the traditional printers clan from Rajasthan. The printers typically use three forms of wooden block- the background block (called a gudh), followed by an outline block (the rekh) and the datta (the filler) to complete the design. 


    Surangi-Occur Yellow Block Printed Kantha Work Cotton Saree

    Originating in Rajasthan, Dabu is a resist printing technique which uses mud-blocks to create light coloured designs on a dark background. The technique employs the dabu paste made from black clay, which is the resist medium and saw dust and guar gum. 

    Checkout our Concept Sarees collection to explore a rich mix of hand-block printed sarees, including Bagru and Dabu prints. 


    Practiced by the local Bhil tribe from Tarapur village of Neemuch district in Madhya Pradesh, this beautiful art uses 4 motifs printed on mud-blocks, which are placed methodically on the fabric to create amazing patterns. What’s interesting about this art is that each motif has a name- Champakali (magnolia bud), Amba (mango), Mirch (chilli) and Jalam Buta (creeper web). 

    Checkout our special Nandana Diaries collection here.

    Screen Printing Techniques

    Spot Color Screen Printing

    This technique is used for simple prints in 1-4 colours when the print is a simple blob or spot of colour without much variation in the pattern. For example, this technique is used for printing logos which require just blots of paints and have limited colours. 

    Halftone Printing

    This technique is used when you need gradients of the same or two colours. The advantage of this technique is that it can create an impression that many colours are used but in reality, the colours are just a gradient of the same colour, all done using one screen. 

    Grayscale Printing

    This technique is used to print a grayscale or a half-tone of the same colour. Either a black paint or any colour is used to print on a light coloured background. 

    Rotary Screen Printing

    In this technique, rotating cylindrical screens are used to print designs onto the fabric. It is a very quick process and is an automatic process.

    CMYK Printing

    It is the most complex of all screen printing techniques where a full-colour picture is broken down into four basic colours- cyan, magenta, yellow and black to create a full-tone original picture. 

    Is screen printing easier than block printing?

    The common perception is that block printing is tougher than screen printing as it is more laborious and manual and that screen printing is much faster as compared to it. However, screen printing is also an equally intensive process as it requires the printer to manually set-up the screens and ensure that the entire arrangement is properly aligned to ensure precision with every print. Not all prints can be done with the help of block prints and some patterns come out the best only via screen printing. When it comes to geometric patterns in bold and flat colours, the beauty of the prints can be done justice to only by the screen printing method. Block prints look blotchy when it comes to plain flat colours and this makes screen printing, the go to choice in this case. 

    Introducing the Newly Launched Screen Printed Collection- Anadi….timeless!

    A dot or bindu is the building block of everything in the universe. Every shape originates from the dot. A dot thus represents the existence of something. Several dots together make a line. A line represents continuity. Thus, dots and lines together represent the continuity of everything that exists. Such is the significance of this collection….timelessness or Anadi!

    Witness this Wonderful Saga of Dots and Lines

    From gowns and dresses to maternity wear and kaftans, Anadi has beautiful prints, patterns and materials which make for a gorgeous collection for home, work and casual wear.

    Lime Yellow Anadi Collection Jhabba Kaftan 

    Mustard Black Anadi Collection Kaftan

    Red, Black and White Anadi Collection Kaftan

    Anadi has been created for timeless comfort, grace and elegance. Checkout the collection here for more.

    Which is your favourite printed piece of fabric that you own? Tell us below!

    And don’t forget to share your favorite look on your Insta story and tag @thesaffronsaga!

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