Hand Block Printing

hand block printing at Mehera Shaw

Ghanshyam Ji doing a printing demonstration at Mehera Shaw.


The traditional process of hand block printing on textiles, with rich natural colors, has been practiced in Rajasthan for around 500 years.  Block printing was introduced to the Jaipur region of Rajasthan by the Chhipa community.  This community was originally located in Bagru Village, an area now famous for its vegetable dye and mud resist (dabu) block prints.  The art of block printing has been passed down for generations within families and communities and has branched out in recent decades to other regions such as Sanganer, near Jaipur.  In traditional Bagru style block printing, the ‘recipes’ for the traditional plant-based dyes are developed within each family and kept alive from generation to generation.  The colors are dependent on the quality of the plants, the water, skill, and knowledge of the printing masters.  In more recent forms of block printing, such as those practiced in Sanganer, colors are mixed using AZO free pigment color with a binder.

outline block


Block Carving

A print starts with the design, drawn on paper and carved into the Sheesham wood block.  Designs are meticulously carved by hand into the blocks which are approximately 18-25 cm across. The physical blocks, one for each color in the print design, are used to stamp a single repeat which is then stamped in rows across the fabric, forming a seamless repeat.  

Each color in the design is carved into a separate block. Block carving is in itself an art requiring years of apprenticeship to gain mastery and is done entirely by hand.

When printing, the ground color block, known as the 'gud,' is stamped first. This is followed by the outline block or 'rekh,' which is the most intricate and is typically the outline for a floral or lattice-type design.  Next comes the fill block or 'datta.' 

Block carving in Sanganer, Jaipur, India

Color Mixing-Preparing the Dyes

Once the blocks are carved, the master printer prepares the colors which will be used in printing.  The colors are then poured into wooden trays which use a handmade mesh as a spongy surface to help spread the color evenly across the bottom of the block. The printer stamps the block in the color tray each time, then stamps the block onto the fabric to form the repeat pattern.  The colors shown are AZO free, eco-friendly synthetic colors that are used in Sanganer printing.

mixing dye colors

dye mixing for hand block printing in Sanganer

For each new design, we do a color check and test out new color combinations.  We use Pantone TPG/TPX reference codes for color matching.  Above, our master printer, Ghanshyam Ji, is working with our team to develop a series of new colorways for a new collection.

Printing Process

Each color pattern is stamped individually onto the fabric; the process takes skill and time, as the pattern must be stamped repeatedly across the fabric, color by color. The slight human irregularities — inevitable in handwork — create the artistic effect emblematic of block prints. The final outcome of this intricate labor is a timeless beauty, and every garment made from this fabric is unique.

block printing showing each layer of color

The printing master must carefully align each block as he prints, using the ‘guide’ carved on the left edge of the block as his marker.  Each printer has a slightly different style which is considered his ‘signature’ look.  The printing master must then follow the same pattern of aligning the blocks with each color layered onto the design.  The subtle gaps and overlaps are a beautiful reminder of the handwork and give block printing its iconic look.  All prints exemplify this aesthetic and have a subtle pattern of light/dark across the design.

block printing process showing layers of color

Block printing villages are known for their rhythmic ‘tock-tock’ sound of the block printer hitting the wood block to ‘stamp’ the pattern.  It is an enchanting sound that echoes through the village and is a reminder of the significance of artisan work.


The original Bagru style printing traditionally used natural vegetable dyes and mud resist techniques to print on cottons and silks. 

traditional Bagru block print motifs

Traditional Bagru designs reflect nature in floral, leaf, and geometric motifs.  Later techniques incorporated Persian motifs and developed block printing into a highly intricate style.

Hand block printing now also extends to Jaipur and Sanganer with the use of AZO-free, synthetic dyes (such as pigment and indigo sol) and different styles of printing.

mediterranean inspired block motifs

origami inspired kids block prints

origami inspired kids hand block prints

We’ve experimented with some new design styles, mixing elements of traditional buti and jaal patterns with inspiration from Mediterranean tile motifs (above) and from Japanese origami motifs (below).
Indo-Western Designs

In recent decades, designers from the West have worked closely with local artisans to create Indo-Western styles that are inspired by other cultures, pop-art, nature, and city-scapes.  This collaboration has been beneficial for everyone as new designs emerge, but also it helps to tell the story of block printing and keep the market alive. 

modern sari design by Mehera Shaw

 Modern, Japanese Zen inspired sari design.

We work both in Bagru and Sanganer.  In Sanganer, we work at our own facility using AZO free, eco-friendly, pigment colors with our own print designs. The advantage of ‘modern’ synthetic dyes is that they are colorfast, easier to make, and machine washable. In Bagru, we work closely with a local printer using vegetable dye and dabu mud resist techniques in traditional prints such as indigo prints.

organic cotton drying on the bamboo 'addan'


Dabu Printing and Vegetable Dyes

The 'recipes' for Bagru-style vegetable dye prints have been preserved for many generations by the artisans’ families. Many of the dyes require months of curing for the desired color to develop. Weather, water quality, and changes in the crops, all affect the vegetable dye.


Decentralized Artisan Textile Production

Block printing is typically done in open-air facilities in villages, or in people’s homes.  It provides a source of income to many village families and is an environmentally positive approach to textile production in rural India.  It is also a method of decentralized production, following Gandhi’s philosophy of keeping more people employed within their traditional environment. While often men have been the printing masters, in small-scale, traditional production, women are also skilled printers.  Traditional printing is often done in family units which provides more income for the whole family and allows women to work within the day-to-day routine of family life. 


Block prints, are, by nature, hand-done.  The slight color variation within a print run and across different print runs if printed at different times or in different seasons, is a natural part of the process.  It is an attribute appreciated by those who value the uniqueness of artisan textiles.

Mehera Shaw is a proud member of Craftmark.  

Established in 2006, the Craftmark initiative helps denote genuine Indian handicrafts, develop sector-wide minimum standards and norms for labeling a product as a handicrafts product, and increase consumer awareness of distinct handicraft traditions. Craftmark is an initiative of AIACA.   To learn more, visit http://www.craftmark.org/why-craftmark  and see what they say below.

Why support Craftmark?

With over 23 million craftspeople, the crafts sector is the second largest employer in India. Many communities in India depend on their craft skills as a source of income. The craft sector keeps rural communities alive, sustains families, and allows children to gain an education. Supporting the craft sector breathes life into a heritage that is over 4,000 years old. It maintains the transfer of valuable traditional knowledge from elders to youths and master craftspeople to students. Buying hand-made products delivers livelihood to millions of skilled craftspeople that proudly create unique, high-quality products by hand. Above all, in an evolving global village where homogenous products dominate our lifestyles, craft products stand apart in their distinctiveness and cultural reference. Thus, the purchase of craft products not only allows consumers to buy quality products but also maintains a connection with their culture.


Block Printed Fabric

If interested in wholesale purchase, please contact Vishal Sharma at vishal(at)meherashaw.com or Sanjay Sharma at sanjay@meherashaw.com.  Please send your registered company name, address, website, and a brief description of what you're looking for.

hand block printed fabric swatches at Mehera Shaw





Our styles are meant to give room to breath and move.  We use fine tailoring coupled with a relaxed, comfortable fit.

We use a fit guide for each of our styles to provide more information about the fit that was intended.

Slim Fit: a close fit to the body. Regular Fit: a comfortable, relaxed fit with room around the body. Generous Fit: a very loose fit (such as in our oversized blouses) with lots of room around the body for ease of movement.


h4XS/ 36

h4S/ 38


h4L/ 42



h435.5 inches/ 90 cm

h437.5 inches/95 cm

h439.5 inches/ 100 cm

h441.5 inches/ 105 cm

h444.5 inches. 113 cm

h44cm extra from body


h426 inches/ 66 cm

h428 inches/ 71 cm

h430 inches/ 76 cm

h432 inches/ 81 cm

h435 inches/ 89 cm


h4low waist

h428 inches/71 cm

h430 inches/76 cm

h432 inches/ 81 cm

h434 inches/ 86 cm

h437 inches/ 94 cm



h437 inches/ 94 cm

h439 inches/ 99 cm

h441 inches/ 104 cm

h443 inches/ 109 cm

h446 inches/ 1

h44cm extra from body


All garments have been washed several times during the printing/dyeing and manufacturing process.  

CARE for 100% cotton

We recommend cold water machine wash (up to 30 degrees celsius) with a bio detergent and either tumble dry on low heat or line dry in shade for all of our 100% cotton garments/homewares (except for quilts).  

Iron on reverse side of garment following fabric settings.  

Do not use bleach or stain remover.

Cold water wash and low heat drying or line drying in the shade will increase the life of the garment, prolong the vibrancy of the colors and reduce energy use. Shrinkage on all cottons is minimal, approximately 3%.

Garments/homewares are dyed or printed using AZO free, low-impact, pigment or reactive dyes unless otherwise noted.  These dyes are color-fast, but care should still be taken to wash with like colors to retain the vibrancy of the colors.

CARE for 100% cotton quilts

For quilts with cotton fill, we recommend spot or light surface cleaning only with a damp cloth and mild detergent.  Eco-friendly dry cleaning is also recommended. 

CARE for herbal/vegetable dye items

Vegetable dyes are not colorfast and are specifically marked in the product description.  We strongly recommend that all vegetable dye products be washed once before use in a cold water wash with minimal detergent.  Wash separately. Tumble dry on low heat or line dry in shade.  Iron on reverse side.  Do not use bleach or stain remover.

Please keep in mind that indigo dye does continually fade over time.  This is the nature of true indigo dye and is not a defect, but rather a sign of the 'living' nature of the dye.

CARE for silk and cotton/silk

For our silk and cotton silk garments/homewares, we also recommend gentle cycle machine wash cold water (up to 30 degrees celsius) or delicate hand washing to increase the life of the garment and reduce the environmental footprint from energy use, detergents and water wastage.  

Tumble dry on low heat or line dry in shade.  

Iron on reverse side of garment following fabric settings.

Do not use bleach or stain remover.

Dry cleaning using an eco-friendly service is also recommended.

CARE for linen and cotton/linen

For our linen and cotton linen garments/homewares, we also recommend gentle cycle machine wash cold water (up to 30 degrees celsius) or delicate hand washing to increase the life of the garment and reduce the environmental footprint from energy use, detergents and water wastage.  

Tumble dry on low heat or line dry in shade.  

Iron on reverse side of garment following fabric settings.

Do not use bleach or stain remover.