Is it the designs, the dyeing process, or the natural dyes? We think it’s a combination of all these factors.

Kalamkari is completely handmade and painted using a pen. Involving as many as 17 steps, traditional pen Kalamkari uses dyes made from natural materials. A slow, involved and vigorous process, making one Kalamkari cloth can take about 20 days! Each step in the process prepares the cloth for the next step, and hand painted and then treated for the next step. Experienced artisans are able to change the treatment depending on the colors and quality needed.

Tools and colors:
All tools and raw materials used in the production of Kalamkari are handmade and use natural materials.

  • The Kalam used to pant is a pen made of bamboo reed, with a cloth rolled over it and secured with cotton thread. Typically, there are 2 types of kalams: one for drawing outline and the other for filling colors.
  • The cotton cloth used for the fabric printing is locally called as Gaada. This cloth is washed and treated to avoid the natural color from spreading.
  • Vegetable dyes like Myrobalan (TERMINALIA CHEBULA)/ (Karakapuvvu) and Myrobalan bud (Karakapinde) are used to make the black dye permanent.
  • For all shades arriving in kalamkari process are renewable plant materials minerals/kasim
  • Alum is the mordant used in the dyeing process.

Natural Colors:

  • Tamarind stems are burned and made into charcoal used for black, specially in the initial sketching
  • Kasim kaaram – purified scrap iron, cane jaggery and palm jaggery are permitted to get black color
  • Chavala Kodi and surudu chekka help to obtain red and green shades
  • Pomegranate skin is used to obtain light yellow color
  • Katachu is boiled to obtain lighter brown colour
  • Blue is obtained from the Indigo plant-indigo tinctoria
  • Mangusta is used to obtain pink and red colours


  • Plain gaada cloth is prepared by soaking it in myrobalan and milk solution. This helps the fabric to absorb the required metallic mordant and prevents natural dyes from spreading.
  • Once dry, outlines are hand painted using the Kalam and charcoal made from burnt tamarind twigs. The patterns vary from flora and fauna, god figures and animal forms.
  • Wash and dry the cloth after the complete outline has been drawn. The cloth is boiled in a mixture of Jagey leaves and Anar to fix and brighten the colors.
  • To fill colors and details, natural colors are applied to the designs, one color at a time. After each step, the cloth is treated in alum solution, washed and dried.
  • This process is repeated for all the colors in the design. The re-printing steps depend on the complexity of the design and the color palette.
  • A final color-fixing treatment is done in a mixture of water and Alum salt.

All colourant/mordant used in kalamkari are used in ayurvedic medicines and are of antiviral & anti microbial