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Article: How Pattachitra Art Is Made: Step-by-Step Guide to Painting Techniques

How Pattachitra Art Is Made: Step-by-Step Guide to Painting Techniques

How Pattachitra Art Is Made: Step-by-Step Guide to Painting Techniques

Pattachitra painting is a distinguished traditional art form from India, primarily in Odisha and West Bengal. Renowned for its intricate details, vibrant colours, and mythological narratives, Pattachitra derives its name from the Sanskrit words "patta" (cloth) and "chitra" (picture), signifying paintings on cloth.

The art of Pattachitra is deeply intertwined with the religious practices of the Jagannath Temple in Puri, Odisha. Initially, these paintings depicted stories of Hindu deities, but, over time, the themes expanded to include epics like the Ramayana and Mahabharata and various Puranic tales.

Central to Pattachitra is its role as a storytelling medium, with each painting meticulously crafted to narrate mythological and historical events. The artists, known as Chitrakars, adhere to traditional techniques passed down through generations, ensuring the preservation of this ancient art form's authenticity.

The creation process involves preparing a cotton cloth canvas with chalk and tamarind seed paste, sketching intricate outlines, and filling them with vibrant natural dyes. Each stage reflects a deep commitment to traditional methods, making Pattachitra a unique and enduring art form.

Materials Used in Pattachitra

The materials used in Pattachitra painting are integral to its distinctive style and vibrant aesthetic. These materials, often sourced from nature, contribute to the longevity and richness of the artwork. Understanding the traditional and modern materials used in Pattachitra offers insight into the meticulous craftsmanship behind each piece.

Traditional Materials

Canvas Preparation

The foundation of a Pattachitra painting is the canvas, traditionally made from a piece of cotton cloth. This cloth is selected for its durability and smooth texture. The cotton cloth is treated with a paste made from tamarind seeds to prepare the canvas. The tamarind seeds are soaked in water and then ground into a fine paste, which is mixed with water and applied to the cloth. Once the paste is applied, the cloth is left to dry in the sun. After drying, the surface is polished with a smooth stone or shell to achieve a smooth finish, making it ready for painting.

Natural Dyes and Pigments

Traditional Pattachitra painters use natural dyes and pigments derived from minerals, plants, and other organic materials. These natural colours are known for their vibrant hues and longevity.


The brushes used in Pattachitra painting are traditionally made from animal hair, the most common being the fur of squirrels and goats. These brushes allow for fine, detailed work essential to the intricate designs of Pattachitra.

Modern Materials

While traditional Pattachitra artists continue to use age-old methods and materials, modern practitioners sometimes incorporate contemporary materials to adapt to changing times and preferences.

Synthetic Colors

Some artists now use synthetic paints like acrylics and watercolours, which are easier to work with and readily available. These modern colours offer a broader palette and faster drying times, though they may lack the traditional feel and longevity of natural dyes.

Commercial Canvases

Instead of preparing the canvas by hand, some artists use commercially available canvases. These pre-made canvases are convenient and save time, but they might not provide the same traditional texture and finish as handmade ones.

Synthetic Brushes

Synthetic brushes made from nylon and other materials are also used. These brushes are durable, widely available, and offer a range of textures suitable for different painting techniques.

Key Techniques in Pattachitra Painting

The process of creating a Pattachitra painting is meticulous and follows a series of well-defined steps that have been passed down through generations. These techniques are crucial in bringing the vivid, intricate stories of Pattachitra to life.

Canvas Preparation

    The foundation of Pattachitra painting begins with the preparation of the canvas. As discussed earlier, the canvas is traditionally made from cotton cloth treated with tamarind seed paste and chalk to create a smooth surface. This preparation ensures that the canvas is durable and capable of holding the intricate details and vibrant colours of Pattachitra.

    Initial Sketching

      Once the canvas is ready, the artist begins by sketching the outline of the painting, known as Rekhachitra. This initial sketching is done with a fine brush or a thin reed pen dipped in a black pigment made from burnt coconut shells. The outlines are drawn with meticulous care, setting the foundation for the detailed work. The precision of these outlines is crucial, as they guide the entire composition of the painting.

      Color Application (Bharani)

        After the outline is completed, the next step is the application of colour, referred to as Bharani. Traditionally, natural dyes and pigments are used, but modern artists may also use synthetic colours. The colours are applied in a specific order, starting with lighter shades and progressing to darker ones. Each area of the painting is carefully filled in, ensuring that the colours are vibrant and evenly applied. The use of natural colours gives Pattachitra its distinctive, earthy tones and contributes to the longevity of the artwork.

        Detailing and Ornamentation

          Detailing is one of the most critical aspects of Pattachitra painting. This stage involves adding intricate patterns and fine details to the painting, such as elaborate designs on clothing, jewellery, and background elements. Artists use fine brushes made from animal hair to achieve these details, which require a steady hand and immense patience. The detailing not only enhances the visual appeal of the painting but also adds depth and texture, making the images come alive.

          Border Decoration

            A distinctive feature of Pattachitra is the ornate borders that frame the central composition. These borders are meticulously designed with repetitive patterns and motifs that complement the main theme of the painting. The border decoration is an art in itself, requiring precision and creativity. It serves to enclose the narrative within a beautifully crafted frame, adding to the overall aesthetic of the artwork.


              The final step in creating a Pattachitra painting is the application of varnish. Traditionally, lacquer made from the sap of the kaitha tree is used. This varnish is applied to the finished painting to protect it from moisture and dust, enhancing the colours and giving the painting a glossy finish. The varnishing process not only preserves the painting but also adds a final touch of brilliance to the artwork.

              Storytelling and Symbolism

              Pattachitra is not just a visual art form but also a medium of storytelling. Each painting is imbued with symbolic meaning and cultural narratives. The artists, known as Chitrakars, follow traditional themes drawn from Hindu mythology, local legends, and folklore with clarity and emotion, making Pattachitra a powerful tool for cultural expression and preservation.

              The techniques used in Pattachitra painting are a testament to the skill and dedication of the artists who practice this ancient craft. From the preparation of the canvas to the final varnishing, each step is executed with precision and care, ensuring that every Pattachitra painting is a masterpiece of traditional art. The intricate details, vibrant colours, and narrative depth of Pattachitra make it a unique and enduring art form that continues to captivate and inspire. As we appreciate the craftsmanship behind Pattachitra, we also honour the rich cultural heritage and artistic traditions that it represents.

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