How are African Prints “Ankara” made?

Shanae Wright

Posted on mars 06 2020

How are African Prints “Ankara” made?

Have you ever wondered about the process that African Prints go through to be made? Many people have long wondered about the process of making such radiant and colourful fabrics. Hence, we have decided to shine some light on the process for you. At DuroShan.APT, we source our Ankara fabrics from West Africa, where the process of making is somewhat like art. The process of making the fabrics can be fun for those who have been skilled in making them; the process is seen as a craft and can sometimes be a complex form of art. In our blog, we will speak more about the interesting yet intensive process of making “tribal prints”.

Prep time

Cotton yarns are woven into stiff fabrics; the woven fabric is thereafter bleached to remove all dirt and any unwanted participles that it might have caught while being woven. The fabric is then strengthened and stretched into the preferred measurement.  

The Process of Designing

The creative designer then drafts their ideas and then design the prints using their computers; on a special CAD the software in black and white form. Each print is produced generally in different colourways and two are three colours are traditionally added that tells the story of the people or the designer.

Wax Printing and dying

The design is transferred onto two copper rollers from its digital format and is then printed onto the front and back of the fabric. The fabric is printed on using wax that has been melted; this wax is a natural product that is produced from pine tree resin. After the fabric has been waxed it is placed into a dye called indigo dye; the parts of the fabric that are exposed is then dyed and the resin cover is resisted. During this process, natural cracks can be formed which means that dye can get onto the other parts of the resin-covered fabric. Depending on the preferred outcome of the creative designers, the fabric is then intentionally cracked; we call this the “crackling effect”.


After the process of designing and dying then comes the colouration of the fabric. At this stage industrial machines are used to add solid colours. In some cases, part of the design is carved onto a wooden block and applied through a technique called block printing. Block printing technique is done by hand. This is the process that produces vibrant and distinctive colours in the Ankara fabrics.


The fabric is then cleaned by washing with water to remove any excess of dye or residual wax, this ensures the standards of the vibrant fabrics are met.


Many Ankara lovers love their fabrics with the shiny and starchy finish which often disappear within a couple of washes. However, there are different finishes that are added depending on the preferred outcome. The pricing of the fabric is often due to the finishing that has been applied. The unique thing about Ankara fabrics is that each piece is unique due to the process, so it is next to impossible to make each piece the same. 

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