Patachitra paintings are created on small pieces of canvas using pencils, brushes and paints. With strong lines and vibrant colours, these paintings are a visual narrative of the 'Dashavtar' and the stories of Lord Krishna and Lord Rama. The tradition of Patachitra is closely linked with the worship of Lord Jagannath and is well known because of its exquisite workmanship.

Raw Materials

Canvas - Traditionally only cotton was used to make the canvas but nowadays both cotton and silk are used. When choosing cotton, the artists mostly prefer pieces of old saris as they have a much softer texture than the starched mill cotton available in markets today. The canvas is soaked in a solution of crushed tamarind seeds and water for 4-5 days and then taken out. These are then dried and stuck to each other to make a thick canvas. After the canvas has dried, a stone called 'khaddar' is used to polish the surface followed by a finishing stone called 'Chikana' stone to give a beautiful sheen. The canvas is ready for painting and can be stored and cut into required sizes for painting.
Colours - Traditionally the palette of Patachitra paintings consisted of only five primary colours, white, black, blue, red, and yellow. Nowadays, many other colours like green, brown are also used. The colours used are all derived from natural sources. 
Black - This is formed from lamp black or lamp soot. A burning lamp is placed inside an empty tin, till a considerable amount of soot collects on the underside of the tin. The soot is mixed with 'Kaitha' gum to achieve a smooth consistency.
Yellow - This is derived from a yellow stone called 'Hartal', which is found in Jaipur. The stone is powdered and mixed with water and gum for painting. 
White -
This is obtained with conch shell that is powered and boiled with 'kaitha' gum, till a paste is formed.
Red - This comes from a stone 'Hingulal', a locally available stone. The stone is powdered and mixed with water and gum. 
Blue - This is obtained from a blue stone called 'Khandneela'. The stone is powdered and boiled in the mixture of water and gum.
Green- This is made by boiling green leaves like 'Neem' leaves with water and 'kaitha' gum. 
Brown - This is obtained from 'Geru' stone, which is powdered and mixed with gum and water.
These natural extracts are then cooked together with gum from 'Kaitha' (elephant apple fruit tree), which acts as a natural fixative and prevents the painting from decaying. A variety of colours are made by mixing the existing primary colours. Presently many artists use readily available poster colours as well.
Coconut shells - These are used as containers to mix colours with water. 




Tools & Technology

Brush - Traditionally three types of brushes are used; broad, medium and fine tip and they are made with buffalo, calf and mouse hair respectively. Brushes with mouse hair are used for finer works like ornamentation; face etc. because they have a needle-point edge. Typically 'Keya' root is used to make the base of the brushes, while the improved ones have wooden handles. These brushes last about 7-8 months when used daily.
Pencils and eraser - HB pencils are used to draw the outlines and rough sketches before the final art work is painted.
Scissors - Scissors and various cutting tools are used to get cut desired sizes of canvas. 
Chikana or Khadar stones - There are two types of stones which are used: 'Khadar' stone is used for evening out the canvas, and has a pinkish white color. While the 'Chikana' stone is used for giving a shine to the canvas. This stone is brownish yellow in color.



There are some strict religious rituals practiced by the 'Chitrakaras' (artists) before 'Anasar' as it is a temple practice. For example women are not allowed to touch the paintings, the 'Chitrakar' is strictly vegetarian during the days he is working on the painting and he has to sleep on the ground and not on a bed.  Each painting starts with wear a new dhoti. 
After the painting is completed, a 'Mahasnan' (holy bath) is arranged with chanting of mantras. The paintings are then taken to the temple and placed as idols. After the completion of 'Anasar', the paintings are stored in the temple.


Border areas are first demarcated on the canvas after which the initial sketches are made with pencil and filled in with paint. The outlines are later thickened with black paint. Eyes are the last feature to be made as they require skill and expertise. The process of creating a beautiful pattachitra is very similar to the adornment of a person.

Demarcation of the border - The 'Chitrakara' selects a 'Pata Astara' canvas of required size keeping in mind the subject to be executed. He then draws straight lines on all four sides to demarcate the space needed for borders. 
While the modern day painter uses a pencil and a ruler for this purpose in the olden days this was achieved by holding taut a string dipped in white color over the canvas and lightly patting it. This would leave a white mark on the 'Pata'.

'Tipana' (sketching) - This is done with a fine brush dipped in a diluted white color made of conch called 'Sankha-Pani'. In the more elaborate and intricate pictures, especially the ones depicting stories, 'Tipana' is a very important part and is generally done by a senior and experienced artist. The Chitrakara makes a rough sketch on the canvas making faint outlines the figures and their actions.
The sketching and composition has to be properly done as it is nearly impossible to save a bad composition later on. While sketching, the pose is as important as the juxtaposition of figures, as this crucial in expressing the emotions of the figures. The head is drawn first- a circle with a hint of a chin. A torso is then added followed by the legs. The Chitrakara does not bother to sketch the feet, and the hands are sketched last. It is said that a good Chitrakara can start at the torso and branch out to the other parts.

'Hingula-banaka' (red coloring) - A flat red color is filled in all the spaces that are left outside of the figure sketches. Red or an ochre monochrome is generally the preferred background color and paintings with other colored backgrounds are rare exceptions.

'Ranga-banaka' (coloring) - Colors for the body are painted next. Certain descriptions of deities as mentioned in the 'Dhyana-Mantras' are maintained while painting the bodies. 

'Luga-pindha' (putting on the dresses) - The garment colours of different deities are also painted as per the descriptions in the 'Dhyana-mantras'.
'Alankara-lagi' or 'Gahana-lekha' (coloring the ornaments)- This includes the application of appropriate colors to the head dress, ornaments of the hair, face, ears, nose, neck, arms, waist and legs; and also various other attributes and weapons of the different Gods and Goddesses.

'Mota-kala' (thick black lines) - Portions to be colored black like the hair, outlines of garments and architecture are painted with thick black lines. 

'Saru-kala' (thin black lines) - This is the most important stage of the painting as thin black outlines are applied around all the colored portions. This requires a high level of finesse in the workmanship. With fine black lines the face, the body, the dresses and the ornaments are outlined. While the facial features like eyes are painted, borders and designs are also made for the dresses and ornaments. It is this stage that gives life and expression to the painting.

'Sankha-pota' (white touches) - This is the final stage of the painting before the border. It is made using a fine brush and white paint. Spaces still remaining black in the monochrome background are filled up with a floral motif which may be 'Pancha-Angulia' or 'Sata-Angulia' (five or seven fingered). Dots are also used- a single dot called a 'topi' and a cluster of four dots arranged in a square is called a 'punji' or a foursome. Fine white lines are also drawn on the forehead and neck of the figures to give them more character.

Border - The border normally is painted at the very end. But painting it earlier or simultaneously is also sometimes done. The early paintings had very few and simple border designs. But the Chitrakaras nowadays paint a variety of borders depending upon the subject matter of the painting, and available space and so on. Quite often the main painting and the borders are done by separate artists, the border painter being of lesser experience and expertise.

Touch up and Finishing - During the course of thepainting, especially if the painting is a big one or it has been painted over a long period of time, it is possible that some portion might have gotten damaged- the paint might have scraped off or some lines might have smudged or faded. Such damages or any possible defects are then looked for and rectified before the final lacquering of the painting.

'Jausala' (lacquering) - This process is usually carried out by the women of the Chitrakara family. Charcoal is fired to red hot in an earthen pot and the painting is held face up over it. A 1:3 ratio mixture of lac and resin powder is then sprinkled over the painting. When the powder melts it is rubbed over the entire surface with a cotton ball. In another method, a piece of lac is impaled on a stick and held over a fire till it melts. It is then rubbed over the painting. Though lacquering is still done in the above manner, it is not unusual to see a Chitrakara giving a hurried finish of lacquer to the painting out of a can.