My Order Menu The African Fabric Shop  African Wax Prints
+44 (0)1484 850629

Contact Us

African Wax Prints

Traditional and contemporary African designs

When most people think of African fabrics, the first thing that comes to mind is these traditional African wax prints.

Traditional - because they've been sold in African markets since the industrial revolution and many of the original designs are still popular today.

Contemporary - because today's designers are creating new patterns to reflect modern tastes, as well as putting a contemporary spin on traditional designs.

All 100% cotton, these genuine wax prints are made in Ghana.

Fabrics are 115 cm / 45 in wide, approximately. Fat Quarters are 50 x 57 cm / 20 x 22 in, approximately.

Per Fat Quarter: £3.90     Per metre: £15.60

More: About African wax print

About African wax print

As we point out in our book African Wax Print: A Textile Journey -

'African wax print fabric is a defining methaphor of African design, fashion and expression; an immediately recognisable icon throughout the world'.

Quite simply, it just says, 'Africa.'

All over - but especially West and Central Africa - wax print fabric is worn by women, men and children of every social standing, from humble farmers to elite politicians. It is tailored into elaborate dresses and suits and also worn as a simple wrapper or pagne.

The designs range from distinctively African motifs rooted in history to wacky object-based prints such as shoes, fans, bicycles - almost anything.

Wax print dates from the industrial revolution, when English and Dutch textile barons developed a way to mechanise batik production. The fabric found a market in West Africa and by the 1960s Europe was exporting millions of yards of fabric per year.

In the early days, wax was used to create a resist before dyeing the fabrics in industrial quantities. Today, a resin has replaced the wax. Some designs also require overprinting, originally by hand using wooden printing blocks.

Today, most of the fabrics you might think are wax print are not: they are cheap Chinese copies of the real thing, screenprinted onto poor quality cotton.

We do not sell Chinese fabrics. All of our wax print is made in Ghana - either by GTP or ATL - which are owned by the European companies Vlisco and A Brunnschweiler, respectively.

How do you recognise a genuine African wax print?

Wax print is printed on both sides of the fabric, not one side like a screenprint.

Wax print has two distinct irregularities: a slight misalignment of colour and design, plus a distinctive crackle effect caused by tiny cracks in the resin resist. We call these irregularities 'the perfect imperfection'.

Using African wax print

Genuine African wax print is very robust and stands up to years of washing. It's great for colourful and distinctive clothing. Many creative and innovative textile artists are using wax print in their quilts and wallhangings.

The images shown here are from our book 'African Wax Print: A Textile Journey'.
African wax print modelModel shows off African wax print fabric. Image courtesy of A Brunnschweiler & Co.
Wearing African wax print fabric in AfricaIn Africa, African wax print fabric is everywhere. Image © Robert Irwin.
African wax print crackle effectThe characteristic 'crackle' of African wax print fabric.
Creation Myth by Margaret RamsayCreation Myth © Margaret Ramsay.

Also available

Our acclaimed book - African Wax Print: A Textile Journey


"Fascinating... a major step forward in telling the tale of African wax prints." John Gillow - textiles collector and author of African Textiles: Colour and Creativity Across a Continent.

Wax Print Adventure Pack
image for Wax Print Adventure Pack
from £18.50AWX001
Wax Print Adventure Pack Indigo
image for Wax Print Adventure Pack Indigo
from £18.50AWX002
Wax Print Duotone Adventure Pack
image for Wax Print Duotone Adventure Pack
from £18.50AWD001
Flight New
image for Flight
Mini Bonsu New
image for Mini Bonsu
Record Player New
image for Record Player
Air Afrique New
image for Air Afrique
Tumbling Blocks New
image for Tumbling Blocks
Outer Limits New
image for Outer Limits
Shuttle New
image for Shuttle
Groundnuts New
image for Groundnuts
Vector New
image for Vector
Twister Pink New
image for Twister Pink
Pear Drop Turquoise New
image for Pear Drop Turquoise
Skin Green New
image for Skin Green
Record Disc Pink New
image for Record Disc Pink
image for Bouquet
image for Banners
Papillon Purple
image for Papillon Purple
Fans Forest
image for Fans Forest
Daisy Path Turquoise
image for Daisy Path Turquoise
Reflections Pink
image for Reflections Pink
Reflections Yellow
image for Reflections Yellow
Reflections Turquoise
image for Reflections Turquoise
image for Tunnels
image for Doilies
image for Jester
Flower Power
image for Flower Power
Trailing Leaf Turquoise
image for Trailing Leaf Turquoise
Purple Daze
image for Purple Daze
image for Darts
Spinning Bowls
image for Spinning Bowls
Dice Red
image for Dice Red
Spyro Gyro
image for Spyro Gyro
image for Impression
Otapa Indigo New
image for Otapa Indigo
Guinea Fowl Indigo New
image for Guinea Fowl Indigo
Pacman Indigo New
image for Pacman Indigo
Garden Trail Indigo
image for Garden Trail Indigo
Staircase Indigo
image for Staircase Indigo
Bonsu Indigo
image for Bonsu Indigo
Oriental Leaf
image for Oriental Leaf
Ray Ray Indigo
image for Ray Ray Indigo
Papillon Indigo
image for Papillon Indigo
Record Disc Indigo
image for Record Disc Indigo
Snakeskin Indigo
image for Snakeskin Indigo
New Fine Trail Indigo
image for New Fine Trail Indigo
The African Fabric Shop uses cookies. For more information see our privacy policy.