Sumi – E Essentials

One among the many great things regarding the art of sumi-e is that you only need a few things to start. All of which you can easily get hold for a relatively cheap price.

So let’s take a look on what you will need on your table when starting to learn sumi-e.

Washi – Japanese Rice Paper

Rice Paper

What makes this paper the right one, above all others? The fact that it is highly absorbent. If you try to paint on another type of paper, not only the colour will not show at its best, but the paper itself will turn watery and rippled.

Sumi – Ink


The ink for sumi-e is comes in the form of a solid stick. Ink is made from the soot of pine – this stick in particular is obtained from the soot of blue pines. Even though ink is the most expensive thing to buy, a single stick will last for a long time.

Suzuri – Ink Grinder


The solid ink stick is transformed into a liquid by adding a drop of water to the deeper part of the grinder. Keeping the sumi stick perpendicular to the grinder and following slow circular motions, you will obtain a thick, black and good smelling ink. The process of ink making is particularly interesting and I will be making a separate post all about it.

Fude – Brush


You can have as many brushes as you like, but in the beginning, having just one is more than enough. Good painting brushes are made from animal hair, and require attention when washing.

Small  Bowls 

Small Plates

Are essential to mix the ink with water to create different colour gradations, and to clean your brush during the process of painting. You can use whatever you have in handy for this purpose, especially of you are a beginner and you don’t wish to part with some serious cash to buy a more professional water bowls. Just make sure the bowls are white, so you can tell the exact gradation of ink you are working with.

Brush Holder

Brush HolderThis is where you put your brushes on hold while you take a break from drawing. Ink-loaded brushes are a serious danger to furniture and clothes, as the ink used for sumi-e is difficult to remove from surfaces and impossible to get off of clothes.

One last word of advice: grab yourself as much newspaper as you can, and cover anything around you that you don’t want to get stained. Wear old clothes and don’t be afraid of getting your hands – and nails – dirty!

This entry was published on September 18, 2013 at 8:26 am and is filed under The Materials. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

2 thoughts on “Sumi – E Essentials

  1. You will be a grandmaster of sumi-e:-)

  2. So cool! Nice blog. I’ll be keeping an eye out 🙂

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