Less is more. At least that’s the idea behind the art of sumi-e, a painting technique whose key aesthetic and spiritual ideals are harmony, simplicity, and clarity. Sumi-e painting is an ancient art form whose name translates to “black ink painting.” It emerged in ancient China and gained popularity in Japan, and its practitioners strive to express the essence of forms rather than their realistic likenesses. Sumi-e painting requires special black ink. Here is our selection of the best sumi-e inks.
1. Megrez Yidege Practice Sumi Ink
Megrez’s sumi-e ink is perfect for novice brush painters and calligraphers. Available in a variety of volumes, this ink is suitable for daily use. It has a long shelf life and won’t fade. It produces a deep black mark and is formulated to be dense and highly pigmented.
2. Hmayart Black Sumi Ink
Hmayart’s sumi ink is ready to use right out of the 8.8-ounce bottle. Made in China from pine soot, this ink has only a slight odor. Waterproof and smudge proof, it goes on opaque and won’t dry out on the nib or brush. This rather thick ink is ready to use out of the bottle and is dark enough to achieve a full gray to black scale.
3. Yasutomo Black Sumi Ink
Yasutomo’s quality sumi-e ink comes in a 12-ounce bottle. Thanks to its lightfast composition, this black ink won’t fade over time. Made of high-quality vegetable oil soot, this ink also boasts a small percentage of shellac, so it’s water resistant when dry. The ink easily adheres to a range of paper types without smudging, and it won’t bleed.
4. Daiso Sumi Ink
Daiso’s sumi-e ink comes in a 180-milliliter bottle that you can buy singly or in a 2-pack or 3-pack. Made in Japan for calligraphy and brush painting, this ink leaves a smooth mark you can count on not to fade, and its odor is less potent than that of other sumi-e inks.
5. Kaimei Sumi Ink
Kaimei’s product contains 180 milliliters of black ink. This ink is imported from Japan and won’t dry out or clot. The L-top bottle is drip proof and features a small valve that allows you to control the amount of ink you squeeze into your ink holder. This ink is opaque on paper but won’t stain palettes and is easy to clean. Note that the ink is not waterproof when dry, and will bleed if rewetted.