What You Need to Know Before Buying Chinese Brush Painting Supplies

The age-old tradition of Chinese Brush Painting has been practiced for more than 500 years, passed down from generation to generation.

Brush painting is a beautiful tradition, once practiced by the Chinese, but now all kinds of people. Chinese people who want to remember their cultural heritage and others who are intrigued by this tradition are all learning to practice this art form. 

Whether you are a veteran in the arts or are just beginning to learn about Chinese painting, you can benefit by reading the tips that we suggest following when buying Chinese brush painting supplies. 

The Brush In Chinese Brush Painting 

In Chinese brush painting, the brush is one of the most important purchases you can make. A good brush will help you experience the joys of Chinese brush painting; a bad brush will only frustrate you and make you think that it is impossible for you to become an excellent painter. With a good brush, you will improve with practice. With a bad brush, you can only improve by investing in higher quality brushes.

A master painter could play around with bad quality materials and still produce a decent work of art. For a beginner, bad quality materials can be detrimental. They will automatically assume that they are not born with the “natural talent” when it could all just be due to them not having the appropriate materials!

There are many cheap brush options out there. Some are irresistible deals - ten brushes and a brush roll for less than thirty dollars! However, it is better to have a few good brushes, than ten that fall apart after a few uses. With the cheaper brushes, it is common to experience the brush hairs falling out and other manufacturing/quality issues. The cheap brushes are usually sold to tourists wanting trinkets. If you see a brush that is priced inexpensively, beware

Good brushes are meticulously made - the hairs are hand-placed in the brush, then glued, and left to dry. For quality materials and fine workmanship, we recommend two of our brush sets. Our PRE Series Brush Set is a budget-friendly set of four brushes that are high quality for their price. For the artists who are looking for artist grade brushes, we recommend our Premium Artist Brush Set, which contains four of our highest quality brushes.


[Round brushes with stiff hair are usually made with hair from deer or ox and the stiffness of the brush head will allow you some control in how your brushstrokes appear on paper. Round brushes with soft hair made from goat or rabbit lose shape as the brush touches the paper.
Wash/hake brushes are wide and flat and have short hair. 

Orchid Bamboo brushes are a type of hard brush best used for orchid leaves, lines, and strokes. Happy Dot is another hard brush in the family of Chinese calligraphy supplies. These brushes are best for very thin lines, small dots, calligraphy, and signatures. 

Finding the brushes that work for you is one thing but learning new ways to hold the brush can also create new dynamics in your practice of Chinese brush painting. In Chinese and Japanese traditions, instead of holding the brush at a diagonal angle when painting like it is done in the West, the brush should be held vertically and away from the palm. To see a video demonstration on using the brush, click here.]

It's All About that Ink

The quality of the ink used in Chinese brush painting is an important factor in honing your craft and improving your art. Experimenting with thin or thicker paint will help you find what you're most comfortable with. 

India ink is a great choice for any artist, its waterproof quality does work best with line painting though. Mixing darker ink lines with diluted color will help in finding the right shades for your art, this is known as the line and wash method. A base ink mixed with other colors may also create new dimensions to your work.

Calligraphy inks are also commonly used in Chinese brush painting. Watercolor paints may be suitable in some cases but they do run more than other paints. 

Chinese Chip Colors are a great way to add some life to your brush paintings, to balance the traditional black inks with pops of color. They are watercolor based and paint beautifully on rice paper. 

Ink Stones 

While liquid inks are more common now because of convenience, using the traditional ink stick is also an option. Following this cultural tradition means that you'll need an inkstone to turn your ink stick into liquid. An inkstone is simply a container that will carry the liquid ink, it was originally made from slate, which is the easiest to grind your ink stick on, but ceramic and plastic can also be used.

Paper Trails 

We've discussed the importance of brushes and ink, but you can’t create paintings without paper! There are a couple of different types of paper in traditional Chinese brush painting.

Cheap paper will cause excessive bleeding when painting, affording the painter very little control and much frustration. Again, a master painter could work with bad materials and make them work, but a beginner should not have to be a master on his first try. If you’re a beginner and want to have a good first experience, then you should avoid these cheap papers.

If you want good quality paper for the money that you spend, we recommend our machine-pressed Practice Roll. It’s not only versatile, but also affordable. It starts off at $8 for a 50 foot continuous roll - that’s what we call a bang for your buck!

[Unsized paper is absorbent. Alum-sized paper is non-absorbent and most commonly used for the outline style of Chinese painting. Watercolor paper can also be used in this style of painting. 

Shuen (Xuan) paper is one of the most commonly used and popular rice papers in Chinese brush painting and calligraphy. 

If you'd like your art to be painted directly onto a decorative canvas, consider buying a Shikishi Board. These boards are made of laminated paper placed on a hard backing, the perfect way to display your masterpieces.]

Brush Painting Skills Put To The Test

Now that you know about all the necessary supplies to become an expert in Chinese brush painting, you can venture into different art forms as well. Sumi-e is the Japanese art form that uses black ink and white backgrounds to capture Japanese natural landscapes. All the Sumi-e supplies available for exploring this art form will make you an expert in no time! 

Seoye is the Korean version of calligraphy. Although languages differ, all forms of calligraphy are used to present lettering in an artistic form. Some of the earliest known Korean calligraphy used thick and powerful strokes that can still be found in present-day Korean calligraphy. 

These are some of the other art forms that can be practiced with supplies used in brush painting and the knowledge gained from that practice. 

The Brush Painting Supplies Expert 

Chinese Brush Painting is a beautiful way to express your artistic side and pay respect to an ancient cultural tradition that is popular to this day! Experts and beginners will find resources in this list of the best buying tips of the accessories needed for a successful endeavor into Chinese brush painting and other Asian art forms.

Finding what kind of brushes, ink, ink stones, and paper types that work for you will get you on your way to creating beautiful art. Please contact us with any art supplies questions you may have!

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