Japanese Traditional Materials

I have so often been asked, what is Japanese painting? What is the different point from western styled old painting works? How to define and recognize? by general people. O.K. Let me introduce especially arranged my own materials and tools for Japanese traditional painting work. Then you should realize and understand what is Japanese painting.

Mineral Pigments

 Japanese painting pigments are roughly sorted 4 kinds in material, such as ①natural minerals, ②mixture of glass and metal oxide, ③artificially dyed materials and ④chemosynthesis.

 Additionally, I basically use natural dye extracted from natural plants such as Indigo, Turmeric, Madder, Clove and so on.

Particle of Pigments

 In fact, there are various sorts of particle roughness of even the same material. And they are numbered from one to thirteen. The smaller the number is rougher. Meanwhile, the bigger the number is thinner.

SUMI (Carbon Ink)

 Sumi are sorted depending on its materials. The most valuable and rare but admired one is PINE SMOKE INK. It looks more blueish than the rest. The most popular in the present world is OIL SMOKE INK. The sorts of material oil are various. More valuable ones are made from particular plants such as rape seed and sesame seed. The colour of ink could vary depending on age.

Generally, as I mentioned above, PINE is blueish, therefore it is called “Blue Black”. Meanwhile Oil ones could be brownish. Some ones are dyed artificially.

Ink Stone

 Actually, SUMI colour reflects and depends on texture of ink stone. I basically use the most popular domestic models such as AMEHATA and OGATSU. However, dyed ink tend to undermine the quality of the stone. So, I alternatively use imported cheaper ones instead.

I inherited Chinese vintage ones named “TON-KEI” from my dad. They are sort of my treasure.


Natural dyes are really soft appearance unlike artificial ones. So I admire and often use several natural dyes as followed.

 ・Madder – Reddish brown

 ・Safflower – Light vermillion

 ・Phellodendron amurense – Light yellow

 ・Turmeric – Deep yellow

 ・ Clove – Brown  

Traditional Japanese Paper “WASHI”

I usually buy Japanese traditional paper “WASHI” in still condition but not sized, because originally, still paper could permit ink and dye to bleed into it. Therefore it can make particular texture different from sized one.

Basically, WASHI is made from fiber of particular plant species such as Mitsumata, Edgeworthia, Gankin, Hemp and so on. I usually make order to a traditional paper maker which make pieces of paper depending on ordered mixing ratio.  


Brushes for Japanese painting are basically similar to ones for calligraphy. In historical reason, Japanese painting derived from calligraphy. Therefore, it emphasise rather line than surface. This is definitely different point from western painting. In order to flexible and intonating lines, the brushes are made thinner than western styled brushes.

Flat Brush

Flat brushes are arranged depending on purpose such as for broad painting process, sizing and water filling. More luxury models are lacquered to allow longer durability.  

Draft Drawing

 Before making the main picture, I always roughly make draft drawings to make and understand the composition and shape of motifs. To simplify the drawing process, I basically use Conte, charcoal and thick pencil to draw strong contrasted lines.