Chinese Painting Art Supplies

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The art supplies used in Chinese painting are fundamental to the style and are known as the Four Treasures: brush, paper, ink, and ink stone. You can start exploring Chinese painting with watercolor brushes and paints if you already have these, but it’s worth also exploring the different Chinese painting brushes available and the results painting with ink gives.

Ink

Leren Lu/Getty Images

Traditionally the ink used for Chinese painting was in the form of a dried, rectangular stick of ink. To use it, you add some water to an ink stone, then rub or grind the ink stick against the stone to “dissolve” some of it, producing the ink. These days, liquid ink is also used as it’s convenient. If the ink from a bottle is too thin, leave it to dry a little and it’ll thicken up. The quality of the ink is more important than the form you buy it in.
Watercolor paints and calligraphy inks can also be used, but tend to run more when used on wet paper. Traditional Chinese inks have gum in them to counter this.


Paper

Gallo Images – Duif du Toit / Getty Images

Two types of paper are used for traditional Chinese painting, absorbent (unsized) and non-absorbent (or alum-sized) paper. The latter is traditionally used for outline-style Chinese painting, where an outline is painted first, then color filled in. Being less absorbent, the ink or paint doesn’t spread around or run, and you’ve more time to work and control. The smooth watercolor paper will also work.
The Paper is not stretched as with watercolor painting but is simply held down in the corners with some weights so it doesn’t move around as you paint. Place a piece of felt, blotting paper or newsprint under the sheet you’re painting on to absorb any excess water and to protect the surface you’re working on.

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