Tools & Materials

“The development of Chinese ink painting techniques is very unique and this can be achieved from its art form's specific tools and materials.”


“The use of a fine and soft brush allows you to produce varied strokes. The use of silk cloth and paper creates a unique interplay between ink and surface, which develops into various painting techniques ”

Types and Hair Sources of Brushes

Chinese painting use a large variety of brushes. Here are the three most used models:

  1. Brush with hairs of goat: Yang Hao. Very flexible, it is generally used to paint great surfaces and for gradations of colours.

  2. Brush with hairs of weasel: Lang Hao. It is used for the more precise layouts such as contours, the bamboos, the trees and the rocks.

  3. Brush with hairs of goat and weasel: Jian Hao. Constituted of an external crown of flexible goat hairs with an interior end of hard wolf hairs, it combines the quality of the two preceding brushes.

The brush is composed of the tip, the belly (midsection), and the base (near the shaft).


Ink and Inkstone

Traditionally, Chinese painters use an ink in the shape of solid sticks. Before painting it must be rubbed on a stone with a little water. It could obtain various densities of ink according to the time of rubbing. Stone ink must be provided with a lid to prevent that ink does not dry when it is not used. (If it dries, which arrives inevitably even with a lid, you can add a little water.) You can get many sizes and many forms of ink stones. It is even considered as art.


But now, we use very good black inks in small can for the penmanship and tubes of water ink for all the colours in painting.

You need small saucers for the colours (a quite smooth plate can make the deal). You can mix them and add water to obtain the colour and the density you want. They should be used in small quantity because if they get dry, even if you can add water, they lose their qualities.


Xuan Paper (Rice Paper)

The most common type of Chinese painting paper is xuan paper, and can be further classified into raw xuan and mature xuan paper.

1. Raw xuan paper is not processed and has a higher ability to absorb water, allowing the ink to blur and produce special effects. This is suitable for xieyi-style painting. The most famous xuan paper is from Xuancheng in Anhui, China.

2. Mature xuan paper is traded with alum, making it less absorbent, which allows applying layers and layers of colors. This is appropriate for gongbi-style painting.


There are various specifications of xuan paper. Select the proper one according to the desired size and technique.


Supplementary Tools


Water Bowl


is for washing brushes and dipping water


Table cover


is to be placed under the paper. Beginners can use felt or even newspaper.

A brush rester (generally made in ceramic) to pose the brushes when you paint : the end would not touch the table. Some also use carry-brushes made in wood provided with hooks to suspend and make thus dry the brushes.


Paperweights to maintain the paper sheet.


To complete your painting afterwards, you can use a seal (印章/tu zhang) and seal ink (印泥 / Yin ni).