Sunday, December 15, 2013

sumi chat

Etegami using only sumi, without gansai colors
Let me tell you what little I know about sumi, the black ink we use for making the outlines and words in Etegami. In English, we call a pressed-and-dried cake of sumi an inkstick. To make ink from the inkstick, it has to be continuously ground against an inkstone with a small quantity of water to produce a dark liquid which is then applied to paper with an ink brush. Sumi is made primarily from soot and animal glue, which doesn't sound at all attractive, but the finished product is sublime in color, fragrance, and writing texture. Read more detail about the sumi-producing process on the Boku-undo website.

liquified sumi for Etegami use

In Etegami, it is common to use a pre-liquified form of sumi that comes in plastic bottles. The price varies widely with the quality of the product. The product I normally use is a concentrated liquid of very high quality (and cost) that comes in the gray bottle and light blue box in the photograph above. A bit of this ink should be poured into a separate bottle with a tight-fitting cap, and diluted with more than ten times as much water before using. Never pour leftover ink back into the original bottle with the unused ink. The other bottle, the black one with the white cap and spout, I purchased from a 100-yen shop. It is used without dilution, and is good enough for young school children doing calligraphy practice. I learned to my dismay, that this cheaper ink smears when it comes into contact with gansai paints, so it really doesn't suit etegami. All sumi stains and is difficult, or even impossible, to remove from clothing.

cheap sumi smears when gansai paint is added to the image


  1. Quelle bonne idee de nous avoir presente l'encre Sumi!

  2. Je me demande si on peut utiliser ce Sumi pour les filets sur un passe partout d;encadrement, peint en lavis par exemple?

  3. I really like your etegami using just sumo ink Debbie. Very charming. Sort of like a black and white photograph.

  4. Great info :) I use a good quality liquid that my Chinese painting teacher brings back from her yearly trips to China...
    love etegami ( btw) and want to thank u for sharing all that u do :)