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Magical Materials

If you are experienced with western painting techniques, you might find there are quite different practices in Chinese painting/ calligraphy. This article will share some interesting facts about several most-used materials by professional Chinese artists. These tips will help find more possibilities for you to create art. Inkston enjoys any new ideas inspired by new ways to use your tools. Here are some most popular materials mostly used to create modern art format.

Of course, the most popular material is handmade paper. On inkston you can find many articles about Chinese Xuan Paper. In this article, we will talk more about other less well-known materials.

Linen Paper

Linen Paper’s main component is linen fibre. Therefore, linen paper is very strong and soft, moderately reflective. It is a perfect type of paper for natural mineral pigment applications. It is very absorbent and when the humidity changes, the paper itself is very adaptive. Like all the professional handmade papers, linen paper is also supplied as un-cooked. You can size the paper according to your need.

Yan Pi Paper

This paper is expensive but it definitely surprised you by its silky quality. The paper is very fine due to the special fibres contained in the paper. The fibre is extracted from a type of bush. This bush cannot be cultivated easily. Therefore, the Yan Pi Paper fibre is mostly mixed with other fine fibres. The pure Yan Pi paper is very fine and costly. Since it is made mostly with protected natural plants and this is not allowed by EU’s regulation on paper, inkston currently only distributes Yan Pi Papers made with mixed fibres. Of course, this paper is also more affordable. (On Inkston, we refer such papers as Song Paper since they are very suitable for Song style paintings.)


This is a very widely used additive to process paper/ pigments. In general, there are animal-fat-extracted gelatine and plant-extracted gelatine. The most used one is San Qian Ben Jiao. This is made by processing animal skin. Compared to animal-fat-extracted gelatine, the vegetarian gelatine is less sticky. The solution for this is to add honey to the vegetarian gelatine. A typical vegetarian gelatine is peach gelatine which is extracted from peach tree. Vegetarian gelatine is soluble in water.


You might have noticed that inkston supplies a special type of cooked xuan paper with mica powder. This paper is cooked and applied a layer of mica powders. Mica’s main component is potassium. The most used mica is white mica.

Another tip is when mixing white mica with pearl white mineral pigment 蛤粉, you can get a very mild and special tone. It is a perfect colour for painting silverwares and jewels.

(The photo above shows the Inkston Handmade Gongbi Xuan Paper with Mica Powder.) 


When you read our article on ‘how to size your paper’, you will know how important alum is for Chinese painting. This chemical helps reduce the absorption rate of paper and also help avoid pigments detach from paper. Besides these advantages, applying a layer of alum to the surface of metallic pigments will also help isolate air from metallic pigments to avoid oxidisation of the metal and help the metallic colour stay bright. After applying a layer of alum, you will find it is easier to apply natural mineral pigments on metallic colours such as gold leaf.



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