Inksticks Buyer's Guide

Inkston uses the classification of the Old Hu Kai Wen workshop to categorize over 80 inksticks into these main groups.

Type Matt Deep Glossy Greenish Black
Collectable Extra Fine Pine Soot Famous Artist
Traditional Oil Soot
Traditional Sets
Premium Tung
Premium  Premium Pine Soot Super-Fine Oil Soot Royal Warrant
Professional  Pine Soot Jin Bu Yi and Fine Oil Soot Super Turpentine  Qing Natural Black
Student  Quan Soot  Jing Soot
  • Collectable includes special and historical formulas and decorations which will be of interest to collectors
  • Premium is the very finest handmade materials and processing
  • Professional range are handmade inksticks preferred by professionals
  • Student ranges use industrially manufactured soot to provide a lower cost alternative. These inks may be considered less expressive than the professional ranges, however they may still give a better effect than liquid inks and provide a very economical ink for practice.

The Collectable and Premium are the most costly per gram, however since they are often sold in small sticks it can still be affordable to try a good quality ink.

Matt pine soot inks are often preferred for painting, both for the ability to express depth and space in Shanshui landscape painting and the detail such as hairs on portrait paintings.  Glossier inks are often preferred for calligraphy, however Pine soot is also used to mimic ancient calligraphy styles such as Wei Bei (魏碑) Style tablet inscriptions from Northern Dynasties (386-581), Cliff inscriptions摩崖石刻 etc

油烟墨 (Youyan Mo) Deep Black (Oil Soot)

Oil soot black inks are good for both calligraphy and painting, the black is deep, sophisticated, bright while not overwhelming. High grade inks may have added aromatic oils such as musk and borneol, Chinese medicinal ingredients or gold leaf.  The groups of oil soot black inks are:

超细油烟墨 Chaoxi Super-fine Oil Soot Black (Premium range): the top-of-the-range examples of the main types

高级油烟墨 Gaoji Fine Oil Soot Black

中国名画家墨古法油烟 Famous Artist Oil Soot Black (formulations created for famous artists)

古法油烟 Traditional Oil Soot Black

Since Qing dynasty inkstick producers began making copies of famous inksticks with elaborate decorations.

青墨 Qing Natural Black

Super Glossy Black

Glossy blacks were invented in Song dynasty by adding Turpentine, and later by using Tung oil. Tung and Turpentine inksticks are very black, glossy, and long-lasting and most suitable for painting.

超漆烟 Chaoqi Turpentine “super lacquer” Glossy Black

An oil soot ink which is very black and glossy due to added turpentine.

    五石漆烟/贡烟 Five Stones Turpentine/ Royal Warrant Black

    This is a premium level glossy Turpentine black with additional ingredients originally commisioned for the imperial household.

    桐油烟 Tung Oil Glossy Black

    Made from Tung instead of Pine to give a glossy black finish.

    松烟 Pine Soot

    Pine soot is a very ancient type of carbon black inkstick produced from soot from charred pine tree roots with a very rich natural matt dark colour. It is very soluble in water and highly recommended for paintings, for example for fine hair effects.

      全烟 Quan Soot

      Quan Soot black is soft and deep, matt and not glossy. It is made from industrially produced soot to give the effect of pine soot at lower cost.  Recommended for students and for use together with oil soot inksticks to create different black effects.

        仿古墨 Traditional Inksticks Sets

        Sets of inksticks with traditional decoration.

        彩墨 Colour Inksticks

        Sets of natural stone colours and individual stick of precious colours such as Cinnabar and Pearl. See traditional handmade inksticks for details of traditional colour ink recipes.

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