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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

净烟 Jing Soot

Jing Soot is made from industrially produced oil soot, so provides a value alternative oil soot inkstick.

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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Posted on 13 Comments

13 thoughts on “Inksticks Buyer’s Guide

  1. […] explain the history of the Old Hu Kai Wen workshop and their Li Ting Gui inksticks.  See also the Buyer’s Guide to over 80 varieties of ink from Old Hu Kai Wen, inkston introduction to chinese ink and some dramatic pictures from the Old […]

  2. […] Hui ink (徽墨) is a speciality of China’s SheXian (old HuiZhou徽州), it is of excellent quality and beautiful to look at. Because it “drops on the paper like polish, and stays true 10,000 years” (“落纸如漆,万载存真”), the works of history’s famous artists and calligraphers remain perfectly preserve and became precious artistic heritage. […]

  3. […] the Inkstick Buyer’s Guide and Story of Old Hu Kai Wen 胡开文 and Li Ting Gui 李廷珪 Inksticks.  Yan’s blog has […]

  4. […] aromatic, medicinal and precious ingredients. The most prestigious representative would be Old Hu Kai Wen which still produces the best […]

  5. Producto noble y de calidad excepcional. La barra de tinta tiene un rendimiento casi eterno, en mi caso al menos, que la utilizo como acuarela. El aroma a resinas y a pino convierten la acción artística en un goce añadido. Excelente manufactura . Compra obligada para los amantes de las tintas en general y de la caligrafia oriental en particular.

  6. Otra maravilla del viejo taller de Old Hu Kai Wen. Producto de gran rendimiento y belleza en su manufactura, artesanal de principio a fin. La selección que ofrece INKSTON en este apartado en particular, el de las barras de tinta, es excepcional en todas y cada una de sus referencias. Amazon imbatible en su servicio de entrega en 24 hr. Agradecido a ambos.

  7. The ink stick is excellent in quality. I wish my painting was as good as the ink stick lol.

  8. […] Inksticks Buyer Guide […]

  9. Very good article, a lot of information is in it :-).
    In the examples of Pine soot ink sticks, there are some ink sticks that do not belong there. Can you sort them out please?

    1. thanks for letting us know, I’ve fixed that part up a bit, the Pine Soot was including the Quan Soot which are also listed separately.

      1. Great that you have fixed it :-). By the way, I really like the cats, meow ;-).

  10. I read that some manufacturers mark the quality of their ink sticks with numbers and I wonder how the ink sticks of Old Hu Kai wen are to be classified.
    Can you help me please?
    There are numbers from 101 to 107 I think.
    I wonder what numbers student, professional, premium and collectible have?
    Kind regards

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