Explore an Age-Old Medium with the Best Brushes for Ink Painting

Given the fluidity of ink painting, it’s imperative that painters be armed with trouble-free brushes. Whether used for ink-and-wash painting (sumi-e in Japanese) or calligraphy, these brushes typically have relatively long bristles that respond well to the artist’s hand, moving pigment with little drag. Traditionally, there are two main types of East Asian ink painting brushes. White “goat’s hair” brushes, made from sheep’s wool, goat hair, and sometimes the hair of other furry animals like cats, are best for laying washes and soft calligraphy techniques. Brown “wolf’s hair” brushes, commonly made with stiff bristles from horses and weasels, were best for sharp, distinct lines. Today, these categories remain the same, but newer composite brushes blend the two types of bristles (and sometimes include synthetic material, too) for the best of both worlds. Explore our list of high-performing traditional and composite brushes to take your ink painting or calligraphy to the next level.

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