Amy’s Demo: How to Make Handmade Sumi Ink with Inkstick and Inkstone

This video shows the traditional way of making ink for Chinese calligraphy or brush painting. Please go to to purchase inksone and Ink Stick.
Question: Can you store leftover ink on your inkstone?
Answer: Yes and no.
You can store leftover ink on your inkstone by adding some clean water to it and putting the lid on it overnight so it wont dry up. It should be noted that you need an inkstone with a stone lid since a wooden lid wont keep the ink moist/wet like a stone lid will.

The next day you may grind the diluted ink again or just use the grey ink to write or draw. The overnight ink, known as So-mo in Chinese, has its own characteristics: 1) The glue and ink particles tend to separate on rice paper and create broader watermarks and pastel effects in the strokes. 2) The color of So-mo is less shiny than newly ground ink and that might be good for certain subject matters or styles.

TIP: use more moisture with the leftover ink to make it look fresher. If you do not add water to the inkstone to maintain the freshness, it will turn into dirty, dry ink and cannot be revived.

Question: Can I keep the leftover ink for more than 1 or 2 days?

Answer: NO. I wouldn’t use any ink that is more than 2 days old.
If you are not planning on using the leftover ink within the next 2 days, you’d better clean the inkstone right away or add lots of water and clean it as soon as possible. PLEASE, don’t leave any leftover ink on the inkstone for more than 2 days.
For information on how the inkstick is made please watch this video we took in China

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Henry Li says:

For information on how the inkstick is made please watch this video we took in China

CozyHug says:

How many minutes you grind ink

lizzielake says:

It is interesting to hear that one can add bottled ink into the mixture.

nerdlass says:

Does anyone know a recipe to make an inkstick? I just bought a bundle of bamboo (graphite?) bark. Wiki says that it's mixed into a dough with animal glue and preservatives/incense, but I've yet to come across an actual recipe.

MrHroark says:

@blueheronarts Thanks Henry. I look forward to using both the ink stick and stone for many years to come. Thank you for offering such professional supplies and instruction.

Henry Li says:

@MrHroark 1) It is ready to use. You may rinse it to clean the dust before using. 2) You need to make it thick and dark first. Then you can use it directly or dilute it in palatte with water for grey tones. 3) To add peach sap glue in the water (1:10) will help when you want to dilute the ink but keep the "thickness" of grey ink. It will reduce smearing effect. Thank for your questions. I hope you enjoy your grind ink. 

MrHroark says:

Hi Henry
I just purchased the very ink stick and stone used here from your site…thank you….I do have a question on using it properly:

First, does the stone need to be prepared before its first use? I hear that it is treated and should be boiled, etc?

When the ink gets thick and gooey as here…is THAT what you paint with…or, is that paste to be added to water to make the black ink, that is then diluted a bit for gray, etc?

Finally, the plum glue you use. When should it be used?


Henry Li says:

@ratso9 It depends on how much ink do you need. Usually it takes about three minutes. And you may grind more later if needed.

G1 L00KOUT says:

what else do u sell

Henry Li says:

Thanks! I totally agree with your advice.
BTW, I went to China last month and brought back lots of good stuffs. I sell the set of ink stick and ink stones shown in above video for less than twenty dollars.

Sumi-e Holland says:

Good explanation. I personally would advice the beginners to always make handmade ink. Also for the balance & feeling.There are so many different kinds of inksticks, One must try them grinding.

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