What Is An Ink Stick?– Answers and Tips

Ink sticks are a type of solid Chinese ink used traditionally in ancient China and East Asia. The ink was made from soot and animal glue. Occasionally, incense and scent would also be added. The ink was mainly used in art forms such as calligraphy and brush painting. Artists varied the concentration of the ink by reducing or increasing its grinding time, hence achieving their desired effect on their work.

What is a Chinese ink stick?

Ink stick history

ink stick chinese

The earliest ink stick can be traced back to the 12th century BC, with mineral ink being the most common. Mineral inks were basically made up of grounded graphite and a mixture of water. The density of the paste varied from one artist to another, depending on the intended art form.

The mineral ink later transitioned to soot and charred ink. The early inks were used up to the Qin dynasty. The “modern” ink, made from soot and animal glue, was used in the Zhou and Han dynasties. Physical proof of this “modern” ink was excavated in tombs dating back to 256BC.

The ink was made manually into small pellets, which were then grounded on a flat inkstone using a smaller stone pestle. One of the first productions of these ink sticks is the qimin yaoshu which was written in the Northern Wei dynasty in Japan.

Ink stick production China

Today, the Huizhou ink stick, produced in ancient Huizhou in Anhui province, has remained relevant since the Tang dynasty. The hu kaiwen ink stick factory is the oldest surviving ink stick production company. The company has been reconstructed and renovated, and it continues to innovate. It produces the Huizhou ink stick, having used the best ingredients in its production, making it authentic and an intangible national cultural heritage of china.

What is an ink stick made of?

china ink stick and poke

Ink sticks comprise three main ingredients, soot, animal glue, incense, and medicine. The soot is produced by burning oil lards or wood, animal glue is sourced from ox hide glues or fish skin, and incense and medicine are obtained from herbs such as clove and comfrey. The soot is the main component of the ink stick, the animal glue binds the ink stick together, and the incense and medicine act as preservatives and also improves the physical appearance of the ink stick.

How to use an ink stick

Place a coin-sized drop of water on the ink stone, and with some pressure, grind the ink stick in circular motions until you get your desired ink consistency. Guide the ink into the ink pool and use it quickly as it is highly perishable. Use a brush to get the ink from the ink pool and paint.

How to make Chinese ink stick

The ink sticks are made through a five-step procedure. First, the pine is burnt and becomes soot. The dough is then mixed with just the precise amount of soot, animal glue, incense, and medicine. Afterward, it is mashed and smelted to produce the ink sticks. Many are rectangular but can be made to have different shapes. After the ink sticks, the ink is then dried.

Is Chinese ink stick waterproof?

The ink is dense, black, long-lasting, and water resistant, making it the best for watercolor and calligraphy. Thus, it is waterproof.


Chinese ink sticks give China an intangible cultural heritage as because of it, China has retained its ancient arts of calligraphy and brush painting, making it the most famous in arts of calligraphy all over the world.

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