• Why and How to Write Calligraphy With Sumi Ink

    Calligraphy beginners are often encouraged to write calligraphy with sumi ink — but why? Today, I’ll answer that question and several others in a YouTube video and a written article!

    Why and How to Write Calligraphy With Sumi Ink

    Some days, it’s the easiest thing in the world to write calligraphy with sumi ink. Other times, the ink might give you grief. In today’s video/article, we’ll chat sumi ink FAQs that will empower you to use this ink to its full potential!

    How + Why to Use Sumi Ink for Calligraphy (Video)

    How to Write Calligraphy With Sumi Ink

    First, you’ll need to transfer your sumi ink from its original container into a dip pen-friendly jar. I generally use this 1 oz. jar, but any 0.5+ container will work! (A lot of people repurpose old baby food or mini jam jars to store their inks.)

    Sumi Ink and Pens

    Next, test your ink to make sure it has the proper viscosity. If the ink isn’t behaving — that is, your strokes are skipping or ink is dumping onto the page from the nib — you likely need to dilute your sumi ink. To do that, add about 0.5 mm of water to the ink, and stir the water into the sumi ink to incorporate it. Then, write! If the ink still isn’t writing well, try adding more water until it does.

    TPK's Best Calligraphy Tutorials for All Levels
    It’s best to dilute your inks with distilled water. If distilled is not available, however, you can use tap water.

    Why Sumi Ink is Nice for Calligraphy Beginners

    Despite viscosity issues (which are easily solved with dilution), sumi ink is a fabulous ink for calligraphy learners. It works well with virtually any calligraphy nib, and you can easily see what you’re doing because hairline upstrokes show up nice and bold. That’s why I include sumi ink as part of the The TPK Modern Calligraphy Starter Kit and it’s on the supply list for the Beginner’s Modern Calligraphy Online Course.

    Amy Style Calligraphy Worksheet
    If you’re a beginner, it’s a good idea to fill out calligraphy worksheets (like Amy Style, shown here) with sumi ink and a Nikko G nib.

    Sumi ink has such a pretty sheen to it when it dries: elegantly matte, not too shiny. That’s why I often use it for professional projects, like the calligraphy family tree shown below. (I find that black India inks dry with a bit too much gloss for my taste.)

    Sumi ink has a lovely sheen to it when it dries, which means it’s a great ink for any skill level of calligrapher! Use it for projects like this calligraphy family tree.

    Drawbacks of Using Sumi Ink

    The most important thing to remember when using sumi ink is that water tends to evaporate out of the ink quickly. The more viscous the ink becomes, the more difficult it is to write with! The secret to using sumi ink is not to be afraid of diluting it with water. As I say in the video, even if your calligraphy creation issue appears to be nib-related, try adjusting your ink viscosity. A lot of times, the problem might seem to be your nib, but it’s actually the ink!

    Common Calligraphy Ink Problems + Solutions | The Postman's Knock
    Sumi ink that doesn’t have enough water in it tends to be blobby and difficult to work with.

    Second, it’s important to remember that sumi ink is not waterproof. It’s water-resistant, meaning that water won’t totally ruin it, but it does tend to run when exposed to water. For that reason, you should not use sumi ink with watercolors. It’s also not a bad idea to waterproof envelopes that feature addresses written in sumi ink.

    Black Calligraphy Inks Comparison Part I: Ziller, Sumi, and Higgins | The Postman's Knock
    As you can see here, sumi ink is not waterproof. If you want an excellent waterproof ink, Ziller is a safe bet.

    The Takeaway

    If nothing else from this video or article sticks, remember this: if your sumi ink isn’t behaving, dilute it with water. Depending on the amount of humidity in the air where you live, you may have to dilute your ink with water for every practice session. The small hassle that this entails is worth it! You won’t find an ink that’s as velvety smooth and jet black as sumi.

    State Calligraphy Art
    For a simple gift, try using sumi ink to fill in an outline of a state or country with city names. (Find instructions in this tutorial.)


    I hope that you enjoyed this video/ article over how to write calligraphy with sumi ink! If you’re left with any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments. Thanks very much for reading, and have a lovely weekend!


    Lindsey's Signature | The Postman's Knock