Casey Shannon Studio Image

The Sound of One Hand: Reaching Beyond the limits of Traditional Ink Painting

Monday, June 4, 2012

Ink Stick vs Bottle Ink

Ink Stick or Bottle Ink?

That is the question!

Shanghai Premium Ink Stick
This ink stick is made from coal oil creating a shiny brown-black finish that is smooth. It's highly regarded as one of China's finest quality in ink sticks. It has markings of "101" on the side of the stick to differentiate it from others.

Bottled Ink or Ink Stick and Slate?

Traditionally, ink is made by grinding an ink stick made from pine soot or oil in water against a stone, also known as a slate, using circular motions of your hand and arm. The Japanese have perfected the bottled ink, which makes ink convenient and easy to use. Traditionalists frown on the bottled ink as it takes away the essence of this ancient art form.

Best Bottle Ink
A warm brown-black permanent liquid ink.

It's a "toss up" between making your own ink with stick and stone or using bottled ink. Some artists love tranquility and centering of the mind and body as they grind the ink stick to a piece of slate for several minutes as they meditate to get into their mindset to paint or write. In class,  students enjoy the convenience of the instant pour, enabling them to start right away with their practice.

Ink Grinding Slate/Stone
This handsome new round grinding stone that features a charcoal black stone base/well, capped with a richly varnished dark wooden lid makes for an elegant showpiece, even when not in use!

Whether you like the convenience or the meditative process, the choice is up to you.

More Information Below

Director of North American Branch ICCPS
International Chinese Calligraphy and Ink Painting Siciety
国際中国書法国画家協会アメリカ支部:Ms. Casey Shannon アメリカ現代水墨画家


  1. Interesting article :)
    I usually use premade ink for practice, and grind ink for commissions.
    It might be my imagination, but I find freshly grinded ink to have more texture than the fluid premade ink. You can also play with the consistancy of grinded ink - making thicker ink or more diluted.
    What's your personal preference?

  2. Thanks for your comment Xtol Lord. I use both bottle and stick ink depending on the painting. I am like you and generally use bottle ink for practice. I do however thoroughly enjoy the grinding of ink and use that method mostly. The grinding of the ink does help my mindset before beginning a painting. It is a way of meditating for me. Best, Casey



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