13 Commonly Asked Sumi Ink Questions Answered!

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Although it is no where near as popular as India ink, Sumi ink has seen a solid spike in its popularity in recent months with more and more people starting to use it for their artwork. Due to its sudden surge in popularity, we have noticed more and more questions being asked about Sumi ink and what you are able to use it for.

Due to this, we have decided to publish our own dedicated article going over the more commonly asked questions that we see asked on a regular basis regarding Sumi ink and its various uses. Our goal is to try and help as many of our readers as possible who are looking to start using Sumi ink in their art work as it really can be a great addition to anyones kit.

Now, we know that we are covering a wide range of topics in this article so we have added a table of contents below so you are able to click any specific questions that you need the answers to. We hope that this will help our readers be able to quickly and easily get to the relevant question that they need answers to without having to waste their time skimming over the other questions that they may already know.

Is Sumi Ink The Same As Indian Ink?

Although Sumi ink and India ink both share a very similar recipe to each other when made, they are actually different types of ink that have different effects when used. This makes each ink better than the other for different types of artwork but we go into it in more detail in our Sumi ink vs India ink comparison article if you are interested in it.

What Is Sumi Ink Made Of?

As we touched on above, the ingredients for Sumi ink is slightly different to the ingredients of India ink. The main difference is that India ink only uses soot and water where as Sumi ink uses soot and animal glue (usually gelatin in the more modern formulas). Although this is only a small change, it can dramatically change the end result when using either the ink due to the way that the soot pigments are suspended.

Please keep in mind that there are also a number of homemade recipes available for Sumi ink that have a number of different ingredients in it for slightly different effects. This is more of a recent trend that people have started doing over the last few years and sharing their results and ingredients lists on social media but for the most part, Sumi ink sticks to the same traditional recipe.

Is Sumi Ink Permanent?

Although the majority of the commercial Sumi ink products available on the market these days do market themselves as permanent, you have to understand that permanent ink has a number of different classifications. Depending on the country that you are living in, an ink that has the ability to last for as little as three years is able to market itself as permanent.

For the vast majority of our readers, you can consider Sumi ink to be permanent as it is very likely that anything your write or draw with the ink will be able to last you for decades without issue. On top of this, the cheap price tag of Sumi ink also makes it the ideal option for many common tasks, especially with calligraphy when you need your work to last for as long as possible while also costing as little as possible.

Is Sumi Ink Archival?

As we just touched on, although Sumi ink can be classified as a permanent ink, it does not have archival ink qualities and can start to fade in certain conditions. If you do need an ink that is archival quality then it is definitely a better option to just go with a high-quality archival ink that will stand the test of time and preserve your work.

Is Sumi Ink Lightfast?

Sumi ink is not lightfast and it will definitely start to fade in as little as only a year under certain lighting conditions. If you do require a lightfast ink that will be able to be displayed in gallery conditions with minimal issues then opting to go with a high-quality lightfast ink from the very start will be better than going with Sumi ink.

This will ensure that your work will be able to be displayed in gallery conditions with high-powered lighting illuminating your work for hours each day without issue. Although we have seen reports of people mixing lightfast ink with Sumi ink to try and get the best of both worlds, it does tend to degrade the look of both ink types so just sticking to the Sumi ink is often a better option.

What Is Sumi Ink Used For?

As you will see later in the article, Sumi ink is used for a huge number of common uses with many of them being related to art but Sumi ink can be used for other things. Due to the nature of our blog, we would guess that the vast majority of our readers will be looking to use Sumi ink for either traditional art or body art.

How Do You Clean Sumi Ink?

There are a number of ways that you are able to clean Sumi ink out of your clothes ranging from regular detergent on a hot wash to having to use bleach. As you may expect, the cleaning method to remove the Sumi ink from your clothes or fabric will depend on the specific ink formula of the Sumi ink but the majority of stains should be easy to remove with some simple detergent.

If you are using Sumi ink with your fountain pen and are looking to clean it out of your piston filler or cartridge converter then some fountain pen flush solution should be enough to get the job done. Depending on the specific model of fountain pen that you are using, you may be able to clean out the Sumi ink from the piston filler with hot water but most people will need flush solution, especially if the ink has managed to dry up.

Can You Use Sumi Ink With Dip Pens?

Although you can use some Sumi ink formulas with dip pens, you do have to check the label of the specific Sumi ink bottle that you are using as most will offer you specific advice for that formula on the type of pens that you are able to use with it. This is usually due to different Sumi ink formulas using different grain sizes of soot in their formula.

Although many Sumi ink formulas should be fine with most dip pens, there are some out there that may cause issues and block your dip pens hole. You also have to factor in the type of dip pen that you are using as different sizes dip pens can used different types of ink but the label on the bottle of your Sumi ink should be able to offer you specific advice on that.

Can You Use Sumi Ink On Canvas?

You can use Sumi ink on canvas as a substitute for paint but different types of Sumi ink tend to do better with different types of Canvas. One trick that is commonly used is to lightly spray your canvas with water prior to painting on it with Sumi ink to help get the ink to transfer from your brush to the canvas without issue.

As we touched on earlier in the article, Sumi ink can have issues in gallery conditions and may fade depending on how long you plan to display your art work for. If you do know that you will be needing your ink to have lightfast properties then going with some high-quality lightfast ink from the start will probably be the better option.

Can You Use Sumi Ink On Paper?

There is no doubt in our mind that the vast majority of writing and artwork done using Sumi ink is done on paper. The ink performs well on most types of paper for the vast majority of common art tasks that you may need Sumi ink for but it does tend to do a little better on higher GSM paper as this tends to prevent you from having issues with bleeding or ghosting.

Theres no need to worry about your budget when it comes to picking up some high GSM paper either as the price of high GSM paper has came down drastically over the last five years or so. This means that you are able to get some excellent quality paper to use with your Sumi ink that won’t bleed or ghost during use offering you an excellent writing experience.

Can You Use Sumi Ink On Fabric?

Sumi ink can perform well when used on fabrics and although many people do use a fixing solution on the fabric after using the ink, most people don’t and have no issues. As we touched on earlier in the article, one of the best things about using Sumi ink on fabric is that you are usually able to wash it off with ease if you do end up making a mistake to ensure that you are getting the best work possible.

You should keep this in mind though as the relatively easy removal of Sumi ink from fabric may go against your goals for your drawing or writing. If you need an ink that will stay on the fabric and allow you to wash it such as clothes on a regular basis then going with fabric ink will almost always be a better option.

Can You Use Sumi Ink For Calligraphy?

One of the most common uses for Sumi ink is for various types of calligraphy with many people rating a high-quality Sumi ink as one of, if not the best ink type on the market for anyone new to calligraphy. Not only is it very cheap but Sumi ink is also very easy to use allowing you to get those variable strokes for your calligraphy ensuring that your work looks excellent.

We know that there are a number of different people who recommend a few more expensive inks for calligraphy work but the difference is minimal. If you are new to calligraphy then you probably won’t even be able to tell the difference between using Sumi ink and another product so just save your money and use a decent Sumi ink formula.

Can You Use Sumi Ink On Wood?

Although you can use Sumi ink on wood, there will almost always be a better option available as the ink was never developed for use on wood and it can end up looking really bad depending on the type of wood that you are using. Depending on the type of wood that you are working with, the wood may be uneven or dense making it hard for the Sumi ink to settle on it so we would usually recommend that our readers just use a different ink type.


That brings our article going over the commonly asked Sumi ink questions that we see each month. We hope that we have been helpful and that you have found the answer to your question in our article. Sumi ink is an excellent product to have in your art collection due to its low price, ease of use, and great performance making it well worth picking up if you dont already have some.