How to Care For Your Sumi-e Paint Brush

How to Care For Your Sumi-e Paint Brush

In this post I am sharing the most important aspects of cleaning and caring for my handcrafted sumi-e paint brushes.

First a bit about my brushes:

My brushes are constructed with premium materials, including natural hair, leather, bamboo, and hardwood. They possess superior quality, durability, and versatility, able to render broad strokes to delicate lines.


My brushes are suitable for various media, including ink and oil/water-based paints. With any brush size and style, thicker, rapid-drying media can have a detrimental effect on the bristles if not adequately removed. So properly cleaning your new brush is important.

When using the brush, first fully saturate the bristles (leave the upper portion dry -it’s best for large brushes not to submerge into water entirely) and then (if needed) blot with a towel before dipping the bristles into the ink/media. When adding ink/media to the bristles, abstain from submerging the brush into the ink, rather insert the tips (up to half the length of the bristles) into the ink/media. *This advice pertains to larger brushes - for smaller brushes such as sable, you may want to thoroughly wet the bristle to control the point and tip shape.

You can use a towel when painting for the following:

  1. Removing excess water 
  2. Removing excess Ink/media
  3. Shaping and or opening up the brush bristles

Excess ink/media can be removed and the brush can be shaped (into a point and to open up bristles, adjusting ink/media levels) by using a towel (paper or an old, clean, absorbent towel).

How to clean your brush once you have finished painting:

To clean the brush, first rinse the bristles with warm water, moving them with a circular motion in the palm of the hand. If using an oil-based medium, extract this first with the appropriate solvent before cleaning with soap and water. This should take away most of the residual paint/ink. Then, use a gentle soap such as my brush cleaner, repeating the circular motion to ensure complete media removal.

Once the water is transparent, use your hand to take away surplus moisture and shape the brush head. Then, soak up the remaining moisture with a towel, form the head into a point and hang the brush to dry. If the bristle hairs become dry after use a small amount of hair conditioner (work it into the bristles, then rinse) may be applied to restore oils lost during use. After conditioning, abide by the stated instructions and hang to dry. Additionally, you can use a comb to remove any knots post-conditioning if required

After your brush has been cleaned and shaped, always hang your brush up to dry to ensure it is ready for your next painting session :)

*Note: Smaller brushes may be cleaned with water only if you are using water soluble media to paint with. 

Another good piece of advice is to regularly use conditioner on all your bamboo and wood handles.

I recommend using this natural beeswax based conditioner 

Click here or on the picture below to buy this product

Beeswax wood conditioner

Following these instructions will ensure your brush lasts a lifetime and performs well.

As always, thank you for reading and enjoy creating,




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Thank you for this information. It’s invaluable.


Thank you, Elizabeth, for sharing this, it is very useful.


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