Saiboku Aya

Ancient inks, reinvented with modern pigments.

Sumi ink—now in full color.

Made by Japanese artisans and formulated with bright, permanent pigments, Saiboku Aya ink sticks are traditional inks for the 21st century. They're used just like normal sumi ink sticks: by rubbing them against a wet inkstone to turn clear water into thick, saturated ink. It's a meditative, magical experience, and you're not limited to black, like virtually all other ink sticks.

Try using Saiboku Aya for drawing, painting on watercolor paper, and hand-lettering with brushes or dip pens. Scroll down and see all the color options, plus a curated selection of accessories and paper that pair perfectly with these elegant inks.


First, choose your colors.

Colors are personal, so we would never tell you which ones are right for you. But we do suggest allowing serendipity to play a role here. Choose the colors that grab your attention and make you want to start painting right away:

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Next, you'll need an inkstone.

If you already have a textured inkstone, there's no need to purchase a new one for Saiboku Aya. But if you don't already have one in your studio, be sure to pick one up. This isn't an optional accessory—ink sticks will not work without an inkstone to grind them. They're finished with a special texture, almost like very fine sandpaper, that helps the solid ink turn into liquid color.

Our top recommendation is this traditionally shaped inkstone in white porcelain. Unlike standard black ink stones, you can clearly see the color you're making.

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This smaller stone has a flat, round bottom, without the slanted basin most inkstones have. It's great for saving a bit of desk space, especially if you're using multiple stones.

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This classic black inkstone is larger and heavier than the others, so it's good for making larger volumes of ink.

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Brushes, pens, or both?

Saiboku Aya is recommended for use with brushes and dip pens. Here are a few favorites that work well with ink:

Our best soft brushes for watercolor and ink. Made with an advanced fiber that absorbs more and wears better over time.

$6.95+

Looking for an inexpensive, dependable ink brush set? Try this three-pack of Pentel Neo-Sable, designed for sumi ink.

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This unique metal dip pen is one of our most popular items in 2022. It's a completely new kind of nib that works perfectly with Saiboku. (Nib holder sold separately.)

$3.89+

This gorgeous cherry penholder works with all dip pen nibs, including Kakimori's groundbreaking metal nibs.

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This traditional sumi ink accessory holds clean water (or wash water for your brush), plus your prepared colors in the palette lid.

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If you're making multiple Saiboku colors into liquid ink, a small, multi-well palette is a great place to put them.

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Let's get your studio ready for ink.

We're real nerds about studio accessories. These aren't required to use Saiboku Aya, but they might help you hone your process:

A water dropper is the perfect tool for wetting your inkstone before you mix a color. You can also use it for dilution after your initial grind.

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This traditional sumi ink accessory holds clean water (or wash water for your brush), plus your prepared colors in the palette lid.

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If you're making multiple Saiboku colors into liquid ink, a small, multi-well palette is a great place to put them.

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This glass beaker is our preferred water cup when working with inks and paints. It's easy to fill, clean, and pour, and it's made from lab-grade borosilicate glass.

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These simple transfer pipettes are ideal for moving ink from your stone to a palette.

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For getting ink off your hands and brushes, we love this pleasantly minty artist soap.

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Finally, don't forget paper!

Any watercolor or ink paper, including mixed media paper and bristol board, will work with Saiboku Aya. Here are a few selections that complement the ink nicely:

This 7" x 10", rough-textured watercolor block offers complexity and depth for each brushstroke, plus great water handling. And it's priced much lower than similar blocks.

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For sharp lines and clean shapes, try this 100% cotton paper with a smooth surface. Sized 9.5" x 12.5", it has plenty of working space.

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If you're a highly prolific sketcher, how about a gigantic pad of mixed media paper from Italy? This one has 150 pages!

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If you prefer to work in a journal, or if you need a hard back for working away from your studio, try this watercolor book from Canson.

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These postcards are great for sending your Saiboku Aya art through the mail. Use a standard postcard stamp.

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This 100% cotton block from Winsor & Newton handles ink gracefully and dries flat. It comes with 20 sheets, more than the industry standard for a professional block.

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We carry rare and hard-to-find ink supplies you won't see in other shops. Click to browse our inking department.

Our catalog is always expanding. If you're looking for inspiration, check out our latest additions.

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