Brushes in Japanese Painting (Nihonga)


Following Lucas’s post on pigments, here is an introduction to brushes used in Nihonga. Thank you Lucas for taking the time to write and share with us what has worked for you.

Would love to see an ongoing dialogue here and inputs from our readers on this topic.

Brushes in Japanese Painting (Nihonga) by Lucas Perez

Of course, half the joy of painting in the Nihonga style are the tools, primarily the brushes.   Japanese brushes are among the world’s finest for quality and specificity of use.  There are many makers, some of which date back generationally, hundreds of years.  The maker I favor for their high quality and reasonable cost is 不朽堂 (fukyudou) produced in the Yuushima area of Ueno in Tokyo.  Remember that in Japanese culture you need a specific tool for a specific job and this applies to brushes especially.

Usually the function of the brush is written in Kanji at the top end.  More specialized brushes include the 金泥用筆(kindeiyo fude) which is made from sheep fur and is used for the application of kindei or solid gold paint pigment.  Another useful brush is the 狼毛 (ookami ge, fox fiber ) or コリンス毛 ( Korinsu, sable fiber) which are used to achieve extremely fine strokes great for rendering fur or hair.  Japanese brushes are not hard to find in Japan and are sold at most art supply stores but the best store for variety and quality is definitely Fukyudou in Ueno.

Post-note by Eve

Akazawa Yoshinori, our contributor and Kyoto-based Visual Artist also recommends 中里 (nakasato) in the Kyoto area. You can read the different types of hair used for brushes on their site.

I did a quick check online for 宮内不朽堂 (kunai fukyudou) and for those of you not based in Japan, you can take a look at the brushes and prices off the Mifuya shop. Also here.


For more photos, An Illustrated Dictionary of Japanese-Style Painting Terminology (Tokyo University of the Arts, 2010) lists 13 different type of brushes. Since I am not an artist myself, I’ll leave you to peruse those pages and to follow up on Lucas’s recommendations.



One comment on “Brushes in Japanese Painting (Nihonga)

  1. Where can I purchase these brushes from a English language website? Thank you!

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