Illustration Tutorial: Japanese brush strokes with the Sumi-e technique

Learn with Flor Kaneshiro the basic elements to consider with the Japanese illustration technique: pressure, speed, direction, and rhythm

The drawing technique Sumi-e, although traditionally done with Indian ink, includes a series of strokes that can be applied using other materials such as watercolor. Its delicate and soft strokes, which should be carefully controlled if we are just starting out in the technique, make it suitable for anyone who wants to widen their watercolor skill set.

In the video below, illustrator Flor Kaneshiro (@florkaneshiro) goes over the most important considerations for anyone who is starting their journey in Sumi-e: the pressure, speed, direction, and rhythm of the brushstroke.

What materials do I need?

- A paintbrush. Ideally thick, to be able to create large strokes.
- Watercolor. In this instance, we will use a dark tone.
- Water to wet the paintbrush and work with watercolor.
- A blank page.


The first thing we will practice is pressure with our paintbrush. We wet it, pick up a little watercolor, and apply slight pressure on the page. Next, we repeat this but with more pressure this time. Different pressures will create different marks and strokes. We can continue applying pressure until the whole of the brush is pressed against the paper.
After this, we can start to slide our paintbrush across the page. If we repeat this action, but with less pressure, we will create a finer line. Modulating pressure and speed, we will be able to achieve numerous types of lines.


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