Shodo utensils and materials

In this section, I’d like to introduce to you all the Shodo utensils and materials you would need for learning  the art of Shodo. I will be presenting and sharing my insider tips for each utensil and material. Particularly I’d like to add extra info and alternative ways  for those who are outside Japan and would like to start from the necessary basics.

I picked the classic items which are standard for Shodo learners and I use for my courses and workshops. There are yet many tools that calligraphers use like below listed and more. However, four of them are essential to this art, not only because of their necessity, but also due to their symbolic meaning. They are called “four treasures of the study” (文房四宝, bunbou shihou). Four treasures are the most essential elements for SHODO learners  : brush, ink, inkstone, paper. I know – not everyone has got all utensils from the beginning. You can first get the four essentials and then slowly purchase the rest during the learning process.

文房四宝, bunbou shiho

【Shodo Utensils 書道道具】 Let me introduce the ‘’ four treasures’’ first to you. 

-Ink sticks (墨・Sumi)

This is one of the essentials for learning Shodo, they have a flat rectangular form. Sumi ink is made of lamp soot or made of burnt pine. Sumi ink has different colour shades  (in reddish, bluish, brownish grey, gold, silver colour) The quality of Sumi ink will affect  the artistic and spiritual value of calligraphy. In my course, I’d recommend and suggest that you rub the ink at the  beginning of the lesson, so that you become calmer and easier to find the center.

-Ink stones (硯・Suzuri)

Suzuri is one of the essentials in Shodo. The good inkstones are made of natural stone (or silt). Ink sticks are rubbed on the inkstone surface in order to create Ink. An inkstone has two major areas that are vital during ink rubbing- preparation: the “inkstone well” (墨池, bokuchi) and “inkstone temple” (墨堂, bokudou) and “the shore”a  narrow space between them.  (硯区, suzuriku)My teacher used to call inkstone belly. Ceramic type became popular for children in Japan in the last decade because of its practicality and light weight. It is not really designed for rubbing and creating ink but also designed to store the liquid ink in school. You can find some outside in Japan too. It is suitable for using liquid type ink. However I’d always persuade you to get the classic heavy weight natural stone. Otherwise, you will miss the mental preparation stage- which I think for Shodo so vital to connect body and mind.

-Brushes (筆・Fude)

One of the four treasures. There are many types of brushes in size, length and hair. Commonly used types are hard haired brush and soft haired brush in medium length and mounted on a wooden/ bamboo handle. The hard haired brushes are made of collected horse hair or weasel hair. The soft haired brushes are made of goat hair. A beginner will use a harder brush, whereas a more experienced calligrapher will prefer a softer one because more expressive interesting lines can be calligraphy-ied with it. I often say the good brush becomes a part of your body easier as you do calligraphy. The brush is an extension of the body and mind for a calligrapher.

-Calligraphy paper (紙・Kami)

Calligraphy paper is often warm, fuzzy, and has an irregular organic surface. The main materials are wood and plant fibers, like  cherry tree bark or sandalwood, bamboo, mulberry, gampi etc. 
The standard size is a little bigger than A4 size 24×32,80cm. The smoother side is the surface to use.

-Liquid ink (墨汁・Bokuju)

Bokuj is the liquid type of SUMI is mainly a domain of Japan, it can be  preserved for a longer period of time. It is often used for schools, New year calligraphy ceremony, calligraphy performance. Moreover, Washable ink was even developed for children practicing shuuji ( lit. “studying characters”) at school.

-Paperweight (文鎮・Bunchin)

It is made of metal. The common type is Nnickel-plated to prevent rust. Iron-cast type is also used. Metal knob attached for easy handling. Simple design and perfect length and weight for keeping the calligraphy paper in pace. 1cm square meter, 24 sm wide. As an alternative, you can use European paper weights or some heavy stones or a long metal piece.

-Brush holders (筆置き・Fude oki)

Some call it brush pillow or bush rest. The standard type can hold at least two brushes. 

It keeps the ink in the brush away from the working surface.
They are often in porcelain, metal, ceramic. As an alternative, you could use a chopstick holder, cutlery holder in porcelain, silver(metal).

-Waterwell (水差しMizusashi)

This is often made of porcelain or ceramic rarely in metal. It has a top and a short neck to pour very little water. It can be replaced to Water-Drop(水滴・Suiteki) which has two holds, one for refill water and another to pour water. It is also often made of porcelain or ceramic. An alternative way can be a small cream/source jug. 

-Desk pad (下敷き・Shitajiki)

You use this between paper and table surfaces. It  is the pad to absorb excess ink from the paper and also prevent the ink from going onto the table surface. It is often in black and made of pressed felt. The standard size is just a little bigger than the standard calligraphy paper. You can also thick flat fabric similar to felts.

-Tray (お盆・Obon)

It is the item where you place the utensils. It is plastic based material so it is washable and durable. It can be replaced to a box with the top which you can also store the utensils. If you could find a good sized washable box, it would be a practical option

【MY Video link about Shodo Utensils
Title : About Shodo utensils- classic and alternative way for learners
Description: I’ve created a short video showing the utensils and materials on my Shodo channel, you can see both classic ways and alternative ways, especially for those who live outside Japan.
Resource :

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Happy Practise!!



shodo mindfulness method