Rare Brushes with a Touch of East Asia


As the phrase goes, "Sumi-ni *Go-sai Ari (墨に五彩あり)” which means there are various colors in Sumi ink.

*In Japanese, Gosai (五彩) is a word that refers to an infinite number of colors.

Therefore, when it comes to Asian art, we tend to use as minimal materials as possible to create several shades of colors.

In particular, a technique called "Ha-boku (破墨) or broken ink” expresses a three-dimensional sense by splashing and layering different shades of ink. This technique allows the painter to create an abstract ink stroke through gesture movement.

Furthermore, in order to achieve the “randomness” or unexpected strokes in this technique, there have been demands for not only the painting substrates, the Sumi ink and the inkstone but also the brush that was used in the practice.

And that brings us to the main topic of this article, the rare brushes.

In Asian art, the most common brushes used for painting are those with flexible and well-fixed animal hair, such as goat, horse, and weasel hair, however, these rare brushes create different kinds of strokes from the usual ones. Moreover, some of these brushes come with such elegant and beautiful designs that even just looking at them is so enchanting.

In this article, I would like to show you some of these rare brushes with clearer images than those in our PIGMENT TOKYO online store.

Most importantly, I hope this article will give you a better insight into the brushes you’re interested in.

・Chicken Feather 

First, I would like to introduce the Chicken Feather Brush.

The feathers have a soft, cotton-like texture that would make you want to keep touching them.

Even though it has a very soft bristle, it creates a variety of unique lines with just the right balance of “randomness”.

Chicken Feather Brush / Black Handle
13,200 tax in

This Chicken Feather Brush is available in medium and small sizes. The long handle allows you to create a variety of drawing styles. The contrast between the pure white feathers and the well-polished black shaft gives a luxurious feel.

The tip of this brush is shorter than the one I’ve shown above, the Chicken Feather Brush (Black Handle), so it is suitable for drawing details and textures.

For example, if you want to draw on postcard size paper, this brush may be the best choice.

・Wild Bird Feather 

Wild Bird Feather Brush is one of the largest brushes among the rare brushes introduced here, with a bristle length of about 120mm and a diameter of 35mm. 

This brush allows you to create edgy and powerful strokes by soaking up plenty of paint or Sumi ink with it.

It is suitable for relatively large scale paintings.

・Peacock Feather

The Peacock Brush has one of the most fascinating and beautiful appearances among the rare brushes.

As you can see, this precious brush is made from peacock tail feathers.

Each feather has a very thick and soft texture, so it is difficult to control the tips as I suppose, but on the contrary, this characteristic brings out interesting strokes and patterns.

Moreover, there are other two types of Peacock Brushes with distinctive handles: one with broom-shaped bristles and the other with fan-shaped bristles. As the photo below shows, this is how the broom-shaped Peacock Brush looks like.

・Golden Pheasant Feather

This vivid and very unique brush is made from the feathers of a golden pheasant.

It has a very elastic and sharp tip, which makes it easy to draw a sharp line with blurred effect.

・Sambar Hair

Sambar (山馬, also pronounced as Sanba in Japanese) is a large deer native to the Indian subcontinent that can be found in India, southern China, Southeast Asia, and Vietnam.

Nowadays, there are more opportunities and it is possible to find imitation sambar brushes, but the ones I’m going to introduce here are made from real sambar hair. It is now one of the rare brushes for which Sambar deer has been listed as a vulnerable species and the importation of Sambar hair is now prohibited.

Yamato Sanba Brush
7,150 tax in

Although it is softer than deer hair, it is moderately hard and can create delicate dry brushstrokes that are typically unique to the Yamato Sanba Brush.

It is also commonly used for blurring mineral pigments in Japanese painting.

Furthermore, PIGMENT TOKYO also offers another unique real sambar brush that combines three round brushes together. This type of jointed brush is called Renpitsu (連筆) in Japanese and is suitable for blurring with Sumi ink as well as mineral pigments.

・Monkey Hair

Last but not the least, the Monkey Brush.

By judging from the name of the brush, you might think it is very distinctive, but it is capable of drawing gentle lines and textures thanks to how well the brush can absorb water or Sumi ink.

Monkey Brush
4,950 tax in

Not to mention, it is not just an interesting brush that has a very good ink absorption and can carry the brush smoothly on the paper by painting with the whole bristle.

These brushes are recommended to be used with low viscosity water-based color materials such as Sumi ink, Saiboku (彩墨, also known as colored inksticks), and transparent watercolors to create a unique atmosphere in your paintings.

For those of you who are tired of using the same regular brushes and want to try a new tool for exploring new expressions or you are just simply fascinated by the appearance of these rare brushes, now is the perfect time for you to have one of these in your brush collection!


Art Materials Expert of PIGMENT TOKYO


Born in 1989 in Tokyo. Master of Fine Art and Design at Nihon University College of Art. While working at PIGMENT TOKYO as an Art Materials Expert, he also continues his career as a visual artist.

Born in 1989 in Tokyo. Master of Fine Art and Design at Nihon University College of Art. While working at PIGMENT TOKYO as an Art Materials Expert, he also continues his career as a visual artist.