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Sumi Ink vs India Ink vs Acrylic Ink

sumi ink vs india ink vs acrylic ink

Are you interested in trying ink drawings, or maybe you want to try your hand at calligraphy? If you are, what kind of ink should you use? Three types of ink are the most popular – Sumi, India, and acrylic inks. The question now is between Sumi ink vs India ink vs acrylic ink, which one is better?

These three types of inks are some of the most popular and accessible products that you can find today. They may look the same but there are some differences that those who are unfamiliar with them don’t notice. Use this article to learn about the nuances between these three types of inks so you will know which one you need to choose.

Three Types of Ink – Sumi, India, and Acrylic Inks

Here are short definitions of the three popular types of ink – Sumi, India, and acrylic, so you will know what to expect from each one:

What is Sumi Ink?

sumi ink

Sumi ink is typically used for Chinese and Japanese brush painting and calligraphy. This ink is usually in the form of ink blocks and contains pine soot and some form of animal glue. Although this is not quite as black compared to the other inks on this list, it is ideal for creating ink washes and traditional Chinese and Japanese calligraphy.

What is India Ink?

india ink

Just like Sumi Ink, India ink contains soot as a pigmenting agent. In this case, India ink uses carbon black usually derived from the soot of burning wood or from a resin called lampblack. This will be mixed with a binder, usually shellac.

After that, manufacturers mix the pigment with water to make the liquid ink people are familiar with. India ink is much darker than Sumi ink and is very opaque.

Despite being called India ink, its roots come from China. The reason why it got such a name is that it is what European traders called it. They used to import their ink from India.

What is Acrylic Ink?

acrylic ink

Acrylic ink is technically not ink at all but rather a very fluid and loose paint. You can see it made from extremely fine pigments suspended in an acrylic emulsion. As it is technically acrylic paint, acrylic ink shares the same properties, such as water resistance and quick drying. They are also permanent.

Differences Between Sumi Ink vs India Ink vs Acrylic Ink

  Sumi Ink India Ink Acrylic Ink
Black Saturation A bit translucent Extremely dark and opaque Dark and opaque
Consistency Depends on how much water is added Quite thick but still fluid Similar to India ink
No. of colors Very limited Very limited Has a wide variety of colors
Uses Brush calligraphy and ink paintings usually Pen calligraphy and general writing purposes Calligraphy and painting

There are many different brands of ink, and each brand usually makes several different kinds of ink. Here you will learn about the differences between the most popular kinds of ink used for ink paintings and calligraphy. You can understand what makes them different from each other and where you can use them.

Black Saturation

Among the three types of ink, India ink has the most intense black color. If you use it straight from the bottle India ink is almost completely opaque. A close second would be acrylic ink. Note that it is just loose acrylic paint, so the acrylic ink goes on quite thick.

Sumi ink is the least black among the three, but you can make the color a bit more intense by not using too much water to dilute it. However, the consistency will be quite thick and may not flow quite as smoothly.


When it comes to consistency, the thickest is the acrylic ink but the India ink is a very close second. The thinnest among the three is the Sumi ink but you can make it a bit thicker just by decreasing the amount of water that you use to dilute the ink.

Number of Colors

In terms of the number of colors, the clear winner is acrylic ink. Because it is technically still acrylic paint, you can find acrylic ink pens in a variety of different colors. In comparison, India and Sumi inks usually just come in three colors: black, blue, and red.


Because Sumi ink is quite loose, it is the right consistency for brush calligraphy. Sumi ink would flow freely from the brush and onto the paper. You can also add more water to make Sumi ink more translucent, so you can use it for ink painting as well.

India ink is the staple ink used for pen calligraphy. The consistency is perfect for dip pens, glass pens, and even brushes. The opacity of India ink makes it ideal for calligraphy, especially Western styles.

Depending on what marker type the acrylic inks are contained in, they can have a variety of applications. If they are in chisel-nibbed markers, it is possible to use acrylic ink for modern calligraphy and drawing. This ink also comes in bottles so you can use it like you would regular acrylic paint.

Which Ink Should You Choose?

You should consider what you will be using the ink for when choosing which one to buy.

If you will be dabbling in Chinese and Japanese calligraphy, and maybe even a bit of ink painting, then you will need to use Sumi ink. The ability to water down the ink to create different values makes Sumi ink great for ink painting.

On the other hand, if you will be trying your hand at traditional Western calligraphy, then you would want to use India ink. This ink has intense black pigments and is very opaque, which makes it ideal for calligraphy work. This ink is also great for creating manga-style drawings, as you can make clear yet fine lines using India ink.

Acrylic inks are also ideal for the same uses as India ink. However, you can also use this ink for adding colors to your drawings. For making calligraphy, between India ink vs acrylic ink, the former should be better.

However, if you want to add more color, the latter is best. In addition, you can find markers that contain acrylic ink, and you can use these for making posters.


Between Sumi ink vs India ink vs acrylic ink, you cannot really say that one is better than the others. Each of these types of ink has its own specific uses, so you should consider what you aim to use it for.

When it comes to the brands, you should just try as many of them as you can before choosing the one that you will be using for the long term.