Friday, August 27, 2010


Nihonga (Japanese-style painting) is an ancient art form based on traditions and techniques over 1000 years old. It is typically executed on washi (Japanese paper) or eginu (silk), using sumi ink or pigments from minerals, shells, corals, and even semi-precious stones like malachite, azurite and cinnabar. The pigments are ground into 16 gradations from fine to sandy grain textures. A hide glue solution, called nikawa, is used as a binder.

Nihonga is known for its delicate washes and pure, luminous color. One specific hallmark is the way in which light is captured and bounces off the edges of the various ground edges of the mineral pigments allowing the various built up layers to play off each other.

This blog represents notes taken during a recent class at Regent College in Vancouver given by Makoto Fujimura, a leading Japanese-American Nihonga painter. It only addresses specific processes and techniques as they might help the individual Nihonga student and is not meant to be a full treatise on the art of Nihonga painting.

Please feel free to use this information as you wish. However these notes are not meant to be published outside this blog except for personal use.

Please feel free to add on to these notes based on your own Nihonga experience and understanding in the comment section. The main goal of this site is to exchange information and learn more about the process and how it's being used.


  1. A million thanks and blessings to you for putting this blog together!

    It's so marvelous to have these clear, beautifully presented posts and videos; quite a dream come true; thanks again!

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  3. Hi ,what kind of glue I have to use? Thanks

  4. The traditional glue is hide skin glue. You can see what it looks like on this page You want the solid glue like this, not a liquid. It's not so easy to find in USA. I was ordering mine through a friend who did orders to Japan. However this kind of glue is used in USA by instrument makers and I have bought it in crystalized form from Earth Pigments at Traditional Nihonga painters have commented that this is as pure as that bought in sticks from Japan but I've found it just fine to work with.