Sumi e Painting in Procreate, with only two brushes.
Sumi e painting is Japanese for black ink painting. Traditionally, it uses a brush and ink on paper. A lot of emphasis is placed on each stroke and the beauty it contains. It’s often referred to as, “poetry with a brush”. The process of Sumi e painting is not about creating a super realistic image, it’s about capturing the spirit and essence of nature. It’s a meditative, relaxing process that attempts to capture the harmony of all things.
I’ve always found this form painting beautiful to look at which inspired me to create a brush that could recreate that look and feel. Until recently, It’s been a challenging medium to replicate with digital ink brushes.
In this video tutorial for Procreate, I create an ink Sumi e painting in about 8 minutes with the Samurai Sumi e brush I created for the Samurai Inks brush pack. It’s easy to follow along so get your iPad and hit the play button. If you don’t have the Samurai Sumi e brush, you can use Procreate’s built-in Oriental Brush which you can find in the Painting set of the brush menu. It’s not going to give you the exact results but it should still look pretty good.
Below is a breakdown of the steps in the video. In case you’d like a refresher or an outline before you start.
Step 1: Lay down a wash with the Ronin Wash brush. If you don’t have the Ronin Wash, select a built-in procreate brush that has a paper texture you like. Select a light ochre color, set your brush size to a large size and cover the background with the wash. It doesn’t have to be perfect, in fact, it’s better if it’s not. Set this layers blend mode to Multiply. Then duplicate this layer.
Step 2: Select the layer you just duplicated. Rotate and flip it either horizontally or vertically. Set its blend mode to Color Burn and reduce opacity to about 40%.
Step 3: Create a new blank layer. If it’s not below the two layers you just created, drag it so it is. The layers should be in this order: 1. The Wash in Multiply blend mode. 2. The Wash in Color Burn blend mode and below that the blank layer. Make sure you select the blank layer, this is the layer you’ll be painting on.
Step 4: Now you’re ready to paint. Select the Samurai Sumi e brush and start painting.
- Have an idea of what you want to capture before you start.
- Vary the size of the brush to achieve a variety of results. You can draw or paint with the brush to maintain a cohesive look and feel.
- With the Sumi e brush selected, tap and hold the eraser icon so it loads the same brush as your eraser. Using the Sumi e brush as your eraser maintains the integrity of the brush strokes if you need to erase.
- Tilt the Apple Pencil to create textures, water effects and blends with the Samurai Sumi e brush.
- Experiment by holding your Apple Pencil like a brush not a pencil.
- Enjoy the process. Sumi e painting is about making every stroke matter. It’s considered poetry with a brush.
I find the process of Sumi e painting completely relaxing and almost meditative. Even taking your time you can probably create 2 of these beautiful paintings in less than half an hour. If you need inspiration do a google search form, “Sumi e painting” and practice by trying to recreate some of the techniques you discover.
The Samurai Inks Brush pack for Procreate can help you create pieces like this and much more. Check it out if you want to bring your digital ink game to the next level.