In sumi-e, the artist grinds her own ink using an ink stick and a grinding stone. Ink sticks are generally made of densely packed charcoal ash from bamboo and a little glue. The artist puts a few drops of water on the inkstone and grinds the ink stick in a circular motion until a smooth, black ink is made of the desired concentration.
There are four main types of brush strokes to learn in sumi-e, called the "Four Gentlemen". There are the Bamboo Stroke, the Wild Orchid Stroke, the Chrysanthemum Stroke, and the Plum Branch Stroke. The strokes used to paint these four simple plants are the basis for everything painted in sumi-e.