FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

We've organized our FAQs into main categories. The categories are listed in the menu below. Choose the category according to your interests.

If your question is not answered here, feel free to call us at 800-969-4471 or ask the question via our contact form.

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About OAS FAQs

Where are you located and are you open to the public?

We have an industrial/office space with a showroom at this location. The address is 21522 Surveyor Circle, Huntington Beach, CA 92646. We are open to the public Monday through Thursday from 9am to 4pm. For Friday through Sunday, please phone ahead toll free at (800) 969-4471 (outside of Orange County) or (714) 969-4470 (locally).

Please send me a catalog and can you put me on your mailing list?

OAS will have a downloadable price list available on our website soon. If you do not have access to the internet or would simply prefer a paper catalog, we can mail one to you for a small printing/shipping fee once it is available. Once you place an order with OAS you will be automatically placed on OAS's mailing list for quarterly newsletters and announcements. If you do not want to be put on OAS's mailing list, just let us know and we will be sure not to include you in our mailings. If you would like to receive our email newsletter, please use the sign-up form at the bottom of the page.

Do I have to give you my phone number, it is unlisted?

OAS understands your concerns with releasing your phone number, however we only use it as a precautionary measure. In case we have a question about your order or perhaps had difficulty with your billing information we may need to get in contact with you. Otherwise your order may be delayed until we can get in touch with you. We will take an e-mail address instead. Please note OAS does not sell your information to anyone.

Do you sell your customer information?

OAS respects the privacy of our customers. At no time do we sell customer information.

I am teacher. Do you offer educational discounts to teachers?

Yes, we do. We have a series of procedures that an instructor must follow in order to receive a teacher's discount. Please contact OAS for more information.

Where is my invoice?

Your invoice is located inside your package. If you cannot find your invoice, contact OAS and we can supply you with a copy.

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For Beginners

I am a beginner! Where do I start?

As a beginner, we suggest that you first check out our sets, which are designed to make getting started with brush painting and calligraphy easier. They include everything you need to take your first steps and dive right in to this new art form. The most important thing to do as a beginner is just start painting. Once you begin, you will learn what works and doesn't work for you, and what kinds of subjects you prefer to paint. As you learn more about yourself and your personal artistic style, OAS can suggest additional supplies that will better fit your individual needs.

I am a beginner, so I have some reservations about investing in the best brushes. What should I do?

A bad brush is generally more frustrating for a beginner than an experienced painter. Save yourself the frustration. Instead of buying several inexpensive brushes treat yourself to one quality multi-purpose brush. OAS recommends the Orchid Bamboo Medium Brush (H2C); it is the best all-around brush.

How can I tell the difference between hard hair and soft hair brushes?

Hard hair brushes typically are brown in color. Quality hard hair brushes will have a sharp tip and bouncy resilience. Their main purpose is to achieve line work and sharp blade-like strokes. Traditionally, they are made from wolf hair. Soft hair brushes have more shape or body to the brush but usually will not keep a point or a tip. Most soft hair brushes are white, though some may be dyed black which can be deceiving. Traditionally, they are made from sheep or goat hair. Combination brushes are mixed. The main body is made with sheep hair or soft hair bristles while the center strategically has hard hair. OAS has the best Combination brushes specially manufactured just for us, the OAS Flow Series. Their body achieves the best brushwork for bone strokes and round shapes, while the strategic hard hair placement returns the brush to a point after each stroke.

I have trouble controlling my moisture/water, my strokes bleed and run. What can I do?

It is helpful to keep in mind that the amount of water you load on your brush is very important and changes depending on the type of raw Shuen paper you use. A good rule of thumb for this principle is the thinner your paper, the thicker your color and ink needs to be. In other words Double Shuen, a two-ply thick paper, is not going to be as apt to bleed from excessive moisture as Single Shuen, a single ply thin paper. Despite which rice paper you use, too much moisture is going to be a problem - the paper just determines the extent of the damage so to speak. The following are some tips from the OAS family that should help you conquer your moisture troubles: When you rinse your brush between strokes, before the brush touches the paper, it should be dry enough that you cannot squeeze any water from the body of your brush. Try painting this way and if you find your brush is too dry, then wet only the first 1/8th of the brush tip and try again.

I have a lot of practice work that I like but would not go to the trouble of mounting. However, I hesitate to just throw it away. Do you have any ideas about what I can do with my practice work?

Yes! Make use of all that hard work. You can use your desirable practice work to make pretty handmade cards. Single flowers work particularly well for this kind of project. Cut around the subject in a way that is appealing to you and that will fit on a card size of your choice. We think it looks particularly nice to leave enough room for the card underneath to show, creating a border; either even on all sides or off-set with a larger margin on the bottom, whatever looks good to you. Cover the entire back of the rice paper painting with glue (we like clear-drying glue sticks) and starting on an edge or corner, roll and press the rice paper painting carefully onto the card. If further pressing is required to smooth the surface simply cover the card with a piece of scrap paper and roll over with a cylinder (e.g. rolling pin, jar). Place under a heavy book to dry and flatten. Once dry, you may wish to accentuate your card design with hand ornamentation and/or paper effects. We sometimes like to decorate the edges of our cards with a thin gold or silver line in metallic paint pen, or spatter the card with other color(s), or go over the card with light washes of color, metallic color, gold, silver, sparkles, et cetera. The possibilities are unlimited! Be sure to sign your work and use a seal (maybe expressing a mood, wish or idea) to finish your composition. OAS sells lovely card & envelope sets that closely match the color of our raw Shuen papers. They come in sets of 10 cards/10 envelopes, and are approximately 7-1/4" x 5-1/4" unfolded (OAS Catalog Item POC). We often use these cards to send special greetings to our friends and families.

What are the best books for beginners in the spontaneous style?

(BK1) Chinese Brush Painting: An Instructional Guide by Ning Yeh(BK2) ABC of Chinese Brush Painting by Ning Yeh(BK6) Flowers & Birds: A Perspective by O-Shi Yang(BK7) 100 Flowers by O-shi Yang(BK8) 100 Birds by O-shi Yang(BK12) Ling Nan Style 1: Theories, Flowers, Vegetables by Lu Cheng-yuan(BK13) Ling Nan Style 2: Insects, Fish, Birds by Lu Cheung-yuan (Q011) Ling Nan Style 3: Landscapes by Lu Chueng-yuan

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I'm looking for rice paper, do you have it?

"Rice paper", despite being a common description of papers made in China and Japan, is actually a misnomer. Our paper is not made from rice, but traditionally from tree bark. That said, we carry a number of types of shuen (xuan) paper, and each may be used for a different purpose. If you are looking for paper that will not be used for painting, please contact OAS. If we do not carry a paper that suits your needs, we will attempt to provide you with another source.

Do you carry Xuan Paper?

Yes we do, we just spell it as "Shuen". "Xuan" is the common Chinese spelling, but when OAS first started importing paper almost in the 70s, we received it from Taiwan, which uses the Wade-Giles spelling "Shuen".

What is the difference between Raw and Sized Paper?

Raw paper shows the dynamics of Hsieh-i or spontaneous style. It is absorbent, the moisture goes through. Paper that is sized has been treated with alum. It affects the absorbency of the paper. Some papers can be "semi-sized" while others are often referred to as "mature" or fully sized. Semi-sized moisture partially goes through the paper, while fully sized or "mature" paper, moisture does not go through.

Do you paint on the smooth side or the rough side of the paper?

It is customary to always paint on the smooth side of the paper. However, if you cannot tell the difference, then do not worry about the difference.

Do you carry Washi paper?

Washi means Japanese paper. Often refers to the traditional papers made from long inner fibers of certain plants. Explain to OAS what purpose you would like to use it for and perhaps we can better assist you. Just use our contact form or call us toll free at 1-800-969-4471.

Are your papers archival?

Because of the number of papers coming to OAS and how the paper is stored when it leaves OAS, it is difficult to conduct tests on acidity. However, we have conducted some tests using an archival pen. Since we do not have the financial means to test the paper through special laboratory means, and only by archival pen testing, we can not guarantee any of our papers to be "Acid Free".

Is newsprint or newspaper good for practicing?

As you begin to experience brush painting, one of the first things you will encounter is the challenge of moisture control and really this is the key. Newspaper breeds bad habits in this area because it is so wholly different than rice paper. With newspaper you do not have to be concerned with the amount of water in your brush so you miss out on the dynamic beauty of the paper and ink.

What are the differences between Chinese Mounting Paper (P15) and Mounting Paper (P07)?

Chinese Mounting Paper (P15) is machine-made rice paper imported from Taiwan. It is soft and flexible which makes it suitable for traditional scroll mounting as well as brush painting. In fact, Ning Yeh uses Chinese Mounting Paper for many of his oversized works. Mounting Paper (P07) is 60lb. weight American-made card stock. This paper is strong and yet flexible enough to stretch evenly when mounting, making it a breeze to handle. OAS has been using and experimenting with this mounting paper, among others, for over 30 years and we find that it is the best choice available for wet mounting.

What are the differences between Single Shuen, Practice Shuen, Double Shuen (SP) and Premium Double Shuen?

While all four of these papers are raw or non-sized Shuen papers, meaning they are not treated with alum (glue), each has its own unique characteristics:

  1. Single Shuen is a fine one-ply rice paper treasured by masters of Chinese brush painting. Single Shuen is the most sensitive of all the Shuen papers – allowing the best color variation to show - provided that you have the skill to control your moisture and apply quick brushstrokes. Without these skills Single Shuen can be frustrating to work with. Too much water, grainy colors, sluggish strokes will all show. Experienced brush painters affectionately call Single Shuen "honest" paper because if you excel it will show your work proudly, if you struggle it will tell the tale.
  2. Practice Shuen is a single ply rice paper that is between Double Shuen and Single Shuen in thickness and sensitivity. It is crispy to the touch and the fiber construction is not as uniform as the Double Shuen and Single Shuen. This paper is great for practice because it is economically priced and tends to bleed more than Double Shuen if exposed to excess water, which teaches you how to control your moisture.
  3. Double Shuen (SP) is a two-ply rice paper that shows brilliant color, reveals lively color variation and allows smooth delivery of strokes and color. This paper is OAS's finest for flower painting, in fact, Ning Yeh's Instructional TV Series "Chinese Flower Painting" centers on this very paper. Double Shuen is also great for other subjects such as plants, animals and low-moisture landscapes. While an excellent choice for painting, Double Shuen does require some skill in moisture control as it bleeds easier than Premium Double Shuen.
  4. Premium Double Shuen is a two-ply rice paper adored by brush painters everywhere. It is soft to the touch and has even fiber construction across its surface. The double thickness allows this Shuen to be extra forgiving to those who struggle with moisture control and subsequent color bleeding. While fun to paint on and great for beginners Premium Double Shuen still manages to show lovely color variation – the best of both worlds!

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Color and Ink

What happened to Pelikan White?

Unfortunately, Pelikan has stopped producing the popular White OAS used to carry. We have replaced it with a DaVinci Gouache White. It does not perform exactly the same, but it is the best replacement we have found.

What are Chinese Chip Colors and why are they used as opposed to tube watercolors?

Chinese Chip Colors are dry transparent pigment pieces/chips. They produce the best colors on rice paper. Often tube watercolors contain chemicals that react negatively to the rice paper resulting in a grainy appearance, or even worse - color separation.

What kind of container is best for my chip colors?

Some artists use watercolor palettes or flower plates of ceramic, porcelain or plastic. However we find that this kind of container is not conducive to easy clean up or good storage. The flower plate is great and really best suited for blending additional color combinations; it is a great space saver. OAS recommends CW30 a 5-piece stackable porcelain dish set for the preparation and storage of chip color. The colors keep well in these compact lightweight containers and when it comes time to clean the porcelain lets the colors rinse right out.

How do I prepare my Chinese Chip Colors?

Empty the contents of your color packet into a dish. Each color will need its own separate dish. Using a fine mist spray bottle wet your chips until they begin to melt and stick to one another and the dish.

Do Chinese Chip Colors ever go bad?

If exposed to air for extended periods of time or if exposed to air borne contaminates such as dirt or dust, the chips can turn. Generally the shelf life once moistened is 3-4 months. If you notice your colors looking dull or leaving a hard edge on your paper, discard those chips, cleanse the dish they were in, and prepare new chips to work with.

What is the correct way to prepare Chinese Chunk Yellow?

Chinese Chunk Yellow generally comes in rock formation so it takes time for the color to dissolve properly. Use a small 1 1/2" diameter jar with a screw tight lid to prepare and store the color (OAS recommends catalog item GS401 or GS404). Submerge the Yellow Chunk(s) in the jar so that half the surface is covered by water. Allow them to soak for a few hours or until the chunk(s) become soft like clay. To finish, slowly pour the yellow into a dish stopping as soon as the liquid shows impurities; discard the remaining liquid.

What's the difference between Marie's Watercolors and chip colors?

Chip colors produce the best colors on rice paper, and most economical because they last a long time. When the color dries just re-wet with a fine mist spray and use as needed. Marie's Watercolors are favored by some instructors as a good starter set because of all the colors that are included. Marie's watercolors are economically priced; however, they tend to have a short shelf life if not used. Sometimes the colors harden inside the tube and are difficult to squeeze out. Also some master artists have reported that they lack in quality because of their lightfastness.

In some of the instructional material on Chinese Brush Painting and Sumi-e they reference a powder white? What is this and does OAS carry this powder?

Artists, especially those of the Ling-nan School, had to mix their own white from powder pigment and animal glue. While this method provided a usable white, it could not provide a white with the smoothness and blendability of Pelikan White or the brilliance and stability of Dr. Martin's Bleed-Proof White. Alas, artists were left with an undesirable pasty appearance. OAS carries Dr. Martin's, but Pelikan White has been discontinued and replaced with DaVinci Gouache White.

How do I make the intense green I see in so many Chinese paintings?

The most beautiful green is a mixture of Chinese Chip Indigo and Chinese Chunk Yellow. Pour some of your prepared Chunk Yellow into a dish. In a separate dish fine mist spray your indigo chip color until moist and sticking to one another. Using an inexpensive bristle or paint brush, add indigo to your yellow until the desired color is achieved. Tip: When marrying colors, always add dark to light instead of the reverse as this helps avoid color contamination.

What are the differences between all the bottle inks that you carry?

Best Bottle Ink is the only artist quality ink. This ink surpasses some of the ground ink in its richness, transparency and smoothness. It is stable and permanent. In other words whatever you pour out, you will need to use. Once it dries, it is difficult to reconstitute with water. While the others in our inventory offer a more economical way to use ink. The ink is not stable. Therefore, you can reconstitute it with a wet brush. Due to lack of stability some inks may tend to bleed a little more during the wet mounting process.

What is the difference between ground ink and bottle ink?

Bottle inks are generally smoother and more uniform in quality. They are easy to use and store, but may not have much variation. Ground ink is as dark or thick as you make it, and may show color tones more easily. Ink sticks are great for traveling, as they are compact and solid, instead of liquid. Some artists also prefer the meditative quality there is in grinding your own ink!

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What is the difference between porcelain and plastic accessories?

Porcelain ware is superior to plastic ware in many ways when it comes to brush painting, however we carry both kinds because each material has its own distinct advantages. The weight of the porcelain ware makes it stable on your painting area and its more rounded edges help to shape your brush tips. Porcelain also resists stains, unlike plastic, which makes clean up a breeze and allows it to remain attractive despite regular use. Plastic ware is lightweight, durable and relatively inexpensive which makes it a convenient commodity for transport, say to and from class or on exciting painting expeditions.

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What is Gong-bi?

One of the disciplines of Chinese Brush Painting is Gong-bi. Also known as fine-line painting or elaborate/meticulous technique, it is often characterized as a style of painting that incorporates delicate Chinese Calligraphy strokes and close attention to detail. Fine-line artists first use fine brushes to create an outline of their subjects and then go back with softer brushes to apply layers of color until the desired effect is achieved. This meticulous style of painting requires certain brushes to make the outlines and layers and certain papers to handle repeat washes of color.

What brushes and paper are used for fine line painting for Gong-bi style?

Different instructors recommend different equipment. For line work OAS recommends a Red Feather brush. For applying layers of color use two of either a Fine Soft Medium or a Fine Soft Small, one to apply the color and the other to pull the color. Fine line painting requires a sized shuen. Try OAS's Shimmer Shuen or Glass paper.

What is the difference between Shimmer Shuen and Glass paper?

These two papers are often categorized by some instructors as "no go through" paper. Since these papers are sized with alum, the color tends to float on top of the paper. In other words the color does not go through the paper. Glass paper has a faint tea-like tint and the sizing tends to vary. Some areas may be more sized than others. Shimmer Shuen is whiter in color and has a light layer of sparkle on the surface of the paper from the sizing.

Can OAS recommend a good beginner's Fineline (Gong-bi) style book?

OAS has several different fineline books, but none that are detailed and step-by-step. OAS has several original single-subject fineline lessons available which are suitable for beginners.

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Which of your supplies work best for calligraphy?

Our Calligraphy category page has a selection of some of our best materials for Calligraphy.

Things that you will find there include are brushes like the Flow brushes, Orchid Bamboo brushes, Flower & Bird brush, any of the inks we carry especially Best Bottle. Popular choices for calligraphy paper are Moon Palace Roll and Single Shuen. For print style calligraphy we use the Flower & Bird brush or any of the Flow brushes. For grass style calligraphy the Orchid Bamboo and Mountain Horse brushes work best. Add a touch of elegance and style to any special occasion calligraphy by mixing Pelikan Gold or Silver cake pan colors in with the ink.

I am taking a class on calligraphy. What brushes do I need?

Unless your teacher has provided you with a specific material list, we recommend Orchid Bamboo or Mountain Horse brushes to do running or script style and Medium Flow or Flower and Bird for print style.

Can I use the same brushes for Chinese painting and Calligraphy

The spontaneous style of Chinese brush painting actually evolved out of the practice of Calligraphy so the same type of brushes are often used for both.

Painters who paint often with color like to buy two of the most relevant size Flow brushes and Orchid Bamboo brushes using one for color work and the other for ink work and Calligraphy. This can be very beneficial to avoid the glue used in the colors making a calligraphy brush too stiff over time and keeping vibrant colors untainted by dark ink.

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