Sized and unsized rice paper are the main types of rice paper used for sumi e and calligraphy. Among artists of traditional Chinese and Japanese painting a constant discussion has been going on about how to best bring out the different ink shades in sumi e painting.
Sumi e painters and calligraphers use mainly two kinds of rice paper for their art performance.
The biggest difference between both papers is their absorbency degree, which determines a very great deal the spirit and life of the brush work and ink play. Unsized paper is best for spontaneous painting with bold and fast brush strokes in the abstract style, more like the Zen way or paintings of the Chinese Southern school. For many calligraphers, raw rice paper is the best of papers, because it energizes the brush handling.

You need less experience in brush handling and moisture control as ink and colors do not blur. Rice paper for sumi e and calligraphy can be found as individual sheets, rolls or as Japanese shikishi boards. As it soaks the ink and colors deep into the paper, the ink shines inwardly, unlike sized rice paper where the colors stay on the surface. This rice paper is best for more detailed, delicate painting in a more academic style, where the brush work is done with slow and multiple strokes, more like the style of the Northern school of Chinese painting. The ink does not penetrate the paper; it stays on the outside and shines therefore outwardly. You spare the extra mounting of your painting or calligraphy, but in my opinion the quality of your art work cannot achieve the highest standard, as the hard background does not allow maneuvering the brush in its fullness.

As it is highly absorbent, it requires a firm and experienced brush handling, fast movements of the brush, and a high moisture control, otherwise ink and colors will run. Especially in the case of unsized rice paper, if you do not have enough control of the brush and moisture, the ink or colors might blur.

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