How to Paint with a Palette Knife – Get Smearing in 5 Easy Steps

If you have ever worked with acrylic paints, chances are you have come across a tool called a palette knife. While at first you might think that the sole purpose of this tool is to mix new colors for you to apply with a brush, that’s not their only use. You can actually use the palette knife to apply paint to your canvas in some surprising and delightful ways.

Why paint with a palette knife?

Panting with a palette knife is an easy way to add depth and texture to a piece of art. The striking lines, lumps, and ridges create a unique kind of deliberateness to each smear of paint. Painting with a palette knife can also create a more impressionistic painting with more abrupt transitions between colors as compared to painting with a brush.

In this blog post we are going to take a look at how to paint with a palette knife. So get out a canvas and your favorite colours, it’s time to get arty!

Step 1: Finding the Right Palette Knife

Palette knives come in a lot of different shapes and sizes. That means you can use different ones to create different effects on the canvas. From tiny triangles to large ovals, there really are lot of options to explore. You can either opt to buy a single palette knife to play around with, or you can go for the more cost effective route and buy a variety pack. This will allow you to experiment with different sizes and see what you like best.

Once you settle on an implement that works for you, I’d recommend sticking with it until you get really good. Then you can branch out to try others.

There are many different size palette knives to choose from

Step 2: To Mix or Not to Mix?

Now that you have your palette knife or knives lined up, you have another important decision to make. When blending your colours you can choose to fully blend it like you would when painting with a brush, or only just combine the colors together.

Since you won’t be doing as many passes with a palette knife as you would with a brush, now is a time where you can add a little more flair to your work. I also find that working with unblended colors will help create a smoother transition with the palette knife technique, but again, this is really up to you.

At the end of the day like most other art forms, you’ll get the basics down and then develop your own style.

Step 3: Loading the Palette Knife

After some preparation, we’re almost ready to put paint on canvas, your last thing to consider is how much paint you want to apply. You can utilize the edge of the palette knife to get sharp, clean lines, or the full underside to cover larger swaths of the canvas.

When you load your palette knife it is important to remember that you’ll have to re-load it for each stroke, so make sure you aren’t taking too much paint in the first few passes.

An example of the ridges and bumps of paint created by the palette knife

Step 4: Canvas Care

Now that you are applying your paint to the canvas, here are a few things to keep in mind. Be careful not to gouge the edge or tip of the palette knife into the canvas. As these are hard metal objects it doesn’t take too much force to create a noticeable mark on your creation.

Be careful not to add too many layers at one time. While it can be fun to watch the textures grow, it is really easy to create muddy looking colors with palette knives as it takes much longer for large lumps of paint to dry. This is especially true when you are working with complimentary colors.

Don’t be afraid to clean your knife periodically to prevent creating an undesired color.

Step 5: Practice!

Now that we know a little bit about the basics of painting with a palette knife, it’s time to practice. Over time you will build up confidence with this technique. Don’t be afraid to try new mixing strategies and different ways to lay the paint down onto the canvas. Need some help deciding what to paint first? Here are a few this people will commonly use palette knives for:

  • Snow on mountain peaks
  • Reflected light on various surfaces (rocks, water, wood, ect.)
  • Details of leaves or tree bark
  • Abstract imitations of rocks, grass, shrubs, and other natural objects
  • Wispy clouds

These are just a few brief ideas to help you get the ball rolling, but you can create many different things using a palette knife.

Using different palette knives for different tasks.

Wrapping Things Up

Panting with a palette knife is an easy way to add depth and texture to a piece of art. The striking lines, lumps, and ridges create a unique kind of deliberateness to each smear of paint.

I hope that you found this article helpful in your pursuit of learning how to use a palette knife to paint! Not only do the finished products turn out extremely beautiful, but this a very fun way to get creative as well. So get out those paints and get to work, who knows what you will be able to create!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *