Palette knife, the real assistant of the artist.

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Palette knife is a small spatula (looks like a construction trowel), which is used by the artist at the time of painting. The functionality of palette knife is quite wide, and its diversity can surprise when you try to choose it for the first time.

There is no mistaking the painting with a palette knife and anything else, and often such painting is impasto, so to speak with “fat” brush strokes. No scumble may be involved, only large brush strokes with bright mixtures of colors. The painting with palette knife is a quick process because one movement can cover a  large percentage of the canvas (if compared with a paint brush).

Excellent mixture of combined palette knife and brush technique. This method allows you to quickly “deal” with large areas of the same type of canvas: the sky, sea or lining under green grass, and then you can add details with the brush. Thus often paintings are made in the style of alia prima.


Palette knives differ:

  • in size. Those that are bigger suitable for large canvases, and small – to work on small details.
  • in shape. In addition to the usual palette knives, the blade which looks like an elongated drop has various shapes: straight, cut to one side, round, figured.

If the information on the palette knife is clear, then here is confusion with different forms.

  • with round ones, you can create a mosaic of paint without fear of damaging the canvas,
  • beveled and straight palette knives can remove excess paint and cut it after drying,
  • the figured ones seem to have vague purpose. But such “unusual” palette knives can create many parallel lines, zigzags, geometric shapes and the like. A large number of strokes with such a palette knife will help to create a lot of fallen leaves in the autumn landscape, for example.

The best palette knives

The choice of a palette knife should not cause you much difficulty. The most convenient and common in the work of the artist are the drop and the so-called “fish palette knife”. These palette knives are suitable to perform most tasks in the painting. Before buying, be sure to check the palette knife. It should have a comfortable handle for your hand, the blade should be flexible but easy to return to its initial position, no parts should be loose.


The palette knife can speed up and facilitate the work on the painting, but it can also complicate it. Still, if you have chosen this “artist’s assistant” for the first time, it is worth practicing on the sketches. Despite how easily the artists handle them, it will be difficult for a beginner to repeat all the movements. For the easy work, you should develop motor skills of the hands to easily paint with a palette knife.


What pictures can be painted with a palette knife

Video tutorial how to paint poppies with a palette knife

The technique of painting with a palette knife is very extensive and currently, I think no matter what you can paint anything with it. Cityscapes (see what the artist Kal Gajoum paints) are especially popular, but this should not be limited.

Landscapes, still lifes and even portraits an artist with good practice are capable to paint with a palette knife (artist Alexey Zaitsev is a clear confirmation).


With a palette knife you can not only paint pictures, but you can also:

  • remove the excessive (raw) paint from the canvas,
  • after drying the painting the excess relief can be removed with it,
  • easy to clean palette,
  • allows you to mix paints.

Canvas for palette knife should be with medium grain or large. It will provide good retention of paint on the canvas. I wrote about this in the article: «types of canvases».

And it is easy to clear up the palette knife. Just wipe it with a rag and the cleaning is over.

Painting with palette knife is fascinating and informative process, especially when you try it for the first time. At the initial stages, there may be difficulties, but practice and a good mentor will always lead You to success.

I personally rarely paint with a palette knife, but I admire artists who paint their masterpieces without the use of brushes.

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