palette knife painting tips

Painting with a palette knife is a challenging, but rewarding approach to paint application.

When applied, the colors make an immediate impact due to their purity. However, the palette knife can be a difficult tool to master because the initial application of paint is so direct and striking.
There is a purity of color that can be achieved when painting with a knife that is very different than with a brush. The “creaminess” of the paint really shows, and the intensity of the color is strong, which is partly due to its layering on the paint surface.

Palette Knife Painting Tips:

  • Try the tapered palette knife, which is strong yet flexible. It allows you to mix the paint thoroughly before applying. palette knife painting tips
  • Squeeze out the colors that you want to mix. For example, Ultramarine Blue and Titanium White, and knead them with the knife until completely mixed. There is no better way to mix colors.
  • The newly mixed  color can then be applied at will. Load-up one flat edge of  the knife and spread out the color to fill an entire area.
  • The larger the knife, the more area coverage.
  • The palette knife is also useful for details and expressive marks, like a tree trunk or branch.

palette knife painting tips

The ultimate benefit of painting with a knife is the ease from which you can change colors. When painting outside in plein air, the drudgery of cleaning a brush in order to use a different color is aggravating, and the brush never gets fully clean. Since I am outside and often working quickly, I don’t like to use too many brushes that would need to be juggled (and inevitably, dropped).

The palette knife is simply wiped clean for each color with a good thick rag. This allows more time to be spent on the painting and less on the  preparation.
Guest artist/author: Jonathan Van Brunt has been painting with a palette knife since his days at the Maine College of Art in 1984. You can see more of his works on his blog, Van Brunt Art. 
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