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Tutorials and artistic advices

Oil: Palette knife painting

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Have you gotten the hang of your paintbrushes? To try something new, switch to painting knives!


What you need to know

When you use a painting knife, you are pressing paint impastos onto the support: this produces flat, smooth surfaces edged with lines and raised contours.

The appearance of each stroke depends on:

  •  the amount of paint
  •  the amount of pressure
  •  the direction of the stroke
  •  the shape of the palette knife


1. Applying paint with a palette knife


Note!  When working with a palette knife, you need to apply the paint vigorously and confidently. Just one piece of advice: practice, practice, practice!


Deciphering gesture

Step 1: mix your colors with a palette knife.

  • Roughly mix the colors together.
  • Tamp the paste down for a homogeneous mixture.
  • Scrape the mixture with a palette knife.
  • Spread it on the palette.

Repeat the process as you would for mixing plaster until you have the desired consistency.

Step 2: pick up some paint on the back of your palette knife.

Step 3: press the knife onto the canvas, slightly raising one of the edges of the palette knife, like buttering bread.


That little extra: make sure you always have a roll of paper towels at your fingertips to clean the palette knife between each coat of color.


2. Drawing with a palette knife


You can draw with the tip and edge of a palette knife.

With the edge

  • Mark some lines in the fresh paint with the edge of the palette knife
  • Draw lines by applying paint with the edge of the knife.

With the tip

  • Sculpt some details in the fresh paint with a narrow-point palette knife.
  • Leave round traces (representing tiles or scales) with a round tip palette knife.
  • Represent details by applying color with the tip.

Start off with just 3 painting knives: one with a fairly wide blade for color blocks, a second narrower one with a pointed tip, and a third one with a rounded tip.



Suggested products

Canson® Figueras®

See also

Oil: Finger painting
Peindre au doigt avec la peinture à l'huile
Painting with your fingers isn’t just for kids! Leonardo da Vinci did not shy away from using his to create his famous sfumato. Have a go at this sensual, yet subtle, technique.
Selecting knives and paintbrushes for painting with oils
Choisir couteaux et pinceaux pour peindre à l’huile
Sizes, bristle types and shapes… Palette or painting knife… How do you decide?