How to Paint With a Pallet Knife

by Nora Zavalczki

A pallet or palette knife is a blunt knife with a flexible steel blade and a handle. Pallet knives come in a variety of shapes and styles, and the blade may have striations at the end. The knife is used to mix colors, scrape off layers of color from the palette or canvas, or create textures. The pallet knife may also be used to paint and apply layers of color on the canvas. The tool is suitable both for oil and acrylic paints.

Items you will need

  • Painting palette or cardboard
  • Paints
  • Cloth
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Step 1

Mix your colors on a painting palette or piece of cardboard. Press the knife against the palette and perform circular moves until you obtain a homogeneous color. Alternatively, use color directly from the tube.

Step 2

Slide the knife and collect paint on it. The amount of paint you use depends on the effect you want to obtain. If you want to create an impasto painting, or a thick textured painting, use paint abundantly.

Step 3

Spread the paint on your canvas. Apply several colors to your canvas, according to the design you want to create. If you want to paint a portrait or a landscape, sketch the main elements of the painting on the canvas and apply color to cover the pencil sketch.

Step 4

Apply several layers of different-colored paint. The colors won't mix as long as you don't apply pressure on the knife when you spread the second layer of paint. Apply a smaller amount of paint as the second layer and thin it so that the layer underneath it is visible.

Step 5

Use the edge of the pallet knife to draw straight lines on your painting. Apply dots on your painting using the tip of the knife. If the knife has striations on either edge or the tip, use the striations to create textures on your painting.

Step 6

Scrape off paint from your canvas if you want to make the canvas texture visible. Scrape paint off your painting to correct a mistake.

Step 7

Create ridges in the paint by swiping the knife loaded with paint and lifting the knife.

Step 8

Clean the knife each time you want to change the colors, so that the colors won't mix and leave a dirty appearance on your canvas. Wipe the remaining paint off the knife using a piece of cloth.

Step 9

Carve motifs on thick layers of wet paint using the tip of the pallet knife.

Tips & Warnings

  • If using acrylic colors, wipe the paint off the knife as soon as you finish painting, because acrylics dry quickly and are difficult to remove once dry.
  • If you use oil paints and the colors dry on your knife, clean it using turpentine.

Photo Credits

  • Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images