How To Paint With Palette Knives

Palette knife array

Palette knife painting, with palette knives.

Hi All,

Palette knife painting with palette knives. Having painted in all mediums, with all the brushes and tools I could muster, I have now finally settled upon using palette knives, they are a tool that gives you a great feeling of freedom when you put paint onto canvas.

Only palette knife, no brushes.

What is a palette knife? It is a piece of flat metal that you spread oil paint or acrylic paint onto a canvas or board to produce a painting. The most imortant thing you need to know is how to hold it in your hand, as the dextrous way you hold it enables you to place and move the paint in the direction you wish to go. Pictured here is one of my favourite palette knives for palette knife painting, it is shop bought, but I have honed the shape of the blade to suit my style,

Palette knife for palette knife painting
One of my palette knives especially honed for my use.

Holding The Palette Knife, for palette knife painting.

First place the palette knife handle into the palm of your hand. With that action done. Now wrap the bottom three fingers around the handle. Then use your index finger and thumb to control the knife. Equally important, don’t hold the knife to tight. Because you need be able to move it around in your palm. Thus enabling easy control on the thumb and index finger to place the paint where you require it.

Buying your knives, for palette knife painting.

You will need approimately three sizes of knife or more to produce a good painting. One 3″ another 2″  a small one to paint the finer parts of the painting and others for mixing. Palette knife painting is a rough genre. when painting, you will need a good amount of paint on the knife at time. BUT NOT TOO MUCH. I will show photographs in my next blog as I explain the build up of my painting, “The New Forest Drift”.

An array of palettte knives
An array of palette knives

The Sketch.

Forget those boring block-ins, and swashbuckle with a palette knife, firstly you need a goal and an Idea of what you are going to paint, and although you usually cover it over when painting, I recommend drawing your sketch on canvas first.


Buying or making a palette, for palette knife painting.

We’ll start with oil paint, this doesnt dry too quickly, and we can pick up on acrylics in a later blog. Primarily you will need a palette, this is just to mix the paint on. You can use anything flat like ply wood, MDF or similar. Or purchase a cheap palette from the Art store. The most important thing to keep in mind, is that whatever you use should be sealed.

Plastic is non porous and makes a good palette. Any wood palettes should be primed back and front, with a gesso or sealer to make them non porous too.

Why because the paint lucidity in oil paints or water in acrylics will seep into a porous palette, and make the paint dry and heavy to use. So we will in this case, assume you have purchased a plastic palette.

Buying your paint for palettte knife painting.

A paint box of maybe a dozen colours or more, would be good for starters. I will name some colours as follows, you can after more confidence choose many different ones that suit your style of painting.

French Ultramarine, Cobalt Blue. Lemon Yellow, Indian Yellow. Yellow Ochre, Sap Green, Veronesse Green, Scarlet Red, Cadmium red, Cadmium orange hue, Burnt Umber, Burnt Sienna,Flake White, Titanium White.

WIth these colours you can mix almost any colour you need, Titanium White is the brightest white in your palette, and you should always consider it as your sunshine white, as all your painting will rely upon that from the very beginning. So Titanium white should be used sparingly and only for brightness.

Copying With A Palette Knife..

It is almost impossible to copy with a palette knife. Although some reference to work from, is necessary. For if we painted a Lion close up, we would all be dead before the finished painting.  A photograph of one would suit, to be on the safe side!!. It is recommended that you use whatever you wish as subject matter for your sketch. Be it a flower, a photo of a person, or an animal, or another painting. Whatever suits you.

Purchasing your canvas, for palette knife painting.

Purchasing a canvas or board to paint on is quite simple. Any Art supplies store will have what you are looking for. To give you a good chance of producing a good painting. I recommend a size of 500mmx400mm equivelent to 16 inches x 20inches imperial. This size will give you plenty of room to experiment, moreover whatever subject you sketch, can be large enough for you to make and correct mistakes.


Purchasing an easel, for palette knife painting.

There are many many types of easels on the market, prices ranging from £20-00 to £500-00 and more. It is my advice, for you to first buy a cheaper one to start with. Then when you do progress with your palette knife art, you can purchase a more expensive model. The old one can be used in the same fashion, but for demonstration and props. Above all the easel that you settle upon, should be robust enough to enable it to grip your canvas tightly on its body. By the same token it must also be able to hold different size canvases.

Now we are ready to paint a picture with palette knives.

You now have the tools and the materials and props to begin your painting. Furthermore you have to draw a sketch of your chosen subject onto your canvas. Usually most shop canvases are primed before you purchase them. Although another coat of guesso could always help. Your sketch does not need to be perfect, as mentioned before, it will get covered over when you begin to lay your paint on.

Follow my build up work, of “The New Forest Drift”

Perhaps you would like to follow the explanation, to the the build up of one of my paintings. I will explain the different stages of build up to the final finished painting. Those that are interested can copy it as your first work in my work shop blog. so I am choosing my painting “The New Forest Drift” which you will find below. If you follow my next blog. I will be proceeding on from this point to explain the next stages of producing a good painting of this subject, by using your palette knives.

Best Wishes, Enjoy

Michael Parker.


A Difficult Commission.

A Painting Commission.

Above are a few links , which you may choose to read.




4 thoughts on “How To Paint With Palette Knives”

    1. Hi Kath,
      I would love you to follow !!, Its what I am blogging for, and as my friend, you certainly don’t need to ask, perhaps you could share it with your arty friends, for me?, it helps me get out there in the social media, I am making some video’s to help the explanations, nearly finished my second Blog, and will publish in the next few days.
      Happy New Year to you and David and all your family, I really do enjoy keeping up with you all on facebook. I hope you enjoy my Blogs, Best WIshes, Mike.

    1. Hi Kate,
      I have viewed your website, and find it clean and easy to use,and very professional, but on searching, I cannot find anything about you?, how you started etc?, where you are in the world?, also not sure how it works?, how do I know when you get a sale, and how do people get paid? would it be attached to my site?
      You have roused my interest, as you know Artists need a shopfront, and any that I join that promotes my profile is good for me, perhaps you could furnish me with a few answers, and we can go from there, as I am at this moment making another video to carry on from the previous ones shown on my website.
      Best Wishes,
      Michael parker.

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