What’s up in the Monday class…Palette knife

Painting with a knife is a bit like putting butter or jam on bread and produces quite a different result to a brush. Painting knives are excellent for producing textured, impasto work and sweeping areas of flat color as well as tiny shapes of color.

The range of marks you can produce when painting with a knife rather than a brush is quite varied, and can produce beautiful effects. This list is an introduction to the possibilities.

The trick of palette knife is to hold the handle very lightly. The harder you press, the more the paint will ‘smear’ and become dirty. To keep your colours clean you need to work very lightly.

Thin Lines

By dipping the edge of a painting knife into a pile of paint and then tapping the knife down on your canvas, you can produce very fine lines.


This is the “spread the butter or jam” technique of using a painting knife, and the most common approach. You load a lump of paint onto the painting knife, and put it down in short strokes. This is handy for smaller detail work.

Flat Texture

Spread out paint with a knife so that it’s completely flat, with minimal texture, if any. As if buttering a smooth even and consistent layer.


Sgraffito  is just scratching into wet paint. A knife with a sharp point will give a narrow line, but any shape of knife can be used.

Author: LifeArt School

Leonie has been painting for 30 years. she has a degree in Art as well as a Teaching diploma. Her dream has always been to help other reach their full potential, in art as well as in daily life. LifeArt School has been in operation since 2004 and has managed to help various students become full time artists. Leonie is also a well know local and international artist. She paints three days a week and her work is available in various galleries.

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