Everything You Should Know About Knife Painting.

Art & Craft
February 2, 2022

Art is nothing but communication, communication of feelings, thoughts, ideas, and observation. A person expresses their ideas and emotions in various forms; one of them is painting. Painting is something that brings out aesthetic qualities hidden within a person, which are portrayed on a piece of paper, canvas, or a cloth. There are so many things on which one can paint and express their thoughts and feelings. Knife painting is one of the kinds of painting.

When we look back into our childhood, the first thing majority of us got introduced to as an art material were color pencils, then came the crayons, followed by paintbrushes, oil colors, acrylic paints, and the list continues. As we humans have evolved, so have art and art tools. They would always grow into different forms but would never get outdated.

Many of us might already know about knife painting, but for a few, this topic must be something new to know about. In this article, we are going to read all about knife painting,  how it is used, what different materials one can use, knife palettes, and much more. Stay tuned till the end.

Knife Painting

Painting with a regular paintbrush is fun, but what’s more, fun is switching to different alternatives like palette knives for painting. The first step is to learn what a palette knife is?

A Palette knife is a blunt tool that is used to create textures and effects on a canvas. Every artist, sooner or later in their life, requires a palette knife in their painting tool kit. Palette knives are initially used for mixing paints or to applying paints from the acrylic tubes onto the palette. When used with a paintbrush, palette knives add extra detailing and texture to the final painting.  It is a versatile tool that can be used in numerous ways to create incredible outcomes from a painting. 

Impasto Knife Painting

History Of Palette Knife Painting

In the 19th century, a famous master painter Vincent Van Gogh used a method called the impasto method for painting. Impasto is a painting technique in which a thick layer of paint is applied on the drawing surface, and it is then spread using palette knives to form a texture above the drawing board. When the paint is completely dried, the painting textures appear as if they are coming out of the canvas or the wooden board. One of his most famous paintings, ‘Starry Nights’, was painted using a knife palette. Van Gogh used thick layers of oil paints on his canvas to create swirling textures and curvy lines, for which his paintings are famous till today.

Some other famous painters who used palette knives and created unique paintings are Henri Matisse, MarcChagall, Camille Pissarro, Picasso, and many more. Inspired by these famous artists, palette knife paintings are known to be a vintage craft, and their value is more than any normal canvas painting. 

How To Use A Palette Knife?

Before we see the uses, let us first know about choosing a palette knife.

Palette knife and knife painting are two terms that we usually mix up, but the meaning of those two is quite different from one another. A Palette knife has a round tip and is usually straight and is used for mixing colors on the palette;

whereas a painting knife comes with a pointed tip and has a slight bend. It is

used for painting on a canvas or wood. The painting knives is what we are

talking about today. There are a variety of painting knives. They differ in sizes, shapes, and the material of which they’re made (usually metal). The sizes and the shapes of each knife are designed in a way such that one can easily get hold of the knife, and the shapes will give different textures to your painting. 

Knife Painting

The Different Blades Commonly Used In Knife Painting

Round-shaped blades are used for creating/building layers and dabbing spots. 

Sharply pointed blades are used for creating the sgraffito effect (it is a technique in which, on a preliminary surface, another layer of contrasting paint is applied and then carved or scratched in a way such that the below layer and the top layer give a 3-D texture to the painting).

Short blades are typically used to give sharp and angular strokes.

Long blades, this type of knife is used to sweep colors and merge new colors. 

Oil paints and acrylic colors are ideally used for knife paintings. One can use tube watercolors, too if they are not confident enough to start with acrylic or oil paints.

To start with, just dip the long edge of your knife into the color and sweep it up. If you’re using a pointed knife, just dip the tip to get the color on your knife. Then simply, place the knife in the angle at which you want to color your painting. Make sure you have a firm grip on the knife handle. One technique that is most commonly used to hold the grip is, place your thumb on the top and surround the handle with your fingers. Wrist movements are used to change angles on the drawing surface. 

There are many ways in which you can paint with a knife on a canvas. Here are some tips:

  • To create texture on canvas, apply some thick layer of paint and press the blade on a thick surface.
  • To create fine lines or wavy lines, use the thin edges of the knife.
  • The long side of the knife is used to sweep or spread colors on your canvas. It is as easy as spreading butter on a bread toast.
  • Dots can be created using the pointed tip of the knife.
  • To showcase and make visible the underneath layers on the canvas, apply two layers of paint and scratch the above surface using the pointed blade.
  • After a certain period of time, try different strokes and textures to experience a new form of paintings with different strokes, textures, and lines.
  • Clean your knife with a simple piece of cloth.
Knife Painting

Canvas paintings with a knife usually take a little longer to dry completely than the normal painting because these paintings have got thick and multiple layers of paint. Make sure to keep the final piece in a dry area and let the colors set for a couple of days so that the colors will not smudge later. 

Also, apply a layer of protective pigment/glaze only when the canvas is completely dry for final finishing.

There are no particular rules for applying paint on any surface. The texture and the final picture can create or break the look. Before starting on a big canvas sheet, make sure you use the knives on a rough surface. It will help you to hold your grip and know the technique to use the knife.

Experiment with colors, mix shades and go beyond the normal creations. After all, some “happy mistakes” are forgiven. 

At first, you might have a shaky hand, or you might not be able to hold your grip or blend in the colors. That is completely fine. Practice makes a man perfect!

Grab your set of DIY kits from Book A Workshop and attend our online workshop on Impasto Texture Knife Painting. Learn more creative stuff under one roof and share your reviews with us. 


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