How to Paint With a Knife

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You can apply paint onto canvas with a knife rather than a brush.
You can apply paint onto canvas with a knife rather than a brush.

A palette knife is similar to a putty knife and is typically used as a tool in oil painting. The knife allows students to paint large areas without focusing on detail. With some practice and patience, anyone can learn to paint with a knife.

Things You'll Need

  • Palette
  • Palette knife
  • Prepared canvas
  • Oil paints
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Instructions

    • 1

      Place small amounts of oil paint on your artist's palette. Use small amounts so you do not waste your paint. You can add more as you go along.

    • 2

      Hold your palette knife by gripping with your thumb on top of the handle and the other fingers underneath. The thumb will allow you to control it easily. The knife should be in a position where the flat edge sticks up, like a shovel.

    • 3

      Scoop the paint with the tip of your palette knife. Approach your canvas with the knife and scrape the paint in the direction you want it to go. Once on the canvas, you can use the knife to scrape the paint or smooth it around, like frosting a cake.

    • 4

      Add more paint by scooping, and spread the paint where you need it on the canvas. You may use the tip to create lines on the canvas.

    • 5

      Experiment with different wrist positions and using the bottom and tip of the knife.

Tips & Warnings

  • Different styles of palette knifes are available, and you can experiment with them to find your personal style.

  • Use a drop cloth to protect your floors from paint. Work in a well-ventilated room when using oil paints.

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