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Cutting Edge Art: Painting with a palette knife

Posted On :: Monday 12th June 2017
A palette knife is a spatula made of steel, which is usually used to mix colours on the palette or spread colours on the canvas at times.
A palette knife is a spatula made of steel, which is usually used to mix colours on the palette or spread colours on the canvas at times.
By: Kasturi Borkotoki

I have been painting with a palette knife for quite a few years now. Most artists use brushes to paint and I did too until I moved to the knife.
 
As promised in my last column, today I shall write about painting with a palette knife. What is a palette knife? What is it used for? Why paint with it? 
 
A palette knife is a spatula made of steel, which is usually used to mix colours on the palette or spread colours on the canvas at times.

Usually artists who use thick paints to paint use palette knives on parts of their painting and a few artists use the knife for the entire painting.
 
Firstly, let me highlight the fact that you can use a knife to paint only if you paint with acrylic or oils as the approach is to use thick paints here.
 
I would say, if you’re a lazy painter, you are fit to use palette knives! A regular layer to layer style takes a lot of time. But if you use knives to paint, all you have to do is:
 
1) Make an initial drawing with a brush. Mix colours on the palette with a palette knife. There is a variety of knives available. I use one or two knives for all my work. Broad ended brushes are easy to spread colour on bigger portions on the canvas while painting areas like – sky, fields or water. 
 
2) Use colour in ample quantity. The very idea of using a knife to pile on paint is to give a blatant and flamboyant look to your art. The piling of colours will give your work a three-dimensional look. The trick in producing a good knife work is in mixing the range of colours very well on the palette.
 
3) There is no need of a medium. Pile colours, mix on the canvas and wipe and use another colour. A little turpentine to dilute or wash the knife is enough.
 
4) A few rags or tissue paper are essential to wipe the knives. Steel knives are sturdy and do not bend with pressure.
 
5) One should be careful while highlighting one colour above another. In that case you need to put thicker paint for the highlighted item. For example, if you want to highlight lemon yellow streaks in the sky, which is of a pale blue colour, use thicker dollops of the yellow.   
 
Those of who are reading this and have never painted before, do not dismiss this as a highly technical write-up. I can assure that you too can try a painting using palette knives.  A few tubes of acrylic paints, a small palette knife and a canvas are all you need. You can choose a simple object like a vase or an apple and try to paint it with a knife. Try it!
 

 
 
 
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