I’m not sure what it is about palette knives but they tend to either strike excitement or fear into the heart of every artist who sees them. If you fall into the latter category then my tips for palette knife painting for beginners will give you a strong foundation to get started!

Let me start by saying that I love using palette knives to paint. In September I hosted the Courage on Canvas art retreat for members of My Creative Connection art and business group. I painted a gorgeous floral canvas that went home with one of my attendees!

That retreat is all about approaching the canvas with enthusiasm, not fear. I urge you to take a moment now and get excited about palette knife painting. Think about all the good feelings you get when you create something new and focus on those. Let them guide you while you paint and don’t stress too much about the final result. It’s just paint!

 Palette Knife Painting for Beginners

When working with palette knives on canvas, I consider the size of the palette knife relative to the size of the canvas, the larger or more square footage say the larger the palette knife. Depending on what shapes you’re wanting to make, pay attention to the shape of the pallet knife. 

Palette knives are especially great for adding texture and depth to a piece, which is why I love using them with DIY Paint. Also, if you’re trying to build up layers it’s much easier with a palette knife and you don’t have to worry about colors mixing or muddying. 

Palette knife painting for beginners - palette knife styles and types

Another great technique for creating texture and overlapping my colors is to drag the pallet knife lightly over one color with a brighter color. For example, I might have a big green leaf or stem but want to add a light green or white highlight to it without it really blending so I load up my palette knife and drape it lightly across the green and let the green paint pull the white off of the palette knife. I have found that palette knives are best used for abstract and expressionist styles, as it’s harder to get fine details with a knife.

The Best Palette Knives for Each Technique

 A straight edge is going to give you more hard blunt lines. The thin edge is great for adding thin lines, like stems or tree trunks.

I like to use the number 22 knife, or any knife with a more triangular shape, to create curved angles for my flowers. 

The one that works really great for leaves and stems is my right handed angled palette knife

The smaller palette knives are really great for adding in details like the center of my flowers dollops of heavy color. 

The number 12, which is my largest knife, holds a lot of paint on the pallet knife which gives me a lot of time to work with the paint. I can move my knife all over the canvas with fresh paint on it working the color without having to reapply. 

I encourage you to experiment with different shapes!

When to Use a Palette Knife

There’s no right or wrong answer about when to use palette knives because they are a great tool that can be incorporated into almost any canvas painting. Some people use them sparingly with great success while others practice palette knife

Personally, I have found that the best way to determine how they will work into your creative process is to enjoy playing with them a bit! 

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