• Shalini Guha

Knife Painting

A long-time necessity and must-have in the artist’s toolkit, the Palette Knife is a tool consisting of a handle and a blunt blade, and was originally used for mixing paint on an artist’s palette.

It is so difficult to gather information and study about Art techniques and their history. Everyone has a story to tell and we, living in the present, can just wonder what actually happened and have our own theories. History of Art forms has been a focus for years but the art techniques are not that thoroughly mentioned. Since, you cannot really guess who, when and how it emerged.



Before diving into history, may be knowing a bit about the tool should be the first thing.

A Palette Knife is a blunt tool used for mixing or applying paint, with a flexible steel blade. It is primarily used for mixing colors or paint, paste, etc., or for marbling, decorative end papers, etc. The "palette" in the name is a reference to an artist's palette which is used for mixing oil paint and acrylic paints.

Knife Painting is a very recent technique of painting as in the making of Ancient Art; it was just used as a tool to mix paint. Though, a few artists like Rembrandt and Francisco Goya, used palette knife to create effects once in a while, it was not considered a technique yet.

It was in the 19th Century, a French Painter who led the Realist Movement, Gustave Courbet begun the use of palette knives to apply thick and smooth texture of colors on his landscape paintings.  Other well known artists who used palette knives for painting include Camille Pissarro (a student of Courbet), Paul Cezanne, Marc Chagall, and Henri Matisse.

In the 20th Century, the use of palette knives along with brushes and other materials became more popular and prominent than in the earlier years. Artists begun to experiment more with this new technique.

Knife Painting is effective for giving depth to the Artwork by creating a chalky and less smooth effect. To create different effects, do you think a tool of the same length, shape and breadth, can be used? No

A Palette knife has it's types:-

The one with a rounded tip, more suitable for mixing paint on the palette is called a Putty Knife. It is also used to glaze single glazed windows, smoothing putty around the edges of the window panes. A spackle knife, also known as scraper or spatula, also comes under Putty Knife.



A Painting knife is a tool with pointed tip, lowered or "cranked" like a trowel, suited to paint on canvas. It has a flexible steel blade, used to apply paint to the canvas. The blade can be of different lengths and shapes : triangular, rectangular or more diamond like.


Artists: Gustav Courbet, Henri Matisse, Frans Hals, Leonid Afremov, etc.


So, have you used palette knives yet? I am sure you have or will some day. Just to let you know, it is also used for cooking. Palette knife painting is a fun and very interesting way to paint and so, at Let's Bee Canvas' workshops, this is one of the techniques we guide our crowd through.

Why don't you go and research some more on it? Try it out and I am sure you will get the hang of it but be careful. Until next time then...

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