Visual Arts Centre

About the palette knife:

A palette knife is a blunt tool used in mixing/applying paint. The “palette” in the name is a reference to an artist’s paint palette used to hold and mix oil and acrylic paints. From the 19th century to the 21st century, this handy tool has gradually been gaining popularity as a painting tool on top of being a mixing one. Of the different sizes of palette knives available, most can be compartmentalised into 2 categories: those with a rounded tip and those with a pointed tip. Art knives with a pointed tip are usually the go-to choice for applying paints.

Why use the palette knife?

This seemingly simplistic tool is capable of creating incredible textures – think impasto and the loaded brush technique. The multi-loaded brush technique refers to the dipping of a paintbrush into more than one colour, such that a stroke of the paint brush will reveal a beautifully blended multi-colour stroke. Impasto is the Italian word for “dough”, referring to the thick and textured application of paint on a surface which gives the painting an edge of 3-dimensionality. We can see the impasto method from works like Vincent Van Gogh’s The Starry Night (1889) and Still Life: Vase with Pink Roses (1890) to Conrad Jon Godly’s scenic summits in Sol-Studies (2014).

Lynn Boggess, “14 July 2014”, Oil on Canvas

Conrad Jon Godly, Sol-Studies, Oil on Canvas

Barbara Flowers “Two Peaches and Hydrangea”, Oil on canvas

The palette knife can be used to accentuate precise textures and colours. The textural elements brings richness to scenes like frothy waves along a shore, duff on the rainforest floor, or simply clouds in the sky. To all experienced artists and beginners alike, why not try painting with a palette knife one day? After all, like all instruments, it is but a tool of expression!