Tips for Using A Painting Knife
Painting knives, also called palette knives, are another option for artists looking to expand their creative toolbox. A painting knife has a number of characteristics that make it an excellent alternative, or companion, to using brushes in your painting.
Painting knives can be used for any kind of paint medium – acrylics, oils, or even watercolors. Oils have the best consistency for a painting knife to bring out texture on the canvas because they are a stiffer medium. Acrylics can work well, too – especially if a thickener or texturing gel is added to the paint.
Look For Spring
Painting knives come in a range of shapes and sizes, but one of the most important characteristics to look for in a solid painting knife is a spring in the blade. A flexible blade, one that bends with fairly light applied pressure, means you can make a larger variety of marks with the blade, depending on the angle, pressure, amount of paint on the blade, and it is moved on the canvas. Narrower blades will have more flexibility than wider blades, and metal blades will usually be more flexible than painting knives with plastic blades.
Utilize the Texture
One reason many artists choose painting knives is because of the texture it can create. Think of spreading icing on a cake; a painting knife with more paint, used at various angles, can build up some very nice texture on a canvas.
Pressure Impacts Canvas
It is good to keep in mind that a painting knife can potentially damage your canvas if used too aggressively or improperly. If too much pressure is applied to the canvas while laying paint on with a knife, the canvas can sag and stretch. This is yet another reason why a flexibly painting knife blade is important; a flexible blade can prolong the life of the canvas.
Play With the Edge
The edges of a painting knife can make a variety of different marks on the canvas. The tip of the knife creates very fine, small dots; the edges can create lines of varying depths, as well as shapes of color with hard edges; and pressing the edge into the paint can produce ridges.
Layering Paint Colors
One interesting technique artists can experiment with when using a painting knife is something that isn't easily accomplished when using a paint brush. The knife, because of its hard edge, can be used to pull back top layers of paint and expose the colors beneath; this is a technique called sgraffito, which comes from the Italian word literally meaning, "to scratch".