The brush is what you’ll think of when someone mentions ‘painting’. Over the centuries, this has been the tool of many legendary artists. Although the brush dominates the range of tools used in painting, you just can’t ignore the palette knife. It certainly deserves recognition as a versatile tool in painting.
It can be used as a great addition to the brush while creating a brilliant work of art. In some cases, palette knives can also be a replacement for brushes for creating strong and compelling artworks. They are made using thin steel blades that are fixed on to wooden handles. Palette knives are also available in a variety of sizes and shapes.
Although each of these shapes serves a different function, you need not invest in buying many different palette knives. You can even have one with a flexible blade measuring two to three inches. It would help you in creating a wide range of marks and effects.
Given below are the different uses of palette knives for artists in creating their fantastic artworks:
1. Applying patches
If you’re using a palette knife, there’s no need to dilute your paint with the medium. Because of this you get a more vibrant color when you use a palette knife for its application. These knives are extremely useful in applying clean patches of color on a blank canvas. Patches can also be applied over a dry layer of paint using palette knives. The blade makes it easier for you to apply a layer of color on to the canvas.
You’ll notice that the action resembles a baker swiping a frosting over a cake. You can use the edge of the palette knife’s blade to scrape off an extra-thick patch of paint. This removes excess paint without weakening the statement of color made in the painting.
2. Making lines
You can make straight and crisp lines like the ones drawn with the help of a ruler. This is done by taking the paint on the blade’s edge and drawing it across the canvas. This technique is generally used for depicting certain man-made elements in a painting.
Some of these elements include fence posts and the straight edges of buildings or furniture. You can make these lines into zigzags and sinuous curves. This is done by manipulating the angle and pressure of the knife’s stroke.
3. Creating texture
Palette knives can be excellent tools for creating and reducing texture. You can use them to create texture in a painting as well as the illusion of a texture. When you apply the strokes thinly, you’ll replicate patterns such as grasses or grains of wood. Marks that look sculptural and protruding from the canvas can be created using thickly loaded strokes.
You can effectively emphasize the physicality and lushness of the paint with the help of this appealing extra dimension. The paint’s textured brushstrokes can make an area too busy. If this happens, you can lay the blade on the wet paint and massage gently to flatten it. This can also be a great way of mixing colors directly on the canvas.
4. Creating paint layers with small openings
You can create a paint layer with window-like small openings that reveal what lies underneath. This can be done by loading the palette knife with paint and moving it gently across the painting surface. The size of the openings would depend on the texture of the painting surface and pressure of the stroke. You’ll get larger windows if the surface is coarse canvas rather than a smooth panel or fine-grained canvas.
Edges are the places in a painting where two or more colors or shapes meet. Palette knives can be one of the most excellent tools for creating a wide array of edges. Some of the edges can be blurry and ambiguous while the others can be crisp and defined. They can be places for the artist to reveal his or her expression. They can provide a hint to the viewers about what the artist wants to emphasize.
A hard edge is instrumental in drawing the attention of the viewer towards a particular area. On the other hand, a soft or ambiguous edge allows the eye to travel ceaselessly from one shape to the next. Some of the edges alternate between clarity and ambiguity, which causes the viewer to keep changing focus.
For getting a crisp edge you’ll need to lay the knife loaded with paint flat on to the canvas. Then take a pause before moving the stroke away from the edge you’re creating. This helps in depositing a larger volume of paint.
You can get a soft edge by slurring the paint together at the place where the two colors intersect. Then press the palette knife and move it back and forth on the boundary. This allows you to work the patches of wet paint into each other.
6. Mixing paint
If you want to mix paint on your palette by not wasting any pigment, palette knives are the best. When you’re mixing using a brush, the paint collects in its bristles. When you dab it into a clean pile of color, it deposits some of the paint on the pile. This causes the pile’s contamination.
When you’re mixing paint using your palette knife, wipe the excess paint off the blade. You must do this before dipping it into a new color. This keeps the piles of paint on the palette clean and usable.
7. Placing color on the wet paint
There’s a possibility of disturbing the lower layers of the painting when placing clean color notes on a wet painting. You can prevent this from happening by using a palette knife. Simply load the knife with a generous portion of paint and dab it on the painting’s surface gently. The paint will just sit on the top without mixing with the wet paint below.
Your palette knife can also be a reliable scraping tool. At the end of a painting session, you can use the knife to clean your palette. This can be done by scraping off the mixtures of paint with your knife. Then you can use a paper towel to give its surface a final wipe.
If your painting isn’t working, you can scrape it down to the canvas with your palette knife. This will remove the volume of paint and leave behind a ghost of the image. You can then use the faint image as a guide to paint again.