Painting with a painting knife last week in John Eberberger’s workshop last week reminded me how different it is from a brush.  The main differences are :1) you have less control (at least I do, I’ve seen some deft knife handeling by experts like Camille and John); 2) you can achieve much cleaner color; 3) the texture of the painting is interesting. I have an ongoing goal to loosen up my paint application, so the knife is a great tool.  Do you use a painting knife?  What’s your experience?

Untitled (Landscape), Oil on Linen, 11x14
Untitled (Landscape), Oil on Linen, 11x14"


20 thoughts on “Landscape – Palette Knife

  1. Hi Ed. Nice painting. I paint with the knife sometimes. I actually did a state series and painted 49 of the 50 small paintings with a knife, which led to me doing some plein air work in the same fashion. In fact, one knife plein air has made it into the Richard Schmid auction in Colorado in September. You can click on the “palette knife” tag on my blog sidebar to see the 70+ knife paintings I’ve done in the past year.

  2. Hello Ed! I love your work and your blog. I paint with a palette knife sometimes too, although I love a beautiful juicy brushstroke. One of the things I like about palette knife, is the rich, thick impasto a painter can achieve – and in skillful hands, the palette knife stroke is equally beautiful. Also, no need to bring solvents to clean brushes – great for plein air – I am always looking for ways to lighten the load for my plein air work. Here’s one of my plein air palette knife paintings:

  3. You’re right, Laura, one reason to love painting with the knife is you don’t have to was brushes and deal with solvents! That’s the worse part of painting for me.

  4. Hello, Ed –
    Been enjoying your weblog for some time now – I had to chime in on the knife work. I’m not a knife painter at all – they have always just felt tremendously awkward in my hand to me. The one and only time I decided to challenge myself and complete a painting solely with a knife, I ended up having a tantrum half way through the painting. The knife is still rusting away in the bottom of that beaver pond, and I have to say, it made the most glorious whirring sound as it spun through the air, and a lovely satisfying little “ploop” hitting the water! Mixing colors, yes, paint application NO!! (it’s a weakness, I know. Someday I’ll try again…. but … not just yet. My blood pressure goes up just thinking about it!!)
    Keep up the good work –
    Cristy in WY

    • Cristy, I love your comment! I see it. I know it’s a bear painting with a knife. I guess I’m looking for some new challenges right now. It’s a skill I want to have available to me, but I doubt I’ll become a “palette knife painter”.

  5. Hi Ed,

    I thought I would enter the blogosphere by commenting on using a palette or painting knife. I start most of my paintings with a brush and then finish them with a palette knife. You just can’t get the colors with a brush and the palette knife, at times, feels to me like a brush.

    I still haven’t started my blog. Any pointers!


    • You’re starting out just right: by reading other blogs and leaving comments. This is how you build relationships with other artists, and juice up your Google rankings. I sent you an email as well with some times. Cheers.

  6. Hello Ed,

    Among your works … Untitled Landscape (Lavender), this, is one of my favorites. You posess excellent artistry. Can you or anyone, recommend a southern California teacher, around Los Angeles, specializing in Plein Air? I am an artist and I teach studio art, but have never learned or much praticed true Plin Air. Would love to learn.

    • Thanks, Alice. If you are in Southern California, I recommend studying with Ken Auster. He’s great. I like the work of Eric Merril as well, but haven’t studied with him myself.

    • Yes, my experience is the same, Linda. I do actually enjoy that lack of control, especially since I’m trying to loosen up the look of my work. It’s like sculpting and painting at the same time.

    • Ron, thank you for the kind words. Mastering the palette knife does take time, but well worth the effects and clarity of color you can achieve. The best way to learn is to do entire paintings that way, so you don’t revert to a brush when you really need it. Over time, I’ve mixed use of brush and knife, to take advantage of the strengths of each.

  7. I’ve been almost exclusively using the palette knife for about a year now, after 30 years of using mainly brushes. I wanted more texture and more paint on the surface and the knife gave me what I wanted. I had done some encaustic with a stylus and the “bumps” gave me the texture so I tried the knives to do the same with oils, with even more variation in the strokes possible. Even have been going over some old paintings with the knife with success. My blog with these newer works is:
    I use impasto mediums that at the same time give me a nice semi-gloss shine to the paint so don’t need varnish, and I use water soluble oils so they dry quickly too. The combination gives me aspects I’ve never had before, texture, thick paint, quick drying to add layers. For details or where needed, the thick paint is amenable to brush touchups. The best of both worlds.

  8. I paint exclusively with a palette knife. I use to take workshops and the instructors would ask me put away my palette knives and try a brush. After a few minutes, I would pull out the knives again! I will be teaching workshops in the fall in So Cal because I have had so many requests to do so. Love your work! And keep those palette knives busy. They are wonderful to paint with!

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