Painting Knife Techniques

This tutorial demonstrates 3 basic techniques for using a diamond-shaped painting knife with oil paints.
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Painting Knife Techniques

Palette knife painting is a quick and expressive way to create textured images. Learn to use this versatile oil painting tool and explore your creative potential. This tutorial demonstrates 3 basic techniques for using a diamond-shaped painting knife with oil paints. These same techniques can also be applied when using a heavy body acrylic paint.


  • Diamond shape painting knife
  • Flat palette
  • Oil paint
  • Canvas boards
  • Odorless solvent


How to paint using a palette knife

Step 1:

Dab the flat side of the knife into the paint and apply it to the canvas by laying the flat edge firmly against the surface and dragging your knife downwards. Press your fingers against the knife blade to make sure it contacts firmly with your painting surface. This is a great technique for applying thick layers of paint, blending areas together or adding wispy traces of colour depending on how much paint you pick up with your knife.

Step 2: 

Used on its edge, a painting knife is a great way to add sharply defined straight lines to a painting. Dab the edge of your knife in your paint and apply it to the canvas either by touching it to the canvas on its side or by dragging it upwards in a smooth gesture. This technique is useful for painting trees, grass and other fine details. The edge of the palette knife can also be used to scrape through layers of paint to create effects.

Step 3: 

Pick up paint with just the curved tip of the painting knife. Apply the paint to your canvas in a curved motion with only the tip touching at a 30 to 45-degree angle. This gesture is perfect for rendering billowy cloud shapes or leaves on trees. These are just 3 ways that you can make marks in oil paint with a diamond-shaped painting tool. Don’t be afraid to experiment and employ a variety of gestures to see what works best for you. Most importantly, don’t forget to have fun!


  • Use a palette knife to apply paint wet on wet or wet over dry.
  • For best results, apply your paint over a coloured background or underpainting.
  • Clean up with odorless solvent.