Acrylic Palette Knife Painting Techniques – Free Video Course Part 2

by Will Kemp

in acrylic painting


A step-by-step Palette Knife Acrylic Painting – Video Course Part 2

In this painterly, impressionistic palette knife study, I am posting a weekly video on my YouTube channel so that you can follow along at home.

It’s free to subscribe to the blog to receive updates so you can keep up with the painting progress.

The reference photograph and full material list can be found on Part 1 here.

The photo can be ‘right clicked’ and ‘Save image as’, so you can use it as a reference, print it out and follow along with the video below…

Part 2 of 4

So once we’ve established the darks using the Burnt umber, and the lights using Titanium white, we can now start to build on these colours. The second stage is to introduce some blues into the painting.

This helps to create a visual balance between warm and cool, the browns being warm, the blues cool. Painting in this way can be very effective and a great way to discover how to mix neutrals.

Pro tip: Have a look at ‘Simple Still Life Tutorial Using Only 2 Colours’ for a painting completed using Burnt sienna, Ultramarine blue and Titanium white.

Common fears when using a palette knife

  • It will break on me – I’ve never had a palette break or snap on me, the metal used has a great flex to it, so it is surprisingly resilient.
  • Am I going to cut myself with the ‘knife’? – Not if you’re careful. If you use a painting knife with a rounded bottom it is very hard to cut yourself. I personally prefer the angled diamond shape for mixing and painting and if you use it daily, over a long period of time, the edge can become sharp.

Okay, I have to admit it, I have cut myself with a painting knife before, not whilst painting, but by cleaning. When you pull the knife through a piece of kitchen roll to remove the paint, just be careful not to pull the knife next to the palm of your hand. It wasn’t a bad cut, a bit like a paper cut, but it still smarts!

You can always use a plastic palette knife but I’ve found the lack of flex and spring makes for a less enjoyable painting experience.

Also, any flat surface can double as a palette knife, if you’re a keen baker you can find some lovely wide knives that can be used for large scale work.

In my abstract paintings, which focused on the industrialization of the British landscape, I used tools from the building trade instead of a palette knife – trowels, plaster floats, I even tried a shovel!


Will Kemp, If I could do it all over again, Oil on Canvas, 2002


These where quite large paintings (about 5ft by 4ft) and I initially painted a picturesque idyllic English scene, and then ‘blotted the landscape’ by dragging bright, vivid colours through the painting.


Will Kemp, Wait till the cows come home, Oil on Canvas, 2003


So don’t feel you have to use a specific tool, experiment to find what suits your own style of work.

Notice on the detail above how I even scratched into the paint using a palette knife to ‘draw’ a bridge. This technique is called Sgraffito and is most commonly used in pottery to make decorative patterns in the unfired clay, so go for it!

Large scale knifes don’t always have to to be used on large sale abstracts though. In my recent Venice paintings, (most of the paintings are painted with a brush) key thicker areas of paint were applied with the palette knife.


Will Kemp, Soft Waterways Venice I, Oil on Board, 24 x 24 inch, 2012


Will Kemp, Venice detail, Oil on Board, 24 x 24 inch, 2013

So let’s get started again on our palette knife study with the blues, and build up our painting in texture and colour.

How to paint with a palette knife –  Free acrylic video Course |Part 2

This video below shows the next steps of this palette knife landscape tutorial.

Make sure to subscribe (it’s free) to keep updated, you’ll get email updates when the next video is posted.

Next week, for Part 3, we’ll start to bring in some bright oranges to the foreground, so the cooler blues in the background mountains start to recede.

If you want to brush up on your colour theory, you should have a look at my Simple Colour Mixing Course.

You might also like:
1. Acrylic Palette Knife Painting Techniques – Free Video Course Part 1
2. Acrylic Palette Knife Painting Techniques – Free Video Course |Part 3
3. Acrylic Palette Knife Painting Techniques – Free Video Course |Part 4


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