Acrylic Palette Knife Painting Techniques – Free Video Course Part 1

by Will Kemp

in acrylic painting

acrylic palette knife techniques

Palette knives are seen as a sign of confidence in a painter, you can wield them with gusto, paint impasto, and when no-ones looking you feel like Van Gogh or maybe Bob Ross!

They can have a reputation of being good for certain ‘effects’ or ‘tricks’, for example, painting a snow-capped mountain (and it’s true – they are!).

But often they are left in your paint box and you’re not sure where else they fit into your paint practice.

The humble palette knife is used to mix nearly all the paint for my paintings, from getting paints out of tubs, mixing tints and shades on the palette, to scraping off any mistakes.

I often favour a medium size, diamond shaped blade with a cranked handle – RGM 45 is my favourite tipple (sometimes referred to as a painting knife due to the angle of the cranked handle – see picture below)

It’s a good size for most mixes and I also paint with it, helping to keep my tools down to a minimum.

I’m overly attached to mine but what can a good painting knife do for you?…

Overcoming the fear of ‘wasted’ paint

RGM45Palette knife

When you’re first starting with acrylics, it can be hard to judge just how much paint you should or could use. Once you’ve invested in some artist quality paints, a natural reaction is not to put too much out on the palette and waste them, however, I’ve seen some pretty impressively full paint boxes that produce thin, translucent almost careful paintings that lack energy, expression and …paint!

By using a palette knife instead of a brush to actually apply paint to the canvas, it introduces you to texture, thickness of paint and puts you out of your paint squeezing comfort zone.

With all this in mind, I wanted to put together a 4 part free video tutorial that would teach you new skills, how to combine using a palette knife with your brushes and deciding when to swap between them.

You’ll create a lovely textured, painterly study that will unlock the joy of painting (and now you really will feel like Bob Ross!)

Part 1 of 4

Downloading the reference photograph

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

paletteknifereferencephoto

Materials you will need:

Palette Knife

  • Medium size, Diamond shaped, cranked (angled)  handle. I demonstrate with a RGM 45

Brush

Support

  • 8 x 10 MDF Board primed with 2 coats of acrylic gesso & 1 coat of coloured ground of Raw umber & Titanium white
  • Kitchen roll
  • Clean water
  • Tear-off palette or stay-wet palette

Paints – The colour palette

Artist quality acrylic colours ( I’ve used a mix of Golden Heavy Body colours & Winsor & Newton Artist Acrylic)

  • Titanium white
  • Cadmium yellow light
  • Alizarin crimson permanent (W&N)
  • Ultramarine blue
  • Burnt umber

How to paint with a palette knife -  Free acrylic video Course |Part 1

This video below shows the first steps I take to start the painting process of this palette knife landscape study.

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 2, we’ll start to add the blues to balance the browns and do some freestyle colour mixing.

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 2
2. Acrylic Palette Knife Painting Techniques – Free Video Course |Part 3
3. Acrylic Palette Knife Painting Techniques – Free Video Course |Part 4

 

{ 72 comments… read them below or add one }

Sherrill Pearson January 22, 2013

Wow…that was fantastic! This is what I have been looking for forever. What a fab teacher you are Will. I could listen to you and watch your handy-work endlessly.

Thanks so much! Montreal, Quebec

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Will Kemp January 22, 2013

Hi Sherrill, you’re welcome, thanks for your kind comments.

Cheers,
Will

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Angie January 22, 2013

Great work Will, and much appreciated

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Will Kemp January 22, 2013

Thanks Angie

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Dan January 22, 2013

Looking Good so far thanks

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Will Kemp January 23, 2013

Cheers Dan

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nuala wainwright January 23, 2013

Thank you so much Will for this excellent tutorial. I don’t really know the reason why but I seem to be scared to try using palette knives. You make it look so easy though, that I shall just have to give it a try-out.

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Will Kemp January 23, 2013

You’re welcome Nuala, palette knife’s can have that fear factor attached but they can be so easy to use, looking forward to hearing how you get on.

Cheers,
Will

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Pippa January 23, 2013

Hi Will,
I have found all your tutorials very easy to watch and absorb, think you do a really fabulous job and i am so excited to see these palette knife painting techniques as more and more it seems to be the technique I am most comfortable with. It was a great relief to see that you combine brush and palette knife and I am looking forward to the next 3 instalments.
thanks again
Pippa

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Will Kemp January 23, 2013

Hey Pippa, that’s great to hear. The combination between the brush and the knife can really make a difference to a painting that has refinement, yet a painterly style.

Cheers,
Will

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Robin Mize January 23, 2013

Such a great teaching style…many thanks!!!

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Will Kemp January 23, 2013

Cheers Robin

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Cate January 23, 2013

I can hardly wait going now to buy more paints.B-) many thanks

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Will Kemp January 23, 2013

You’re welcome Cate

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Donnarose January 23, 2013

Thank you.
Anxious to see part 2, 3 and 4

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Will Kemp January 23, 2013

Thanks Donna, yes, the next stages start to get exciting!

Cheers,
Will

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Shelly Willingham January 23, 2013

Absolutely loving this, Will, thank you!

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Will Kemp January 23, 2013

Good one Shelly

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Joe January 23, 2013

Verygood intro. Can’t wait to see the rest of them. Thanks.

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Will Kemp January 23, 2013

Thanks Joe,

Will

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Richele January 23, 2013

Will, I can’t express my gratitude enough! You give such clear, understandable instructions, with such a great sense of what the beginner experiences! Thank you for relating so well, and for being there to help! You give me hope!!!

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Will Kemp January 23, 2013

Hey Richele, very kind of you to say so, sometimes all your paintings need is a little hope!

Cheers,
Will

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Annelise January 23, 2013

Thank u so much for sharing, can’t wait for the next lesson, much appreciated

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Will Kemp January 23, 2013

You’re welcome Annelise, thanks for the comment.

Cheers,
Will

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Helen Northill January 23, 2013

After working through your colour mixing course, I found this tutorial just what I needed to give me the confidence to attempt even more adventurous paintings. Your explanations are so clear, it is a pleasure to work through your tutorials with you.

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Will Kemp January 23, 2013

Oh Hi Helen, that’s great to hear.
Thanks,
Will

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Catharina January 23, 2013

Thank you so much! You are a great teacher and I love the way you share your knowledge, have already learned so much. Looking forward to the next video!

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Will Kemp January 23, 2013

You’re welcome Catharina, thanks for your kind words.

Will

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Cheryle January 23, 2013

Thought I had lost my “mojo” till I discovered your website. You are simply awesome. Show me more!!! Thank you so very much for sharing your skills, knowledge and enthusiasm. Bring on the next video.

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Will Kemp January 24, 2013

Cheers Cheryle, great to hear you’ve re-discovered your painting mojo!

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ALison Stafford January 23, 2013

Well thank you again for making it all look so easy. I had a go at the weekend, though with a still life that I had found as I am trying to provide ‘art’ for my walls in the bedroom. What fun! I just needed another week to spend on it. THe use of palette knives really forces you to loosen up and not be too precious. I think I now need to invest in the mediums to make the paint more textured, so it’s time to get my Jacksons catalogue out! Thanks Will :) x

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Will Kemp January 24, 2013

Hey Ali, nice to hear from you, glad you’re enjoying using your palette knife!

Cheers,
Will

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abbie oakley January 23, 2013

Hi Will
Taking a winter’s break from my art classes (in French!). I fear much has been lost in translation! Now I’ve found you, everything is falling into place. Can’t wait to see how this one progresses… and dying to give my palette knife a try. My teacher will be mightily surprised come the start of lessons in spring!

Abbie
Ile de Re, France

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Will Kemp January 24, 2013

Hi Abbie, go for it with the palette knife! You’ll be a palette knife pro by spring.

Cheers,
Will

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Pruthvik Rajesh January 23, 2013

It was amazing! but I am waiting for your acrylic ‘Simple Colour Mixing’ course
because I am having a great trouble.

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Will Kemp January 25, 2013

Hi Pruthvik,

Glad to hear you’re enjoying it.

Cheers,

Will

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Nan January 23, 2013

love, love, love your work. I have learned so much. Is there a way to download your free videos. I go to the cottage in the summer and there is no internet there. I want to take my paints and do your lessons there. Thanks, you have made a real difference in my work. Nan

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Will Kemp January 25, 2013

Thanks Nan,

If you’re on Firefox as a browser, you can download an extension called Easy You Tube Video Downloader

Once this is installed you can really simply download the video and any other you tube video, so you can work away from the internet.

Cheers,

Will

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Amy January 23, 2013

Been watching your youtube videos and appreciating your painting AND teaching skills. A hundred years ago, I worked in oils but had to quit because children+oil paint odors minus studio space isn’t an option. Acrylics seemed impossible. Now-thanks to you-I’m learning of their versatility, but never considered palette knife painting. How fun! Thanks for your time and insight!

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Will Kemp January 24, 2013

Thanks Amy, using acrylics with a palette knife can really highlight their versatility.

Will

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Iris January 24, 2013

I have really learned a lot from your videos. My husband bought me the coloring mixing course as a gift and it is fabulous.

Thank you.

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Will Kemp January 24, 2013

Hi Iris, nice to hear from you, really pleased you’ve been enjoying the colour mixing course, when you’ve finished one of the colour studies I’d love to have a look.

Cheers,
Will

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Isabel January 24, 2013

Thanks Will for another great lesson, you give so much of your time and explain things so well, I am just one of the very many who appreciate what you do, I cannot wait to get started.

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Will Kemp January 24, 2013

Cheers Isabel, looking forward to seeing your results.

Will

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jonathon January 24, 2013

Well done Will for keeping us all awake.No shortcuts to becoming a good ‘artist’.

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Will Kemp January 25, 2013

Cheers Jonathon,

New techniques always help to keep your paintings fresh, hope you enjoy the course.

Will

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Prabha January 25, 2013

Hi Will, thank you so o o much for the video lesson. So nice of you to send it free to us! Looking forward to the rest of the tutorial. I will now take courage to work with a palette knife, now that you have shown us how :-) One question, what do you use as your colour palette? And how does the paint stay put when it is vertical? Bye Prabha

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Will Kemp January 25, 2013

Hi Prabha, great to hear you’re enjoying the lesson.

The paint stays vertical because it is a heavy body paint and isn’t liquid enough to slide down the palette. I usually work with the palette horizontal, however, for demonstrations it’s easier for you to see the mixes side by side. I’m using a tear-off palette.

Cheers,
Will

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Prabha January 27, 2013

Thanks Will for your prompt reply, er.r.r. what is a tear off palette? Prabha

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Will Kemp January 27, 2013

Hi Prabha, a tear-off palette is a palette made of about 50 individual sheets of parchment that are disposable after you use them. So you lay your paints out, finish your painting session, ‘tear off’ the sheet and place in the bin and then you have a fresh sheet to work onto next time without any washing up!

Here’s a picture of a tear-off palette.

You can use them for acrylics or oils,

Cheers,
Will

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Jane January 26, 2013

Hi Will
Just spent the day painting with my friend. We had a go at acrylic, this was really helpful. Loved it. Can’t wait for the next video
You have a great ability explaining things
I am really enjoying watching you paint.
Brilliant.
Thank you

Jane

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Will Kemp January 26, 2013

Hi Jane, thanks for dropping by, great to hear you’ve been enjoying the videos, next stage coming in a few days!

Cheers,
Will

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May January 27, 2013

Hi Will! Happy New Year! You are a great teacher; and I love your work. Thank you for sharing it with me!!!

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Will Kemp January 27, 2013

Thanks very much May, pleased you’re enjoying the lessons,
Cheers,
Will

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judy January 29, 2013

Wonderful, clear instructions, thanks so much, very much appreciated.

Can hardly wait to grab my painting knife and have a go at it.

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Will Kemp January 29, 2013

Thanks Judy, looking forward to hearing how your painting turns out.

Cheers,
Will

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Abby February 7, 2013

Thank you Will for another great tutorial. You are a truly gifted artist and teacher.

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Will Kemp February 8, 2013

Thanks very much Abby,
Cheers,
Will

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virginia nickle February 14, 2013

OH yes I will be so excited to work with the palette knife something new to use in the biggest part of the painting, I so loved how you taught me the still life cherry painting. I was really glad I did so well if I could I would send a photo but not sure how send it,I did the painting with cherries in a row, I know funny I called it three in a row. Thank you for your wonderful lesson

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Will Kemp February 14, 2013

Thanks Virginia, really pleased you enjoyed the cherry tutorial. I’ve just received your cherry picture, so thanks it looks fab.

Cheers,
Will

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Giuseppe February 14, 2013

Complimenti sei bravissimo e grazie soprattutto dei tuoi video free.
Giuseppe

Congratulations and thanks for your very good free video.
Giuseppe

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Will Kemp February 17, 2013

Grazie Giuseppe, sei stato felice godendo le lezioni,

Cheers,

Will

Thanks Giuseppe, pleased you’ve been enjoying the lessons,

Cheers,

Will

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Sergio March 3, 2013

Your work here is a beginner’s dream: clear, direct, confidence-inspiring.
Helping us out of the murky self-conscious doubts that quickly pile up into a whole lot of procrastination and no painting at all!
Thanks!

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Will Kemp March 3, 2013

Hi Sergio, thanks very much. really pleased you’re finding the tutorials helpful. Looking forward to hearing how your paintings turn out.

Cheers,
Will

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Thomas Arthur Holland March 18, 2013

I was bought a set of palette knives for a Christmas present .now I get to know how to use them ,always wanted to paint mountain scenes. I have used the old credit card trick for rocks and boulders that was ok. so thank you TAHolland.

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Will Kemp March 18, 2013

Cheers Thomas, glad to hear your new palette knives will be getting a workout!

You should get some more refinement and control with using the cranked handle.

Enjoy experimenting,

Will

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louis hansen June 15, 2013

Hi Will…I’m new to painting began with paint with numbers enjoyed it so much that I wanted to do my own. Then I discovered Will Kemp and learner ALOT. But I’m having a difficulty with painting shaded areas ie. mountains and forests. It doesn’t look natural. Any suggestions? Thanks for doing what you do!!! p.s. I hope you and yours had a wonderful time in Paris.

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Will Kemp June 16, 2013

Hi Louis, pleased you’re enjoying the site.
Forests and mountains usually look unnatural due to the colours being too intense, for example a vivid green.

Most colours in nature are actually very muted. Try mixing a green with a burnt umber or black & cadmium yellow, it will give you a very muted greenish hue and you can build up the painting tonally this way.

Have a look at this video to see how different greens can vary greatly in intensity.

Hope this helps,
Cheers,
Will

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kathryn August 12, 2013

Hi Will,
Thanks for these great lessons. The boards I have purchased say they have already been treated with gesso. Do I still need to add two more layers of gesso? I am ready with paints and knife, awaiting your response!
Kathryn

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Will Kemp August 12, 2013

Hi Kathryn,

Nice to hear from you, if the boards already have gesso applied you don’t need to apply any more gesso. Just add the coloured ground colour with thin acrylics and you’re good to go.

Cheers,
Will

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john carroll August 27, 2013

How do again Will

in regards to a still life and a painting knife is there a convention about consistency of use across each element? I have used a knife on a jug to create a particular texture but not on the fruit around the jug.

From a distance of 4 or 5 paces the various textures are not easily discerned, but standing next to the canvas I have wondered. I sorta of think ‘no problem’ because the texture of the jug and the fruit in reality are different, so Ive just maintained the difference but in a different way!

Cheers

john

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Will Kemp August 27, 2013

Hi John,

There isn’t really a convention or specific rule regarding the different textures of objects when working with a palette knife.

If anything, having a different texture/application for a different object helps to separate the different elements in the piece.

For example, a thinner, smoother application for a ceramic bowl compared with a rougher, more organic nature to a piece of fruit.

Trying to match the texture on your painting with the physical texture of the objects can be a subtle way of achieving a sense of realism in your still life painting – even if the application is quite abstract.

Cheers,
Will

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