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Essential to any oil or acrylic painter’s practice is a great palette knife or painting knife. With such tools, artists can combine colors and materials in the process of creating their works. Though originally intended for mixing media, palette knives can also be used to apply paint to canvas, with different sizes and shapes producing different effects. Even watercolorists can use them to scratch into a work. Note that a painting knife, often with a curved neck or handle to keep the artist’s hands away from the painted surface, is technically a different tool and may be best suited for applying pigment to canvas, but painting and palette knives—both the tools and their names—are often used interchangeably. The blades’ edges can be blunt or sharp, allowing a wide range of strokes, textures, and gradations. A good set of palette knives can open up a whole new world of formal experimentation for any painter, regardless of the medium. Read on to find out which sets we like best.
Blick Painting Knives, Starter Set
Flexibility is key with palette and painting knives, especially where mixing is concerned. These options from Blick are wonderfully bendable and easy to handle. Made by high-end artist supply company RGM, they afford artists the craftsmanship of RGM at lower-than-top-line prices. Each palette knife is hand-ground and tempered in Italy. This starter set includes three versatile knives: one rounded, one pointed, and one flat. With just these three, a whole new world of mixing and painting is instantly opened up.
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Liquitex Painting Knives
We can highly recommend this versatile set of traditional knives from the acrylic paint stalwart Liquitex. The six small stainless steel blades, similar in shape but each a different size, are perfect for detail work and feature smooth edges. They’re heavy enough to be strong without being inflexible. In fact, these knives provide plenty of give while applying paint to your surface. They work equally well for many media including acrylics and oil paints and resist corrosion. Plus, they come connected on a ring for easy organization.
Mont Marte Studio Palette Knife Set
For a starting set of palette knives priced lower than Blick’s starter set, consider this pack from Australia’s Mont Marte. Made with rustproof stainless steel blades and comfortable wooden handles, they are good tools for students learning palette knife techniques: since they are made with the same materials as higher-end sets, future upgrades won’t require much of an adjustment. The five knives in this set all have a slight offset between the handle and the blade, so they can easily be used for applying paint as well as mixing. The blades range in length between 35 and 70 millimeters.
Grumbacher Palette Knife Set
There are some times when plastic palette knives are the right choice. They’re lightweight, inexpensive, and easy to clean—you can even throw them in the dishwasher. Art teachers in particular may find Grumbacher’s six-knife set a good choice. At 10 inches long, the knives are full size, and the durable plastic is flexible, just like metal options. Within the set, there’s a good range of mixing and painting knives, including large, flat tools and narrower knives in a variety of shapes. Students can try different effects in any applicable medium with these knives.
TOP OF THE LINE
RGM Italian Plus Painting Knife Set
RGM makes exceptional painting knives in Italy, and their Plus line features extra protection from corrosion so that you can keep using them for years. The nickel-plated carbon steel is sturdy but has excellent flexibility. The handles are a handsome hardwood and the solid brass ferrules keep everything reliably in place. With handground blades, the level of craftsmanship is even more apparent. If you like this set of six knives, RGM has over 250 models for every use or style imaginable.