Painting with palette knife and notes on color theory


  1. No mess, No fuss
  2. Mixing with palette knife is quick
  3.  Easy to keep colors clean
  4. You can have many color variations
  5. Fun to paint
  6. Palette knife makes abstract strokes easy
  7. Mark making
  8. Scraping
  9. Good for environment
  10. Solvent-free studio


There are many different ways a painting can be constructed using only the palette knife and paints. Some examples of my work are below.




Spring in the mountains, 6" X 6", Oil

This is a small painting, but a variety of colors exist. The colors are clean. Here the palette knife was used to apply paint in small areas. By varying the colors in each area a beautiful picture has emerged.


Large acrylic painting with palette knife

In this expressionist abstract paintings, I have used the quick-drying qualities of acrylic paint to scrape paint over already dried areas. The long vertical and horizontal marks are made with the edge of a large palette knife.

 Rowboat on Essex pier,  12" X 9", Oil

This painting was completed on location in just two hours. By using the palette knife, I was able to quickly apply paint without wasting time cleaning brushes.

Abstract floral bouquet in blue vase, 12" X 12", Oil

 I often carve out the foregorund shapes by using thick white paint towards the end of the painting. Then I go back to this white paint to make marks for steps and leaves.

A rainy day, 10" X 10", Oil

 I have scraped the paint in parts of the road. The telephone poles have been carved out using a fine pointed end of a small paintbrush. I have applied dabs of pure colors here and there to make the painting come alive.



Notes on Color theory

Color is composed of three elements 

  1. Hue
  2. Value
  3. Chroma


















Example of different Chroma levels






Converting to grey scale





Color temperature bias


  1. Every color has a warm and cool bias
  2. Why is it important to know temperature bias?
  3. To get high chroma colors, always mix colors of the same temperature bias.
  4. Titanium White has a cool temperature, it makes warm colors chalky
  5. Make warm and cool grey from Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Umber.
  6. Mix a similar value grey to a color to make it greyer 
  7. Don't use black to darken colors. Use the complementary color to mute it.
  8. Always mix a dark color into a light color. Mix very little at a time and work your way towards your final color.
  9. Try not to use more than two colors.




Reference picture






Sketch with outlines and values



Let's get to work!

  1. Paint a transparent orange ground, let it dry
  2. Sketch the landscape on the canvas
  3. Mix colors on the palette with a palette knife, wiping it with each color change.
  4. Paint the darkest darks first.
  5. Paint the medium tones
  6. Paint the highlights last.
  7. Work all over the canvas, not just in one area.
  8. Within each value, vary color temperature (depict direction of sunlight)
  9. Make your mark, Scrape, Soften, scribble 
  10. Add finer details using a brush if needed (be careful not to overwork).

Reference books

  1. Color by Betty Edwards
  2. Guide to Landscape painting by John F Carlson
  3. Making Color Sing by Jeanne Dobie