Essential to any oil or acrylic painter’s practice is a great palette knife, or spatula. Artists employ them to combine colors, pastes, and other materials, and they can also be used to apply paint to canvas, with different sizes and shapes producing different effects. Even watercolorists can use them to scratch back into a work. Note that a painting knife—often with a curved neck or handle to keep the artist’s hands free from the painted surface—is technically a different tool, specifically designed for applying pigment to support, but painting and palette knives can be and are used interchangeably. The blades’ tips can be blunt or sharp, allowing for a wide range of strokes, textures, and gradations. A good palette knife can open up a whole new world of formal experimentation for any painter, regardless of their medium. Below, browse our favorites.
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1. Liquitex Freestyle Palette Knives Set
Acrylics stalwart Liquidtex’s versatile set of traditional knives are highly recommended. The six small stainless steel blades are perfect for detail work and feature smooth edges. They’re heavy enough to be strong without being heavy or inflexible. Flexibility is one of the things that sets these blades apart—you have some 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.
2. 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 these, they have over 250 models for every use or style imaginable.
3. Royal Brush Plastic Painting Knives
This set of 36 plastic painting knives in six different styles by Royal Brush is ideal for students and painters learning the ropes of the craft. The various tools are color coded in vibrant shades, so they’re easy to distinguish from one another. Great for mixing acrylic and oil paints, these painting knives are unexpectedly durable and long lasting. Young artists don’t need to worry about scratching themselves with a sharp metal edge with this plastic set, so experimentations in painting can begin from a young age. With such a substantial quantity, you and your students won’t soon run out of knives for painting, mixing, and more.
4. RGM Idea Line Painting/Palette Knife
RGM’s Idea line has commendable solid-metal options. The knives are light-weight and durable so you can spend hours working with them. What’s more, they’re dishwasher-safe and easy to clean once your work is complete. Since these tools are designed to be used as both palette knives and painting knives, RGM is providing one-stop-shopping with this high-quality product. For one versatile knife that will get you far, we recommend the useful 35/8 which features an elongated teardrop blade shape.
5. Holbein Spatula
Osaka-based Holbein’s artist spatulas are truly something special. This spatula has quite a long blade that measures 180mm (about 7 inches), which is good for large-scale painting and getting good coverage. Each spatula is hand forged in Seki, Japan, a city known worldwide for making top tier knives and, historically, swords.
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