Best type of palette knife to use

Updated: Jul 1, 2018

Palette knives come in a wide array of materials but finding the right one for your project is just half the battle, the other half is making sure the creativity runs wild!

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One question that many aspiring artists may be interested in knowing about is:

What is the best palette knife to use?

Although you could probably still make a pretty mean sandwich with a palette knife, I typically wouldn’t recommend doing that if you’re going to be painting :)

Factors that contribute to what type of palette knife will be best depending on your application, include:

Material: Most of the palette knives that you’ll find at your local store in the craft section, will be based on two different types of materials: stainless steel based with a wooden handle and plastic.

  • Stainless Steel: Stainless steel palette knives are comprised of a flexible metal tip which is attached to a wooden handle. This type is more commonly used to mix different paint pigments together but can also be used on multiple types of canvases as well

  • Plastic: Durable, basically guaranteed to outlast human civilization and cheap. This is another type of palette knife that is less flexible but if you’re looking for something is a stiffer alternative, this is the type of knife to go with

Shape / Size:

  • Typically, if you’re purchasing palette knives within a package, you’re going to get a wide variety of shapes and sizes as illustrated below for both stainless steel and also plastic. The larger a palette knife is, the more canvas real estate can be covered. However, depending on your technique and how you paint, many palette knives can suit your needs. That’s the benefit to art :)


  • Price is actually one thing that is about as basic as it can get. Depending on material prices can vary but for beginners you can certainly get a fantastic brand for between $10 and $20. Plastic palette knives vary within the same price range as well. Prices will usually vary dependent on location as well but regardless, pricing isn’t as high as you would come to expect.

(Note: When I’ve used palette knives, more often than not, Creative Mark is my go to brand. They’ve been super flexible and I haven’t had issues yet!)

Now down to brass tax though, if you’re a person that wants to use a palette knife for a specific effect, the following will help to guide you in the right direction:

  • A long bladed palette knife is one that can be utilized if you want to carry out those long sweeps of color within your painting

  • A shorter blade allows you to take care of the smaller details such as creating detail on trees, flowers, clouds, etc.

  • Rounded blades aid in creating layered effects, these are the type of knives I would refer to as a baby spatula but name them whatever you’d like. They also help to add some pigment to areas where it is needed

  • Sharper point knives help to create sharp lines and add different effects to a painting

Ultimately, when it comes to selecting the right palette knife, flexibility is one of the biggest differences between stainless steel and plastic. If you’re looking for little flexibility, you definitely want to go with plastic palette knives but if you want a large range of flexibility stainless steel knives are the way to go.

One of the best aspects of art is through trial and error, we all learn in different ways and all art is unique to their creators. So get creating and have fun!

- Greg, Partner at Artistic Guidance


Stay tuned for more blog posts from Matt and Greg! Questions are meant to be answered and striving to answer what you really want to know about art is what we intend to do!