Painting With An Oil Painting Knife

oil painting of a boat in a small port painted with oils

Posted On July 7, 2019

Painting with an oil painting knife is a very expressive way to build thick layers of paint in order to get a rich textured painted surface. Painting knives are also ideal for the technique all prima when you are painting quickly, directly and with daring moves finishing your painting with just one layer of paint.

Painting Knives

Painting knives are not the same as palette knives. Palette knives have a flat handle and long flat blade and are used for mixing the paint on the palette and for cleaning it.

Painting knife has a very elastic blade and bent handle so painters fingers can avoid touching the canvas while adding the paint.

There are many different shapes and sizes of painting knives that can help you create many different textures and effects while painting.


In the beginning painting with a painting knife requires more skill than painting with a paintbrush. Therefore it is very important to practice until you get the feel for it.

You can paint using the side of a knife for big wide spreads of paint or you can use the tip of the knife for sharp-edged patterns.

The edge of the blade creates fine line and you can also lift the knife from the surface from time to time to create the rough dotted texture.

purple sketch of a boat in a port made with oil colors

Water At Night

In order to create this painting you will need the following:

  • Primmed canvas
  • Triangular painting knife
  • Flat hog bristle brush number 6
  • Flat hog bristle brush number 2
  • Odourless mineral spirits
  • Refined linseed oil

You will need the following oil colors:

  • Spectrum Yellow
  • Alizarine Red
  • Ochre Yellow
  • Purple
  • French Ultramarine
  • Cobalt Purple
  • Titanium White


Before you start adding the paint with a painting knife do a single color sketch that will be a composition guide to you as you work. For the main areas on the windows use French Ultramarine and Purple diluted a lot with mineral spirits.

Paint with flat hog bristle brush number 6. Ad more mineral spirits to the paint to make it lighter for the middle tones and for the lightest areas on the painting leave the canvas unpainted. With flat brush number 2 sketch human figures and the details on the buildings. Leave the painting to dry for two to three days.

sketch of a little boat in a port made with oil colors

Building The Composition

Start using thick paint with some linseed oil and mineral spirits added like mediums.

Begin with bright lights at coffee shops on the shore using different combinations of Titanium White, Ochre Yellow and Spectrum Yellow.

Add a little bit of Alizarine red for the darkest tones. Use the painting knife to add the paint in thick layers turning it horizontally and vertically to depict the movement of the water.

With the tip of the knife paint around the human figure in the boat. In case you make a mistake or add too much paint just scrape it off with the edge of a painting knife.

Using oil painting knife define the buildings adding different tones and colors. Paint with the same yellows you already mixed adding a little bit of Purple and Alizarine Red for the darkest tones on the buildings.

Use dark brown for the reflections in the water on the right end of the painting. Add the paint in thick layers.

For dark reflections in the front plane of the painting use warm tones mixed of Ochre Yellow, Spectrum Yellow red and purple.

Paint a circle of bluish light in the bottom of the street lamp using the mixture of French Ultramarine, Titanium White and a little bit of Purple.

For the street lamp use white with a little bit of blue and purple added. Pure white would look too bright and unnatural.

Add scattered spreads of pale blue around the lamp to create the impression that it shines. Artificial light usually looks as it has a bright centre surrounded by the halo of pale light.

boat in a port at night sketch made with oil colors

Adding The Details

Paint the night sky with dark blue tones mixed of French Ultramarine, Purple and a little bit of Titanium White. Make variations in tone in order to depict reflections of the light in the sky.

Make the blue mixture darker by adding Alizarine Red and Cobalt Purple and additionally work on the pier,  lamp post and the human figure in the front plane.

Point out the brightest areas on the figure and the stones on the pavement by scraping the fresh paint using the edge of the blade of a painting knife. Mix Frenc Ultramarine and Cobalt Purple and work on the reflections of the boat in the water.

painting of a boat in a port made with oil painting knife

Finishing Touches

Add white paint to the mixture of ultramarine and purple and paint the light waves with the tip of an oil painting knife. Paint the dark reflections of the buildings on the right of the boat using the mixture of Alizarine Red, Cobalt Purple, French Ultramarine and Ochre Yellow.

Additionally work on the boat and human figure with the mixture of French Ultramarine and Cobalt Purple then scrape the paint of the boat using the edge of the blade in order to depict the texture of wood.

Take some purple on the edge of the blade and start adding horizontal lines to depict the dark waves in the water.

With the same color paint the rope that is tying the boat to the pier again using the tip of the painting knife.

Paint the brightest reflections in the water using Spectrum Yellow. Apply the paint with vertical moves of the knife.

With the tip of the knife add some dark purple dots in front of the coffee shops to depict the movement of the people in front of it. To finish the painting use flat hog bristle brush number 2 and paint the windows on the buildings using different tones of ultramarine and purple.

This is one of many ways to use a painting knife for painting. If you have any questions regarding the subject or need any help just leave it to me below and I will be more than happy to answer and help in any way I can.

Written by Magdalena

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  1. nft artist

    Hey there! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a
    collection of volunteers and starting a new project in a community in the same niche.
    Your blog provided us valuable information to work on. You have done a extraordinary job!


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