The Difference Between Painting and Palette Knives

Painting knives are used just like how a brush, to apply paste and paint to a canvass or a surface. On the other hand, palette knives are designed to mix paint and mediums before application to a canvass or a surface.

In this blog post, we will talk about each tool’s general description, function, and features. After which, we shall conclude on which of the two is more essential than the other.

Painting and Palette Knives

Painting Knife

General Description

A painting knife is a painting tool. The primary function of this tool is to apply pigment to a canvass or a surface. It is seen as an alternative to a paintbrush. A painting knife differs from a brush in the sense that it is used for thicker paint and even tricksier applications.



A painting knife is a flexible steel blade used by artists to apply paint. It features a blade, lowered like a trowel, made for painting on canvas. The blade has different variants in terms of length and shape: triangular, rectangular, or with more of a diamond shape.

The blade is flexible to be able to go through varying degrees of stiffness in the canvas. It does not have a sharpened knife edge.


A painting knife features a deep bend in the handle. This kind of grip was designed for a reason. That is, so the painter can hold the knife head flat against the canvas of the surface without touching the newly painted area.

The handle is continuous with a rather short ferrule and a narrow metal collar that screws onto the tang. Normally, it has an oblong wooden handle with ridged ends to promote a firm grip. However, some variants have ivory handles.

Palette Knife

General Description

It is a painting tool that can be utilized in conjunction with paints, mediums, and mixes on the palette. The palette knife’s primary function of this tool is to mix paint before application to the canvass or surface. Nonetheless, it is also a palette knife’s job to scrape, mix, and push around the paint.



A palette knife features a rigid blade longer than that of the painting knife. It has an unsharpened cutting edge. The blade is less flexible than that its counterpart.

The blade of the palette knife has various shapes and sizes depending on what it will use to mix paint. 


Notably, these knives have slight or no crank between the blade and the handle. Its wider and longer handle allows a painter to hold the knife with its blade close to the surface. This helps in mixing paints on the palette and then effortlessly apply them to canvass. 

Like painting knives, handles are usually made out of wood. But there are some with plastic and rubber handles too.

Final Verdict

It is unquestionable. Both of these blades are vital tools for a painter. Both have their own specific usage and purposes.

A palette knife is a great tool for mixing paints on the palette before applying them to the canvass or surface. It provides greater control overspreading of paint. On the other hand, painting knives are very convenient in creating fine details on canvasses since they are flexible and do not leave brush strokes. 

Both tools are great investments, especially for painting enthusiasts.

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