My favourite art materials which allow me to achieve the best impasto painting results are tools and supplies that you already maybe using as an artist.
I want to share with you the tools that I use to produce my work because I would love for more and more people to get into painting impasto. I love the idea of creative expression and would love to see what people can produce with heavy texture, as a component of their painting process. Painting impasto is a very broad term, as it refers to treating the paint like a paste. Adding texture and heavy brushstrokes in your work can add so much depth and character to your paintings. For me, when I paint, I look to see which areas would be emphasised through applying thick paint. Most of my recent paintings of 2020 as heavily textured for that reason. I’ll be discussing the benefits of the following tools when using acrylic paint especially.
It becomes virtually impossible to manipulate paint onto a canvas without a palette knife. Palette knives come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are incredibly useful when you’re doing impasto work. Applying heavy paint with a brush may waste your paint as it’s likely that the paint will get stuck in the fibres and get muddy as you paint. Therefore, its essential you use your palette knife for mixing and applying the paint. Brushes are great for adding texture afterwards. Dampen your brush slightly and lightly stroke the heavy paint to engrave some brush details. You want to use a firm bristled brush for this!
Another tool that’s essential for palette knife work, is a damp rag. Generally, anything will do as long as it withstands the blade of a palette knife. In this case, domestic tissues and paper roll may not suffice. You could try old newspapers. Durable kitchen roll is slightly sturdier and it’s what I use, because after two uses, you can just throw it away. I would advise a rag you would use for oil painting. You could improvise with old bits of cloth from old clothing too. Dampened rags remove more paint from the knife, making the painting process much cleaner and efficient as opposed to dipping your paintbrush into water every time.
Having a decent palette is key. I have always used a ceramic, kitchen plate. It’s easy to clean up and a large dinner plate tends to be large enough. You want to make sure your palette is big enough to mix an array of colours. Using a standard glass palette would be great in this case. Mixing colours becomes a bit of problem on a limited-size palette.
Your choice medium plays a huge role in painting impasto. Make sure to choose the right one for the piece of art your doing. I’ve always used a super heavy, glossed thickening medium, and do not plan on changing it as it works with what I like to paint. Your thickening medium is what extends your paint supply. While oil painters would use wax to thicken the paint, we acrylic painters will opt for a thickening gel, a clear acrylic medium, to create that same effect. Thickening gels come in different viscosities. Some include beads, modelling paste and other bits of multimedia to create a unique consistency. Feel free to just use heavy body acrylic if you can afford to go through multiple tubes.
When you do choose your medium, I advise to quirt some out as you need it. Thickening gel, like acrylic paint, tends to dry out quickly.
Palette knife painting requires a bit more of an impressionist’s touch, where less blending is involved. Too much movement with the palette knife may cause colours to mud as the paint load is more than of a paint brush.
Have a full paint palette. It may be daunting to have a lot of paint out a once. But I’ve learnt from experience that you always need more when working with a palette knife. It becomes frustrating when you have to keep squeezing out more paint. Remember to squeeze out a little more than you usually would for the colours that you will use. Palette knife painting isn’t for the faint-hearted. You will most definitely use more paint than a standard paintbrush painting. That what you’ve signed up for!
By practise, you will notice your habits and work out way to save paint and work more efficiently over time, but when you’re getting started the last thing you want to do is fight against the materials. Just go for it and see what happens. You can create some wonderful textures with a palette knife. Be creative and explore