How to paint with a knife & Impastos (Impasto)

Click on play to launch the video (above)

In this article and video, I explain a technique I sometimes use in my practice of abstract painting with acrylic paint: Impasto.

This fun technique is a great way to bring out the creative side of you!

What is impasto / Impasto

Impasto is a painting technique practiced in acrylic and oil paints.

Impasto, also known as impasto, is the use of a thick, undiluted paint to give relief to your canvas.

Impasto can be applied with brushes, spalters and other brushes, but the most appropriate method is to use a painting knife.

Knife painting (Impasto / Empâtement) Anthony Chambaud

How do I apply the impasto technique?

Unlike most other acrylic painting techniques, you don’t need to use a thinner for Impasto.

Simply use acrylic paint from the tube and apply with a painting knife, for example.

To obtain more material, you can use either :

  • An impasto aid
  • Molding paste
Using acrylic paint with an auxiliary

How I use Empâtements in my case

In my case, I keep things very simple and use paint straight from the tube, without using a painting aid.

I sometimes mix this technique with backgrounds created using paint and a diluting agent (a more diluted paint).

Technique Alla prima

When I work in impasto, I use the Alla prima technique.

The Italian Alla prima technique is actually working in the fresh. In short, you don’t wait for the paint to dry between coats. This allows you to create your painting in one go.

Alla Prima painting technique

The pitfall of the Alla prima technique

Working with Alla prima can be complex. In fact, you need to master color mixing and work with subtlety, anticipating as much as possible.

For example, if you overdo the knife strokes, the shades will blend together too much, and the result can be catastrophic and the complete opposite of what was intended.

Advantages of the Impasto technique

  • It’s a lot of fun
  • You can start simply
  • This technique is very compatible with acrylic paint.

Disadvantages of the Impasto technique

  • Longer drying time due to high media (paint) usage
  • You’ll need to use a lot more media (large quantities of paint).

My tips for practicing Impasto

  • Start simply, with classic thin acrylic paint and no auxiliaries
  • Prefer an application starting with your lightest shade and ending with your darkest.
  • Use few stabs, go sparingly
  • Wipe your knife clean when changing color/shade
  • EXPERIENCE IT! I can’t stress this enough, but pick up your knife and start applying your paints with simplicity – and see the results! 😉

Impasto demonstration

Don’t forget to watch the video at the top of this page, in which I show you some examples of my Impasto practice with and without auxiliaries.

You can also watch my demonstration videos in which I create abstract acrylic paintings using this technique.

What about you? Do you use this technique?

Please share your experience with us in the comments below. Do you use this technique? If yes, acrylic or oil paint?

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