Palette Knife Owl Painting Tutorial

Get loose, learn a new technique, and have fun painting this adorable palette knife owl. This lesson is perfect for beginners!

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Square orange and plum owl with a top hat and scarf_Palette Knife Owl Painting Tutorial

You know I love whimsical style painting. And I love to play and try new things when I paint. I know sometimes it’s challenging to let loose and be okay with things getting a little messy and not being perfect. 

Today, I’m teaching you how to paint with a palette knife. I first tried this technique a few years ago, and it has become one of my favorite techniques. A palette knife allows me to achieve texture and definition I can’t get any other way. 

I chose this cute owl for us to paint as a reminder to stay loose and have fun while you’re painting! 

How to Paint An Owl with a Palette Knife

Choose your colors.

We are going to have fun with this painting. It’s all about staying loose and getting messy! 

Part of staying loose is having fun with and playing with colors. I’m going to choose some colors to start with, but don’t feel like you need to choose the same colors. Take the opportunity to play with the colors you have or even try something new. 

The Social Easel Palette Knives with teal handles on a table with paint

I’m using Artist’s Loft™ acrylic paints. This paint is thicker than the craft paint I usually use. I want that thicker feeling to get the effects we’re after when painting with the palette knife. 

Tip: You can thicken regular craft paint by adding a couple of drops of gel medium to it. 

Trace the template onto your mixed media pad.  

To begin, download the owl template and print it so you can trace it onto your painting surface.

With a pencil, take your owl template and trace it onto a blank page in your mixed media pad. Don’t worry about getting every line just perfect, remember we’re staying loose and getting messy with this palette knife technique. 

Get in-depth steps on how to resize and transfer your template here.

How to resize and transfer a printable template

Paint the owl’s belly with the palette knife. 

Using your palette knife, start with a tan color for the owl’s belly. In order to create the texture we want, scoop the paint onto the back of the palette knife and then use it to create curved shapes using a very light touch. 

In order to create dimension, I added some of this orange-y color to the belly in wave shapes. 

painted belly feathers_Palette Knife Owl Painting Tutorial

We’re simply playing here, I had no specific plans for this painting. It’s freeing – and sometimes challenging – to just see where a painting is going to take us. 

Now it’s time to paint the owl’s jaunty hat. 

How cute is this hat? It adds so much personality to our owl! 

I chose a raw umber paint – like a dark brown color – and painted the brim and crown of the hat. We’ll paint the hatband a little later. 

For the hat, I loaded up the back of my palette knife and dragged it across the area I wanted to paint. 

Owl Hat_How to paint an owl with palette knives

Don’t worry about trying to achieve perfectly straight lines here. 

One of the things I love about painting with a palette knife is that it almost forces me to loosen up. It’s a whimsical style that is not meant to be perfect. Embrace the messy parts and see the imperfections as part of your painting’s charm. 

Tip: When painting with thicker paint, your dry time will be longer, so allow for that before you try to layer on more paint. 

Let’s give our owl’s face and wings some color. 

I chose this orange-y/red for our owl’s face and a mix of yellow and white for his beak. 

close up of the texture of paint on the stomach and eyes_Palette Knife Owl Painting Tutorial

Then to add some richness, I mixed magenta and orange for his wings. I love the way these colors look together. Use your palette knife to create texture and depth here. 

close up of the painted owl wing

It’s time to get our paintbrush involved. 

When using a palette knife on a painting, you don’t have to ONLY use a palette knife. You can use a palette knife on some areas and a brush on others. I often do this, and in fact, I did just that on this painting. 

Use a round brush to paint your owl’s eyes black. 

How to paint an owl with a palette knife

I also used my round brush to paint the owl’s scarf a bright teal color. I knew I wanted to get some great texture on this scarf, so I came back with my palette knife. 

To add a little variation to the scarf, I came in with a little of this magenta color and I love how that turned out! 

Scarf_How to paint an owl with a palette knife

Add the finishing touches to our palette knife owl.

Use the round brush to add white paint to the “whites” of our owl’s eyes. 

Now it’s time to come back with your palette knife and add some more texture wherever you’d like. I really focused on creating texture on the hat. 

Add some white dots to the center of our owl’s eyes and a little white to the scarf for definition. 

orange and plum owl with a top hat and scarf_Palette Knife Owl Painting Tutorial

Brown for his feet and some sassy red fringe on his scarf and our owl is ready for framing or to be incorporated into another piece of art… after he dries, of course. 

Painting with a palette knife is all about play and having fun – don’t be afraid to try new things! 

Watch the full palette knife owl tutorial. 

You can use the same owl template to paint this owl in many ways! Check out some of my other owl lessons:

Post a picture and share what you learned on The Social Easel Facebook Page!

Stay creative and happy painting!

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