I was trying to follow along with Bob Ross - Snow Fall (Season 1 Episode 12) and I am having difficulty with the mountain in the background. I am finding that unless I press really hard that I don't distribute any paint, but if I press sufficiently hard I am scraping the canvas.

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This picture below shows that the indent is deeper on the sides of the knife.

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The picture below shows that there seems to be some curvature.

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Should I be using this palette knife? Or should I get a straighter edge? Or am I using the knife incorrectly?

2 Answers 2


My first impression was that your paint looks too watery (or rather "oily") to be effectively distributed with a pallette knife (but I might be mistaken. It's hard to tell from your pictures). If you watch Bob Ross put paints on his pallette, most of them have a consistency like toothpaste and keep their shape when squeezed out of the tube. That makes it easier to pick up a sufficient amount on the knife and transfer it onto the canvas without denting it.

If your paint is viscous enough, you should load your knife more often with a fresh batch of paint. Scrape the knife flat over the pallette to load off excess paint, then scrape it at a 80 - 90° angle over the paint to take up fresh paint. You can basically only do one major stroke before having to load the knive again because you can only use the very edge of it.

The curve in your knife definitely doesn't make it better. Honestly, I would try straightening it out. With some luck, that could already solve your problem. If you have other pallette knives, maybe try them instead. In my experience the thin long ones are better at evenly distributing paint, but don't have the nice edge you want for a mountain top.

Have a look at this other Bob Ross video where he shows in very much detail how he mixes the paint for a mountain with the knife and how he picks up the paint with the knife. There's supposed to be a small roll of paint at the very edge of the knife. That's only possible if the paints have a firm consistency. At 6:00 minutes he shows that hes using "Bob Ross" brand paints and explains several times how important it is that you use "firm and dry paints" for his technique. (I could neither open nor find the episode you referenced, so I cannot check if he explains the same details in it.)

  • Think its the consistency is the main issue more than the bow in the knife.
    – rebusB
    Apr 7, 2023 at 0:29

Two more factors are important here: the tautness of the canvas, and—especially—the angle of incidence. You can see how Ross is holding his knife at maybe a 20° angle here:

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I'm mostly mentioning this because you make no remarks about these parameters, and for all I know that's not where your problems stem from. However, seeing the photos of the marks your knife leaves on the canvas, it looks like that could be the issue.
Have you tried using the convex side of the palette knife?

Also note that Ross has quite a lot of paint on his knife, and that he doesn't scratch with it: he seems to use it like someone delicately putting a lot of butter on a sandwich.

I myself have only used smaller, or, at least, narrower, palette knives. A short, rhombus-shaped one, which was very rigid, and good to use for making small scratches in the paint, or even just plucking hairs or other unwanted particles from the surface; and a very flexible, 7 cm long narrow one, which, while not being able to carry as much paint as the one you and Ross are using, would allow for similar applications.

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