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It’s always important to have the right tools for the job, and that applies as much to artist knives as to anything else (no, you can’t just use a butter knife in your studio). These blades can be used for scooping, spreading, mixing, and lifting, whether you’re working with paint, printmaking ink, putty, or even ABS plastic for 3D printing. Knives come in all shapes and sizes as well as materials, and it can be a real pain to find one that fits your particular needs. To help ease your search, we’ve identified five versatile favorites; chances are one will become your favorite too.
Art Alternatives Artist Work Knife
We love this go-to knife for just about any medium-duty task. Perfectly balanced from end to end, comfortable to hold, and providing the ideal amount of flex, it can be used for blending wet paint, scraping dry paint, mixing inks, and much more. The 4-inch-long steel blade is a slim but durable surface; it’s attached to a smooth, bulb-shaped wooden handle complete with a leather thong for hanging. Maybe best of all, this knife is so affordably priced that you can buy several to keep around your studio for different projects.
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Red Devil Stiff Putty Knife
This knife is slightly more rigid (and a bit more expensive) than our top pick, being specifically intended for patching up holes in hard surfaces with putty. It can be used for much more than that, though: mix ink, smooth out paint, and even lift material from the bed of a 3D printer. Its lacquered carbon steel blade features a slightly tapered edge for precise and delicate applications and is securely attached via rivets to a black nylon handle. As a bonus, the solid-steel, brass-plated head of the handle can be used for light hammering jobs.
ANOTHER GOOD CHOICE
Warner ProGrip Putty Knife
Another versatile knife designed specifically for working with putty, this is a great option for artists seeking a larger blade. You can purchase this knife with a blade up to 6 inches wide; made of stainless steel, it can tolerate lots of abuse. The 3-inch option is a great middle-ground tool for most jobs, and we like that its leading edge is angled so you can reach corners with little effort. More flexible than the Red Devil knife, this one is exceptionally sharp and therefore excels at scraping dried paint and getting under those stubborn layers.
Dewalt Putty Knife
This is a real workhorse knife that is capable of moving super-stiff and stubborn material. Available in eight blade widths from 1 to 10 inches, this knife is made of top-quality stainless steel so it will rarely rust, and because of its full-tang construction (meaning the blade is imbedded through the full length of the handle), it will last many years, even if you use it with considerable force or drop it frequently. The handle is satisfyingly chunky and cushioned for comfort.
Hyper Tough Plastic Putty Knife Set
This trio of knives are so inexpensive, you can buy them for just one project and then toss them out, or keep them on hand for infrequent use. The set comes with knives in three widths—1½ inches, 3 inches, and 6 inches—to handle jobs of virtually any size. Made of sturdy and smooth plastic with a hint of flexibility, they are comfortable to hold and capable of moving putty, paint, adhesives, and similar-bodied materials. Plus, they’re exceedingly easy to clean.