22 December, 2009

Best Surface to paint on, other than canvas

I'm still kind of new to painting so just wondering what others think about this. I have tried watercolor paper, which i like to paint on, but i figure that people are not going to pay much for an acrylic painting on watercolor paper. Have also tried masonite, but the 1/8 inch thick seems to chip easily and the thicker boards seem like they would be difficult to frame. Are there other options i should try?



Vincent von Frese 23 Dec 2009

Illustration board can be gessoed and handles the acrylics and oils well. It is light and easily trimmed to fit any frames or matt boards you may have purchased 2nd hand as well.

Acrylics also works on banner cloths you can get cheaply from sign supply stores. This has gesso on it already whichhas been sprayed on. Acrylic can be installed on anything gessoed.

marlene burns 24 Dec 2009

buy your canvas, unprimed by the roll and prime it yourself. it doesn't get much cheaper....

Vincent von Frese 25 Dec 2009

I found a great "hidden" source for heavy milled muslin canvas. Theatrical Supply stores have in stock for their theater customers who use it for stage back drops and murals. It is available in 12' x 100' rolls but I by 5 or ten yards at a time and then like Marlene cut and prime it myself. I use an industrial whiting for priming that comes by the gallon from the sign painting supply houses. It is water based but is the best known primer for any medium of paint to adhere to it and this primer also works on metal.

WESTERN ARTWORK By Denny Karchner 25 Dec 2009

Hi Gary, Marlene and Vincent.

I use the Ampersand Masonite Gessobord exclusively for my oils. I have not had any problems with chipping at all. I find they are extremely easy to frame up. Peal the wrapper and start painting. I have even used their Masonite boards for some of my graphites but I usually use the heavy-weight, smooth, "hot press" Crescent boards for my graphites.


For most of my watercolor work, I use the Stratmore heavy-weight watercolor paper. Crescent's "cold press" boards work well for watercolors and acrylics too.

Good luck!


Mike Filippello 27 Dec 2009

Hey Gary- I love painting on wood. I have painted on scrap wood and big pieces of ply wood. The only thing is to do a couple of coats of white paint on the wood first to get a good base.

Good Luck! The Blank Page is waiting for you!

Vincent von Frese 27 Dec 2009

Plywood can warp unless it is well sealed. MDO (medium overlay) which is used in cabinet making and sign painting as well as wall board in expensive homes is great with it's paintable smooth surface.

The best I've found to paint on is industrial aluminite(find at sign supply centers). Its coming in various sizes and names bit is basically double sided aluminum with one side white sprayed and plastic between like an Oreo cookie. This is amazing in use for paintings except it can be bent as aluminum can be.

The reason why artists use canvas is it can be rolled and shipped as well as it is breathable to dry oil from the unpainted side. Canvas is not needed for Acrylic.

Shellton Tremble 28 Dec 2009

I've found that boxed gesso boards and even solid plastic or glass is a great surface for a different feel and application. Many of the gesso board or clay boards are very exquisite to paint on. I lot have cradles with 1" to 3" sides...some call them hardboards too...heck, you can even create you own surfaces with gels and papers (mix media). I like to use sand a lot...

Gary Adams 31 Dec 2009

Thanks for all the replies, I think I am going to try the gessobord next.

Chris Callahan 01 Jan 2010

I'm a bit of a rebel, and like to think of pretty much anything as my next painting surface. I've even painted on 2 inch thick pieces of foam. Gessoed the piece first then used acrylic, ink, and pencil, and modeling paste. Why limit yourself when the world is a feast of painting surfaces :)

Per Corell 03 Jan 2010

I wonder if you tried the right type of Masonite. There are soft and hard Masonite and the soft tissue is useless. The hard Masonite is 3 mm. thick, hold a rough and a gloss surface is often used as backside, in furniture.

Gary Adams 05 Jan 2010

Most likely cheap masonite, to be honest. Bought from one of those chain art supply stores. Can't remember what brand though.

Per Corell 09 Jan 2010

Masonite is generaly cheap stuff, but even there there are various quality all depending a great many factors. Offcaurse it is allway's best to pick a decent quality "canvas", but when you get to know masonite you also learn to treat it so that it become a decent canvas. Some Masonite are gloss both sides and even painted, but most has one gloss side and one rough side, Using the gloss side is what most do, but then you often see the paint peeling off after some years. Masonite will take up water and water is most destructive with masonite as I know it. I used masonite outside in open air for years, but then both sides has been carefully treated. Also even the rough side take up four times the amount of paint that the gloss side will, the rough side is most attractive with it's mashine pattern that often act as rough canvas, --- masonite tend to bend due to the two sides varying surface, but will regain it's form just forced a little into the right flat shape. Guess you see I do have some experience with this lovely canvas, please check this image that was painted inside, and after a few layers of water based varnish, work perfect even after halve a year outside, in danish condisions, please note, that this is a very cheap canvas for a painting of 110x230 Cm .

Vincent von Frese 09 Jan 2010

With masonite there is two types; tempered and untempered. The tempered is too full of oily chemicals so avoid it. Lumber yards have the painted variety with a very non-porous composition that will accept primers or can be painted right over immediately with anything.

The other thing is be sure to seal the back and all edges since moisture can enter and cause warping. One drawback with masonite is it's fragility. Just a slight bump will smash a corner. Masonite is best used if it is going on a wall or any other solid surface. I've used it on outdoor murals but it eventually fails.

Natascha Mattens 26 Apr 2010

I have another question: how can you know a canvas is already covered with gesso or not? or is it never covered with gesso?

Gary Adams 26 Apr 2010

un-gessoed canvas is normally a beige color (as far as i know) and gesso is usually white, though i believe there are other options. Most pre-stretched canvasses that are sold in art stores are usually gessoed also.

Linda Eades Blackburn 26 Apr 2010

If buying pre-primed canvas, make sure the canvas is primed for the medium that you intend to use. If you buy a canvas that is primed for oil and use acrylics on it, the paint will eventually peal off possible in a single piece. You can however paint oils on acrylic primed canvas.

I would just suggest that you use materials of the best quality. Always. Sometimes when you think you are just gonna "mess around" you might end up creating your best ever work. How sad to have it eventually peal off or mold, etc., because you tried to save a penny here or there.

I know that art supplies are expensive, but use the best that you can afford.

cramer 30 Apr 2010

try painting on beautiful naked women :)

Gary Adams 06 May 2010

An update on my everchanging search for the perfect painting surface (one that i can actually sell the finished artwork - directed at Cramer - lol)

I recently accidently dropped an 11x14 peice of ampersand gessobord and the corner got so mutilated that i just ended up throwing the thing out, so though i like the surface, not to crazy about its durability.

Does anyone know if there is a particular brand or type of canvas that has a smoother surface? Maybe one that has a higher thread count, to make a bedsheet analogy.

Charles Jones 12 Oct 2015

There are other artists who paint on canvas but do not like the texture. They gesso their canvases several times, until it is quite thick, and then using a fine sandpaper, sand until the surface is quite smooth. I usually put at least three coats of gesso on a canvas---even the pre-primed kind--and do some light sanding, but I'm not one of those who like a mirror finish to work on. But I do know that most store bought canvas has a minimal amount of gesso applied. Hope this helps.

Vincent von Frese 25 Mar 2016

On the subject of Masonite; the fact that it breaks if dropped just a few inches is a concern. And the fact that it warps easily in humid conditions makes it unstable for art.

The reason why canvas is the all around best is it's flexibility.

Silk and cotton fabric with tight weave on one side of the scale to burlap(Guaguin) on the other side.


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