Masonite, MDF, and Wood Panels?

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texashardart wrote
on 1 Jun 2011 1:25 AM

Hi Karyn,

I would very much like to build my own panels, especially because I would like to paint 48" x 96" without having to buy canvas.


My local Jerry's Artarama art supply store has beautiful clayboards, with very high grade plywood supports around the back edges, made using a patented process, and kaolin clay surface, and the price is very expensive.  The largest one I saw was too small for me, I think 24" x 36", maybe even 30" x 40" at most.

I have seen many works in local museums and galleries, of oil or acrylic on mdf or wood panel.  I am currently finishing up a 24" x 60" panel using luan plywood.  I think it's 3/16".  I got it from Home Depot, and it's sold as moisture-resistant underlayment for flooring.  Because I know that even in galleries, there is art painted on wood panel, I know it's doable, and wonder about the archivability.  I actually like the idea of wood panel much more than the idea of masonite, and wonder if the plywood is processed using chemicals that would result in being non-archival, or if it's safe.  ...or could I find plywood in a higher end building supply store that would have better quality plywood, and maybe even in 60" x 108".  Perhaps something suitable for green-building LEED standards, and no off-gassing, would provide a pH neutral substrate suitable for art.

As far as MDF is concerned, I was very surprised to see this in galleries, because I thought that it was definitely processed using chemicals.

 I read, in another article on Artist Daily (http://www.artistdaily.com/blogs/ask_the_experts/archive/2009/02/24/types-of-masonite.aspx) that masonite absorbing paint, and oils in the masonite migrating to the paint.  But isn't there a way to properly seal it, or just use the plywood instead, and properly seal it?  Another option I've wondered about is the 48" x 96" sheets of hardboard made into whiteboard.  Would the whiteboard layer create a sufficient barrier between the substrate and the art?  Although, I'm not sure if sanding and priming would be sufficient surface prep.

Of course, no matter what I went with, I would add supports to the back using high grade lumber and joinery, as is done on the larger clayboards.  A 48" x 96" x 3/16" sheet of plywood, hardboard, or whiteboard, is $10-$12.  I can use 2"x2"x96" furring strips, for < $1.50 each, and plane them, or just use premium 1x2 lumber to frame out the back supports on the back of the panel.

 

Thanks for reading my post.

Kent.

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judyl40 wrote
on 9 Jun 2011 8:57 AM

Hi Kent,

One of the reasons why wood panels, (or hardboard, or any other panel) are not used in those sizes (besides cracking) is that the weight could cause some problems in hanging. Before the Renaissance, all paintings were painted on wood... but they were cumbersome & were often done in pieces to be assembled at its final resting place, usually an alterpiece.

 I think Titian is credited to be one of the first artists to try canvas, as it was in plentiful supply to outfit the ships' masts. Canvas was light & portable, & became the support of choice. However, the main problem with canvas is that it is flexible, which can create problems down the line, especially with oils, as they cure through time. (If the support is more flexible than the paint, the paint tends to crack as it dries out)

Any surface - (cotton, duck, linen, plywood, birch, hardboard) - you choose needs to be treated before painted on, if you're concerned about longevity. In lieu of rabbitskin glue, many artists prefer to use PVC or GAC100 to seal the board before applying 2 to 5 coats of either traditional gesso with a further oil ground for oils, or the more popular alternative, acrylic polymer gesso, for both oils & acrylics.

You haven't mentioned if you're using oils or acrylics... Ampersand's Claybord is good for acrylics, but not oils (their Gessobord is for oils)... claybord is too absorbent, it sucks all the oils out. Great for acrylics though! Masonite is no longer made, from what I understand, & there's also some debate about the formaldehyde in MDF panels.

Good that you know about the supports for bracing the work. Any large work, whether canvas or board, should be braced.

A great techno website for artists is the Art Materials Information and Educaton Network. They are not product based, & are as unbiased as possible. www.amien.org  (Best website!!! You're welcome! Wink )

Good luck!

judy

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judyl40 wrote
on 9 Jun 2011 9:04 AM

PS... GAC 100 addresses the problem of Support Induced Discoloration (SID), when impurities from the substrate of the support can leach up into the paint.

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JDWooldridge wrote
on 9 Jun 2011 10:08 AM

Hey Kent

 

I LOVE painting on plywood panels!  It's my absolute favorite and I almost never use canvas anymore.  I believe plywood to be very archival so long as the finished piece is kept in a fairly dry environment, i.e. no bathrooms.  I know of several much more proficient and higher profile artists than myself who use plywood my opinion is it's good enough for them then it's good enough for me.  I'm aware that won't answer the hardcore questions of people seeking multicentury archival quality but I have no idea if my art will be remembered even 20 years from now let alone 120 or 220.  There are however 2 drawbacks to plywood:

 

1) warping

2) weight

 

I have successfully used 30"X30" panels but I believe that may be about the maximum size one can use for an unsupported panel before warping becomes a major problem.  I have had the 30X30's stay nice and flat for me at times but I have also experienced a good deal of warpage with them.  So far, I've not have any warp to an extent that I cannot take out in framing.  BTW, I use 1/4" panels usually instead of 3/16".  I did buy some 3/16" birch panels precut and have found they do indeed warp more than the 1/4" oak I usually use.  The square aspect ratio helps this I think and I suspect a 30X40 could tend to warp quite a bit.  Now you say that you do plan on using a support and for those sizes you absolutely will have to but now you also are making #2 even worse.  At a certain size point, panels become heavier per unit area than canvas.  I don't know the exact point because I've not bothered to do a study but it is indeed the case.  When you add in the support, then for those sizes, you are going to be making a very heavy piece of art.  Of course, that may not matter much to you but if you wind up needing to ship something across the country, it might matter really fast.

I have no experience with MDF or any other hardboards.   Hope that helps even in the slightest.

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tpaysen wrote
on 9 Jul 2012 10:49 AM

True masonite is not made with any chemicals, and has a long fiber wood base.  I used to paint on it, and would like to again.  I have a hard time finding it (it was easily available at craft stores once upon a time).  Disck Blick's art supplies sells it.  I would thing that you would want the tempered variety--it's harder, etc.  BUT--the tempered kind is hard to cut without a tempered saw blade.  I thing that DIY stores sells large sheets of it, but I don't believe that it's tempered (not sure if this really matters).

 

TP

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Jay Babina wrote
on 10 Jul 2012 6:36 AM

I paint on hard board  (Masonite) and MDF quite a lot. Not too large - up to 22" or so. I don't make any backing stiffners. 

The one thing I do is use Zinsser 1-2-3 acrylic primer as my first coat before using gesso on top of that.

http://www.epinions.com/content_88995237508?sb=1

I never had any discoloration or bleeding etc. I usually use 2 coats of Utrecht Studio Series gesso over that . I like it best because their artist gesso has too much viscosity. I paint in on with a foam brush and can get nice even coats. It gives a nice tooth and is a bit absorbent. I've used Liquitex gesso and that seems to bounce the paint on the surface too much for me.

As far as how archival it is - who knows. I always figure they have professional restoration people at the Metropolitan Museum of Art who can touch up the paintings if needed.

 

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Hannah@35 wrote
on 12 Feb 2013 2:14 PM

Hello Kent,  I use luan board for smaller paintings.  I actually like painting better on that  than  on stretched canvas.  I do use stretched canvas for larger paintings. I paint mostly with oils, started out with watercolors and use acrylic sometimes.  What medium to you work with?

 

Thanks,,Hannah Cole

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LeslieAnglin wrote
on 6 Apr 2013 1:08 PM

Hi guys,

 

I would love some advice on preventing warping in large pieces of plywood. I have a painting on a 48 x 60" piece of 3/16 inch plywood. I mounted stretcher bars on the back, and I glued on an additional T-bar support made of wood to the back of the panel. Despite these precautions, the plywood is starting to warp. Does anyone have any suggestions for how to further reinforce the panel?

 

thanks!

Leslie

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fuhrmosphere wrote
on 8 Oct 2013 9:32 AM

Reading through the blog, I thought maybe what I'm doing might present solutions (or issues?) that could be shared on this topic, painting on wood panels. I've painted on hollow-core doors after preparing the surface with GAC 100, then at least 2 coats of acrylic gesso. These hollow-core doors haven't warped and the luan skin is a nice surface for my use in oils. I've considered removing the back panel thinking this might allow weight reduction, but leaving it in place also protects my painted panel with an air pocket as well as a physical barrier on the back side. If I'm careful, I can move pieces around up to the full size of an interior door without too much effort. I prefer sizes closer to 3' to 4' in either direction though, and they are therefore even a bit lighter, particularly if the piece doesn't include the concealed wood block meant for drilling the door knob and lock. I do try to capture at least 2 of the four edge cradles provided, then finish off the custom size with additional cradling using wood glue.

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on 16 Oct 2013 2:39 PM

I just completed an oil on 48 x 72  maple luan 1/8" thick. It was prepped 2 coats front and back with acrylic primer just like my master teacher/mentor always did. My husband, a master wood worker. glued 2 stringers across  the back at the seams. There was minimal warping because of the priming and once in a frame, the frame holds it in place just fine. You can see it on my website "Here Comes Trouble!" it's called. Happy painting! Carolyn Kollegger

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on 16 Oct 2013 2:45 PM

Hi Kent!

I just completed an oil on 48 x 72  Maple luan 1/8" thick. I usually use Mahoganhy but, Home Depot was out. I think the Maple cost like $48. It was prepped 2-3 coats front and back with acrylic primer just like my master teacher/mentor always does.  My husband, a master wood worker. glued 2 stringers across  the back at the seams. There was minimal warping because of the priming and once in a frame, the frame holds it in place just fine. Frame it as soon as possible.  You can see it on my website "Here Comes Trouble!" it's called. This is the largest I've done. "Bucket of Chicken" was 24 x 48" and it cost $300 to ship framed and crated. Hope that helps! Happy painting! Carolyn Kollegger

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bilbo1160 wrote
on 10 Nov 2014 9:52 AM

Art panels using MDF are available from art panels & frames, check their site at www.bbonham.net.

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