A Guide to Painting on Hardboard or Wood


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Can you paint Hardboard?

Canvas is considered by many to be the best medium for painting, but hardboard (or wood) should not be avoided. In fact, some would say that it is a superior carrier for oils because, unlike canvas, which is flexible, wood is rigid and this helps prevent cracks in oil paint.

  • Most of the oil paintings that have survived the best of previous centuries are painted on wooden panels.
  • Acrylic paint is very flexible when dry, so the stiffness of the substrate is not that important a factor. However, hardwood is also a good medium for acrylics.

What are hardboards?

Hardboard is the term used to refer to a board or panel made from hardwood such as oak, cedar, birch, walnut, or mahogany. Softwoods like pine are not suitable for painting because they contain excess resin and tend to crack.

What is the difference between hardboard, masonite, MDF, and plywood?

These terms tend to be used interchangeably when people talk about painting on a wooden board or panel rather than a canvas.

  • Masonite is often used as a painting medium. This is a trademark of a particular type of card. It is made (in very basic terms) of wood fibers and glue (resin) that is molded into flat sheets.
  • Furniture or high-grade plywood makes a good paint base. The extremely smooth plywood is made from birch, mahogany, and poplar.
  • The hollow core door is another painted surface to consider and is a relatively lightweight panel.
  • The Laminate board has a mica film on its surface to give it strength and resistance. Check which side is best sanded and use that side for painting.

The advantages of hardboard painting

Hardboard or wood can be relatively inexpensive. The surface is stiffer, so there are fewer cracks in the paint as it dries and ages. Although it is heavier, if you are doing a job less than 18 "x 24" (45x60 cm), the weight is not a big problem.

The experience of painting on a hardboard is markedly different from that of painting on canvas, and many painters prefer this. The surface is quite smooth and the paint glides on the surface and it is easy to move.

The downsides of painting on a hardboard?

If a panel is not properly primed, there is a risk that acid or oils will seep through the panel and the paint will turn yellow. Acrylic plaster is considered an effective barrier against this.

Also, larger pieces can weigh a bit. They will bend or lean inward, so take the time to add reinforcement to a frame or reinforcement struts (tips below).

Where can I get hardboards?

Most places that sell wood sell hardboard. It is generally available in 1/8 "and 1/4" thick hardened and unhardened versions.

  • The soaked board may have been made with oil to keep it from warping when wet so that you can seep the oil through the plaster. You should check the panel for oil residue and seal it with primer or acrylic medium before use.
  • Unhardened hardboard is looser and more fibrous and makes a good surface to paint due to its absorbency.

How to prepare a piece of hardboard for painting

The hardboard is easy to cut to the desired size with a saw, especially an electric circular saw. If you plan, you can get any number of panels from a large painting and have a variety of sizes to paint on.

Tip: no saw? The lumber yard where you buy the board will likely also offer a cutting service.

There is usually a smooth side and a side with a woven-like finish that is very rough. You can paint on both sides; it is a matter of personal preference. If you choose the glossy side, you need to sand it lightly for the primer to adhere properly.

Print your hardboards

In general, it is recommended to apply three coats of plaster to the hardboard and lightly sand between each coat. It can produce a surface with the texture of paper or a surface as smooth as glass.

  • Some artists use more layers to create a completely smooth paint surface.
  • Others do not sand between coats to create a rougher paint surface.
  • You can also use sanding to create textured areas related to the theme of the painting.
    Priming the back and sides will help seal the board from moisture in the air.

A proper layer of plaster is important. Paint, even when it appears opaque, is affected by what is underneath. If there are at least three layers of white underneath your painting, your colors will be even more vivid. It is also a great way to get "light" in your paintings.

Using hardboard to create a canvas painting

If you like the feel and look of canvas, you can combine it with hardwood to create a canvas board. It's very easy to do and gives the texture of canvas with the stiffness of hardboard.

  • Create your own canvas painting by gluing canvas or linen to Masonite with archival quality glue, acrylic backing, or plaster.
  • To create the impression of a deep "gallery wrap" canvas, bolt the board to a "frame" on the back. Wrap and glue your canvas to the board and carefully fold it around the edges as you would a canvas.

How to avoid warped cards

If you are painting on a hardboard larger than 18 inches (45.72 cm), you will want to "rock" the panel (not a bad idea for small boards, but not necessary). This should be done before painting and will prevent the board from warping both during painting and over time.

Basically, the base is building a support frame for the back of your hardboard paint. Not only does this prevent warping, but it also keeps the painting off the wall and gives you a place to put a wire hanger.

Anyone with the most basic woodworking skills can build this support frame, and it doesn't have to be perfect as it's on the back of the painting. If you've built your own canvas stretcher or outdoor frame, this is a very easy project.

If you don't know how to work with wood, this is a great place to start and a skill that will come in handy. You'll find that building your own hardboard canvas and stand also saves you money.

To build the support frame, you will need 1 "x 2" boards, wood glue, nails or screws, and basic tools such as a hammer or screw gun, and a saw. Many how-to videos on YouTube will show you step-by-step building instructions.

What happens if my board is deformed after painting?

If you haven't shaken the board and the paint starts to warp, all is not lost. You have to be careful when fixing it and there are a few things you can try.

  • Paint the back of the board (if you haven't already) with acrylic home paint. Artist Brian Rice used this to salvage a deformed 16'x20 "board. He says that" the water-based paint set the chain, straightening the board perfectly. “He also used an oil-based polyurethane.
  • Add a frame to the painting that wraps around the front of the board. Add some support spacers along the back to secure the painting to the frame and counter the arch.

Enjoy The Video Tutorial about How to Prepare canvas or wood for oil or acrylic painting!

Source: Guenevere Schwien

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