Art: preparing MDF panel for oils
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Thread: preparing MDF panel for oils

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    Unhappy preparing MDF panel for oils

    Hi everybody!!

    the title of my post might sound like I just didn't do research in the net, but that's not really the fact. I checked many many sites to learn how other artists use wood/MDF panels for their oil paintings but havent really found a solution to my problem.

    Until now I have been painting with oil colors on canvas, which worked fine, but since many other artists who are painting in a very smooth look are using panels because of its smooth surface, I thought I should definately try it out.

    I prepare the surface with white acrylic primer, or sometimes with transparent gesso up to 3 coats as it is often recommended. Once I start painting on it, both acrylic or oil, the color is never fully opaque, and even worse, you can ALWAYS see the brush stroke!!! I have many different kinds of brushes and tried them all out without pressing etc.
    Just what is it?

    I am happy for any help, and I think maybe I just don't really understand what roughness the surface needs in order to have the same feel like canvas when painting on it. I like to paint on canvas, but i wanted to switch to wood because I wanted to paint without having the canvas texture (to reach softer and smoother effects)...

    Thanks so much!!!+

    Ginge

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    Did you mean you see the brush strokes of the priming or of your painting?

    You need to wet sand it to get a super smooth surface without brush strokes of the priming.

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    Hey Bjoern,

    no, I meant the strokes of the painting, that's the strange thing.
    I imagined it easy to paint on wood and since I started I didn't have any
    good results!!

    I have to say that the primed surface is kind of plastic, after 3 coats of acrylic primer it feels very smooth but also slippery. I admit I never did the sanding,
    can it really make such a difference?? Or is something else wrong?

    Thanks again
    Ginge

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    What medium do you use?

    Wanna PM me and talk in german? Could be better for clearing up.

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    What paints are you using, very transparent? Are you thinning tehm out with turpentine or mineral spirits?

    The first layer can be quite transparent, especially if your not using alot of paint on the brush. I think it was Charles Hawthorne of Robert Henri that said

    " The brush should never actually touch the surface, there should always be paint in between the bristles and the surface"

    or something to that effect.

    First layer is usually a bit transparent, let that dry over night, it will have some tack to it, and it will be easier to layer on the paint after that. Lots of people enjoys the transparencies that serve as a block in or ground for future buildup of paint. Too much paint can get you in a mess, but too little will get you nowhere. After all, you want to paint, not stain!

    Def. sand acrylic gesso, it will eat up your brushes like crazy. Try different amounts of sanding until you find what you like.

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    timpaatkins, thanks for your message.

    I don't use transparent paints, I'm painting with rembrandt oil colors, and I really like to paint opaque, when i do shading, then i thin the shading color just a little bit with terpentine and paint it then wet on wet.
    I haven't worked with glazing technique yet, so I simply color an area with a basic color (opaque), e.g. the face with skintone, and while it is still wet for pretty much 2 or 3 days - I work on the shades and highlights, which I work into it by applying the thinned (terp) shading color in some places, and unifying with a very soft brush. On canvas this worked nice so far.

    What you quote from Charles Hawthorne sounds true and makes sense in my head, but when I think of doing it, it doesn't. If I have the brush full of paint, however at one point I will have to move the brush back and forth , so it'll brush the color away on that smooth surface, won't it? Unless I just keep tapping the brush , but that'll take ages for a whole background...

    Thanks again
    G

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    I wouldn't recommend MDF at all - it is heavy and ultimately not archival. Also I don't recommend using acrylic primer - acrylic is basically just plastic. Use an oil primer so that your paint layers can bond with it. I like Fredrix oil primer. And yes sanding is important. I would recommend using Claasen's double oil primed portrait linen if you want to start with a fairly smooth surface. Glue it down to birch plywood with an acid free, archival adhesive. If you want your strokes to lose the "brushmarks" you'll need to use some sort of medium - there are many types for various purposes - you'll just have to find the one that works for you.
    Good luck!

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    Hey Jeff, thanks for your reply.

    Using mediums you mean I'll have to get used to thin my colors?
    It's so strange, because I have the feeling the more thinned the colors, the strong my problem with the stroking is.

    I have read about the glue-linen-on-wood some days ago and I'm definitely thinking of trying it also. thanks for the tip!

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    Bill Whitaker recommends ABS panels (also available in germany but not in a regular shop I think. I looked for it in the internet and only found big vendors - maybe a [german]Hobbybastelgeschäft[/german] has these but I can imagine that they got it in small sizes.)

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    There are a few more factors that you may want to consider.

    1. Canvas gives when you paint and a panel doesn't. So if you are used to painting on canvas, you are probably pressing a little too hard, since you are expecting the give that canvas has.

    2. Use soft hair brushes. It's nearly impossible to get a strokeless surface if you are using hog hair bristle. Most of the old masters never used or had access to hog hair bristle brushes, so you'll be in good company.

    3. Are you using acrylic primer, and gesso? Gesso usually has calcium carbonate in it, which lends a tooth to the surface, where a primer does not. So you should use a primer sealer to cover the edges and both sides of the panel and then use several coats of gesso for the painting surface. Another advantage of gesso with calcium carbonate in it, is it will absorb any outgassing from the resins used to make the MDF.

    Also, for a mirror smooth surface you should sand between all coats with a fine grit sandpaper.

    4. For the most part, thick paint will leave more brush strokes than thin paint. If you want a strokeless surface, then you will have to us a medium, like thinner and oil, or one of my favorites, Liquin, which also speeds drying time.

    And, most strokeless paintings are built up in many thin layers. It sounds like you are trying to get the same thing from an alla prima method. Which I'm sure can be done, but will require lots of practice, and frustration.

    5. Some colors are naturally more opaque than others. Check you opacity rating on your paints.

    And on a general note for archival materials, natural wood panels and man made panels both have resins in them. That's why you have to seal or gesso either type of panel before use. Also natural wood panels have grain which tends to warp and split. There are some notable old masters paintings that have splits down the wood grain.

    Also, both man made and natural wood will out gas, so you can't eliminate this factor either. Formaldehyde is both manufactured and naturally occurring.

    Plastic, it a very suitable surface, as it won't decompose for like a million years. Your paint will have long decomposed before then. With my own tests, I've found oil paint sticks better to plastic panels than acrylic paint, especially if you use Alkyd paints or Liquin medium. Also, plastic won't grow mold, tends not to warp, and is both rigid, and light weight. And plastic really doesn't need to be gessoed.

    And as a final note, your paintings will most likely be indoors, in relatively stable conditions and cared for to some degree, making the use of MDF or other hardboards extremely apt, as the longevity will be increased by several factors. Which means even your bad paintings will probably outlast your great great grandchildren.

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    Hey a.k.a. Brady!

    Thanks a lot for your detailled reply!

    first of all, it's good to know that there is high chance that even my 'bad paintings' will outlast my great great grandchildren, hehe everyone's gotta start somewhere right?

    The idea of painting on plastic really appeals to me, not only because of all the positive aspects you mention like lightness, and can't grow mold. You say it doesn't need gessoing, but the plastic surface is so slippery, how is it possible? It doesn't have any tooth to paint on right? ALso I imagine colors dry even longer on plastic than on other surfaces, so the glazing technique would take ages?! I really think that just the way I paint gets into my way of understanding everything that you guys do. My questions do seem stupid, sorry for that, but i guess I started the wrong way and now it's hard to turn the brain the other way ) am trying my best, I really want to improve, and also I really love painting, and it is something I want to continue in future, but I also want to start and finish paintings with more confidence, having the feeling that I know exactly what I am doing etc.

    Again thanks for your help!!!
    Ginge

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    I'm glad I could help a little!

    If you decide to try plastic, you can sand the surface to bring up a tooth. Also you could use a thinned mix of paint and Liquin, which sticks even to slick plastic, and let it dry overnight, and then start the next day.

    And on a philosophical note, asking for advice is great, but you should temper it with personal experience. Basically follow this formula.

    1. Ask for advice.
    2. Experiment with the advice.
    3. Decide if it was good advice, or just hot air.
    (And yes, this includes my advice.)

    And I'm with you on wanting to paint with confidence, but I find every painting or drawing I do has some level of uncertainty about it. I am not a master by any stretch of the imagination, but the only people I know who approach every painting with certainty, are those who've stopped trying new things, and just follow a formula.

    I guess the best advice I have on that is to learn to be excited by the uncertainty and don't let it stop you. But having said that, the best way to approach with confidence, is the oldest advice known, practice, practice, practice.

    If you want to paint well, you should paint everyday.
    Be willing to throw away a lot of failed artwork.
    Remember the lessons you learned from the failures.
    Disconnect your emotions from the piece you are working on, and truly accept that everything you do doesn't have to be a masterpiece. (Unlike Golem, an artist can't afford to have a "precious".)

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    In the way of plastics, frosted mylar( drafting film) is a nice surface in my opinion. It's extremely smooth but it's not slippery. Also I don't know of the technical information behind this but in my experience it seems that paintings I've done on plastics such as mylar or yupo have actually dried quicker than on other supports.

    "A drawing is not necessarily academic because it is thorough, but only because it is dead. Neither is a drawing necessarily academic because it is done in what is called a conventional style, any more than it is good because it is done in an unconventional style. The test is whether it has life and conveys genuine feeling."- Harold Speed
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