View Full Version : Using mat boards for use with grounds?

08-13-2012, 08:53 PM
I have found these message boards to be an invaluable wealth of info...and have learned so much from all of you, as I have been working with soft pastels for these past two years. Thank you all so very much.

I have found that I like to work with sanded papers...for a while Wallis, but now UArt 400. I would like to make something similar myself, so I have paper to practice and play around with...not to use for a "final" painting.

Although I have read about the process of making our own papers and boards with mixtures of gesso, marble dust or pumice...I think I know the various mixtures.... I am curious about using mat board as the basis for making these boards..,would I need to put gesso on the back of the board first so it will not warp? Or is there something else I should use instead of gesso? Also....I have piles of old watercolor paintings (the piles are high!!!)..could I use the 140 lb. watercolor paper with gesso or something else on the back to prevent warping??

Thanks for your feedback.

08-13-2012, 09:39 PM
I've used mat board, which was essentially cut to size. The edges did warp. If the board was cut larger before coating and trimmed later, it'd be fine with nothing on the back.

I worked small (4x6, 5x7, 5x5) with these coated matboards, taping them down to larger masonite boards for painting. What I found that worked on these sizes was that the paper front/medium/painting would easily peel off the rest of the mat layers and I could frame them very easily that way. It's unconventional, but I did it for three. Is better to frame than creating an insert in another board to fit it behind a mat.

08-13-2012, 10:41 PM
Don't forget that if you don't want to make your own surface mixtures, that you can buy primer already mixed and ready to brush on the paper or board of your choice.

Art Spectrum makes them in the same colors as their pre-made papers.


Golden makes some too:


There may be a few other brands out there, too.

I know that this doesn't address your question, but wanted to give you the info. I know some folks use the Art Spectrum primer on watercolor paper, and I'm pretty sure they don't coat both sides. I would think that the mat board might curl slightly after coating it with the primer, but I think that you could flatten it once it dries either by placing it under something heavy or by wetting the back side and then flattening.


08-14-2012, 08:30 AM
I've tried both Colourfix and Golden Pumice Gel on hot press Arches watercolor paper and the paper holds up well using either primer. I don't coat both sides, just the painting side. I've never used mat boards, though I'm pretty sure it can be done.

I am of the belief that you should always use archival paper to paint on, even when "practicing". Often times the practice work produces nice finished paintings, and if that happens you want to be sure it is done on an archival surface. If you're not using acid free mat boards you probably should think of that? I'm not sure that priming will make them archival if they're not already, maybe somebody will jump in here to clarify.

I've been doing my plein air work on the Arches hot press paper (I like a smooth surface) coated with Golden pumice gel. If I get a keeper great, the paper is excellent. If not, who cares? Because I work small for plein air, I can get plenty of painting surfaces ready ahead of time. I securely tape the paper down on foamcore, then coat with the pumice gel, usually 2-3 thin coats. I'm ready to paint. I prefer the Golden pumice gel to Art Spectrum, it's just a personal preference. Either primer is of excellent quality, you just need to find the surface that you prefer.

I hope this helps!

08-14-2012, 09:50 AM
never mind the gesso, other wet material......use rough textured mat board just as is.......I have a 32"x40" on deep purple rough textured mat board, done 20 years ago and framed under plexi, in a close to the ocean environment, taken out of the frame for photoing for a book inclusion and reframed .....it's as good as new......just stick pastel on the mat board. no other priming, front or back.......

don't get caught up with all the material the manufacturers are trying to sell you :evil: .....simple is the best.......:thumbsup:


08-14-2012, 09:02 PM
Thanks to you all for your quick, helpful responses...Bonnie, Don, Chris and 'blue.

A few years ago, when I ordered mats from American Frame, they would send the mat and include the "center" cut out section...so I have a nice stash of Crescent Select mat centers in various sizes...I believe they are "conservation" grade. I could use them to cut and frame small watercolors, but got the idea to use them as a sturdy base for a pastel ground.

Tomorrow I am meeting with Rae Smith, pres. of PSA, who will be showing me her "recipe" for homemade grounds. I now plan to take one mat board, one small piece of hot press watercolor paper, and a piece of cold press that I coated the back with matt medium mixed with a bit of water. I really have nothing to lose, but hope to gain some info on just how these bases will hold up.

'blue...I will also try painting directly on a matboard, although I am curious about just how much texture I will need...thanks for the info re: your ocean environment...I am also on the ocean...one island south.

08-06-2013, 11:43 PM
I have used Liquitex clear gesso on mat board with good results. When it dries it has a slight haze but not enough to kill the color underneath. I have also stained it with acrylic ink. It dries to a very nice sandy texture which seems to hold the pastel well.
As far as matting is concerned, I figure the boarders before I begin the painting and tape it off right on the board. That way I don't need to concern myself with backing board. So far I have not had a problem with warping and I do nothing to the back.

08-09-2013, 10:19 AM
I have been using mat board for years, and Liquitex. My favorite. Hands down.

08-09-2013, 03:55 PM

matboard is a layered paper product ;
there is a core/middle layer less dense/more fibrous than the front and back .
> that is where any applied moisture becomes unpredictable , so ,
with early experiments to re-purpose those cut-outs and such ,
both sides were covered with the wet vehicle ,
set between two rigid plates , with weight , and allowed time to dry .
- then the grit/texture was added to the vehicle for a top coat ,
and again sandwiched with the plates and allowed to dry , sometimes for several more days .

it works .
- takes some time and patience .


08-12-2013, 09:24 PM
I have used Art Spectrum primer on mat boards with no ill effects, but I work small, no larger than 9 x 12" or so. Also I tend to mark off the picture area and leave a border around it, which may help to prevent the warping other people have reported.

Before I discovered sanded grounds, I loved using mat boards for pastel surfaces. I still like them for an unsanded surface. I made the switch to archival mat board some years back and am glad I did. All mat centers are open to use as a painting surface with or without sanded ground on it.

I still need to try pastel on the Daniel Smith watercolor ground to see how that'd work for a mixed media approach on weird surfaces. The watercolor ground has a fair amount of tooth to it and holds watercolor as well as watercolor paper. Its advantage is that you can use it on plastic or metal or things that don't normally take any kind of paint and it'll make a good surface. So if that works as well as unsanded paper I could have fun with pastel on a mirror leaving bits of the mirror showing through in gaps in the painting, that sort of thing.

07-31-2017, 10:12 PM
I would love to have the sanded recipes if folks would like to share....buying the mediums can be expensive....
I would like to make a clear gesso - that I could tint if I wanted.
And then add something like a pumice or other recommended product to make a liquid medium similar to a super fine colourfix.
I really want a 600 and an 800 grit (very smooth sanded papers)to use with my color pencils - without eating them up. Anything rougher and I go through them too fast.
I would very much appreciate quality (and easy) recipes I can make at home, and paint on my 140lb and above papers, panels, multimedia boards, etc.
Thanks bunches!!!!!!