View Full Version : Question for you slippery Ampersand people

01-14-2019, 12:43 PM
I’ve painted on stretched canvas or canvas boards for years now, but got interested in Ampersand boards as I see some top notch painters I admire use them.

So I bought Two different types to try from the craft store. They both say they are Ampersand
But one says “smooth” finish on it with Raphael’s self portrait on label, and the other says “gessoboard” (museum series) with no finish stated and landscape painting on label.

I tried the smooth finish today with a simple apple stilllife. WHOA!! was it ever smooth. in fact it gave a whole new dimension to the concept of “smooth”
It was like trying to walk on wet ice. My paint brush just skid across the board and I could hardly place paint. My brushes kept lifting the paint off it even with fully loaded brush.

I experimented with synthetics, bristles and sables — all the same in hard to get the paint to obey or stick well to the board.

But what I did like is you can lose edges and get loose and painterly very easily with it on the rare times you can get the paint to stick to the board.....

So what do you guys do to paint on these?

Do you put a coat of gesso on it?
Do you block in first and let it dry to paint over later instead of alla prima?
Or is there other less smooth Ampersands to try?
I will try the other one that says “gessoboard” tomorrow.
Thanks for your tips!

01-14-2019, 02:05 PM
There are less smooth Ampersand boards, the Gessobord feels very much like a normally prepared canvas under the brush.

On the super smooth, almost glasslike surface, I like to work in layers over the course of a few weeks. Underpainting week one, values week two, color week three, refine additional weeks. The first layer is super slippery, but after that dries the paint sticks to other paint so well each week.

Nice thing about a super smooth surface like that is that you can get really streaky effects for the underpainting which is quite desirable in avoiding getting too tight and detailed too early.

01-14-2019, 03:46 PM
Use gessobord, unless (as D noted) you like streaky. I won't use anything else, but I'm not that experienced an artist. These panels not only have the right surface, they are mechanically superior to some Brand X I've tried in the past.

The one with Rafael is in Ampersand's "value" series (that is, cheaper). Don't bother. If you purchase Brand X panels to save money, they will probably also be like this.

01-14-2019, 04:13 PM
I cannot even imagine attempting to apply oil paint to a smooth gessoed panel in an alla prima style. These extremely smooth surfaces are excellent for employing the layered approach, and paint slides all over the surface with the first application, as it can be expected to. In my opinion, it cannot be expected to "look good", after only one application of paint. I don't even know how I could engineer a way to make that happen.:)

The first application of oil paint must be in a very thin layer, and because of that, the appearance will be blotchy, streaky, uneven, and basically, quite ugly, at least to those who are used to painting all in one sitting on a canvas surface.

When I paint on a smooth panel such as the kind you describe is to apply the paint thinly, and after it has been allowed a short time to set up (become just a bit tacky), I take a clean, dry, soft, 1-inch, flat, taklon brush, and use it as a blender, stroking it in light, criss-cross strokes.

Of course this will tend to blur or soften the image, but that is to be expected, and even desired, in such an early stage. The goal of this (beating) process as I call it, is to aid in smoothing out some of the objectionable streaks, and blotches that have been caused by the paint application.

However, with all of this streaky, blotchy appearance of the FIRST application, wait until you see how the SECOND application of paint appears! And, the THIRD will appear even smoother, and better! Allow each layer of applied paint to totally dry before applying the next layer of paint. Employ this same "beating" operation after every application of paint.

I don't have very many examples of my work on a super smooth panel, but this is one of them that I just recently completed. I began this as an accurate grisaille underpainting, over which I glazed many layers of color. It required several applications of paint to eliminate the streaky appearance of the grisaille underpainting.:

"Zada's_Cactus"...11" x 14" on acrylic-primed hardboard.

01-14-2019, 06:56 PM
Wfmartin — thanks!
After reading your post I went down and did just that. The paint had not dried as I don’t use turps but was tacky, so I feathered it down, and i will let it dry and then play around with it some more in layers.

Stunning cactus - Nice work!

Delofasht and Pequino thanks for your replies — I’ll use the Gessoboard tomorrow.
Glad to hear it’s not as slick.

01-15-2019, 07:40 AM
I have tried the Ampersand, Clayboard and other smooth panels and found them too slick for my preferences. They do come in different surface textures, but I still prefer the feel of canvas. With smooth panels, I usually paint a layer or two of gesso to give the surface some texture. Even so, the first layer of paint usually looks pretty sketchy— as Bill described— but other layers are easier to apply. For me, a softer brush works better on smooth surfaces. Other problems that I’ve found with these sorts of panels is that they take longer to dry and scratch easier than canvas.

Have you tried RayMar panels? They are canvas mounted on archival quality panels, and they are available in a range of sizes and textures. Prices are reasonable. They also sell fantastic wet panel carriers for reasonable prices.

01-15-2019, 09:59 AM
None of these mentioned surfaces are as slick as a wonderful heavenly oil-primed surface....

You certainly can paint alla prima on gessoboard... keep your paint thin in the underlayers. Not soupy, but just use solvent to slack off the consistency.

I don't recommend clayboard for oils, it immediately absorbs all the oil from your paint and is impossible to work on.

01-15-2019, 12:29 PM
I admire artists that can make a nice painting on smooth panels.
It doesn't seem to work for me
I like some texture, even as much as Claessens #15 SP.

Richard P
01-15-2019, 01:44 PM
None of these mentioned surfaces are as slick as a wonderful heavenly oil-primed surface....

Is that as slick as dibond (not sanded)?

01-15-2019, 01:51 PM
I don't know, i never used dibond but I have used copper a long time ago and I imagine they are similar. Copper is the smoothest surface I have painted on, it does feel different than oil-primed. But I don't have enough experience with it.

There are some brands of gessoed panels that the paint won't stick to at all, they have a weird coating on them. Ampersand doesn't have that issue. The panels with the weird coating need another layer of gesso.

Richard P
01-15-2019, 01:57 PM
I've not painted on an oil primed surface, but dibond is very smooth and hard to get good coverage on in one layer.

01-15-2019, 02:09 PM
Duralar is a wonderful silky surface (Matte).



01-15-2019, 03:02 PM
Such a great question. Such informed and articulate answers, too. For me it raises a question - what is the virtue of the smooth panels then? What do they bring to the result that the gessoed panel does not? Could one paint the gessoed panel in a manner to achieve the same result? What then is the benefit of one over the other (smooth over gessoed)? Is there something about smooth that just can't be replicated with gessoed? Thanks!

01-15-2019, 03:08 PM
I think it is less about results and more about how you like to work, how the paint feels on the brush, that kind of thing. It's a tactile preference.

01-15-2019, 03:43 PM
I agree with Jess:
There are those that like a very toothy surface for drybrush, scumble, and the like, or a very painterly impasto (or at least brushstroke evident).

Realists and photo-realists often want few brushstrokes to show. Illustrators who work in oil opt for a smooth surface often.
I like to change it up and work on variations of surface.

Richard P
01-15-2019, 03:52 PM
I think that those who work with small brushes find it much easier to paint accurate details on smooth panels.

01-15-2019, 06:53 PM
A bit more info those who have not used ACM panels. I would guess that most people who paint on ACM / Dibond, don't paint directly on the polyester coil coated primer that comes on the panels. I always add some sort of primer / ground on top of them after wet sanding with 400 grit paper but not breaking through the factory primer. I use XIM UMA as the first coat, then different surfaces on top of that such as Gesso, Oil Ground, Acrylic Medium etc. The white primed panels as you noted, are extremely slippery, but they are designed to be painted or printed on by sign makers, so it should be OK to paint directly on it, particularly if it has been roughened. Some artists also paint on anodized aluminum.

Some day I am going to try some "liquid sandpaper" on an ACM Panel, which is essentially a chemical that roughens up the surface so that new layers will adhere better. I would imagine that the same chemical would work on those slick Ampersand panels. Once finished doing the job it is removed with nothing left on the surface so you would not need to worry about it interacting with your paints in a negative way.


I've not painted on an oil primed surface, but dibond is very smooth and hard to get good coverage on in one layer.

Richard, you might want to try an oil ground on some Dibond / ACM. You can use regular white oil paint to see if you like it. I prefer a mix of lead and titanium white oils plus a bit of alkyd medium to speed up the drying and to help it self level. If it is too slippery for you, you can add a bit of calcium carbonate / whiting / chalk / marble dust to it. If you add a lot of grit it will end up more like acrylic gesso.

01-16-2019, 07:20 PM
Okay, today I painted on the Ampersand gessoboard, and what a difference than the “smooth” was. No slip sliding around with the brushwork.
The smooth should be called “slippery” — not smooth, as the gessoboard is quite smooth and yet a nice ground to paint on.

I’m not sure why people buy the smooth and then spend time gessoing it or
putting a layer of paint down to dry first when they can just buy the gessoboard.

01-16-2019, 07:43 PM
The answer to that last query is simply that some people like a specific feel under their brush, so they would probably opt to gesso whether they bought the Gessobord or the Claybord. Another aspect is that Claybord is significantly cheaper, applying one's own gesso could be preferable or even price advantageous if one already owned gesso (or got some on sale for a big discount).

I have painted on both, and find the Claybord great for a classical layered approach to painting. Specifically the "7 layer Flemish technique" is really well suited to working on Claybord, the paint layers are thin and dry quick. Gessobord is similar to canvas, which makes it incredibly versatile, allowing one to paint alla prima, layered, or any mix of techniques easily.

Richard P
01-17-2019, 03:57 AM
If Claybord is so absorbent is that good for an oil paint film?

01-17-2019, 04:48 AM
Richard, I think that question is somewhat based on how one chooses to paint actually. If one uses solvent in the painting process, I could see it becoming an issue as the oil dispersion coupled with a highly absorbent ground might have that problem. Claybord is similar to classical painting prepared surfaces, the painters of old had oilier paint and often used little or no solvents, so the differences between our techniques and theirs can vary dramatically. Personally I use no solvents, and the paintings I have done on Claybord have not fallen off or cracked or seemed underbound in the early layers. The first couple layers have dried rather matte looking though, as to be expected on absorbent surfaces.

Once again though, Claybord does not really seem meant for alla prima works. Layered works will have more oil added in subsequent layers that shore up potential oil deficiencies in the first couple layers of paint.

Richard P
01-17-2019, 03:19 PM
I don't use solvents either (just walnut oil), but when I've tried very absorbent surfaces I don't like them much.

01-17-2019, 06:24 PM
Clarification: The OP was about Amersand's "primed smooth artist panel" product in its less-costly "value series." This is a different product than claybord, which has an entirely different (yet smooth) surface finish and is in the "museum series." The gessobord product, with a more toothy finish, is also in the "museum series."

I use gessobord at 5"x7" size. I transport it around in a protective plastic case in a bicycle bag, and subject it to enormous mechanical abuse, and environmental abuse in terms of humidity and temperature changes (including use of a heating pad to cure paint). Still flat, still holds its shape. Would be trickier at larger sizes, of course. But I've tried a couple of other non-Ampersand products, and nothing compares to gessobord. Worth the extra money, even for a rank amateur such as myself.

But, as better artists than I have already noted, sometimes a smooth surface is what the artist really needs, for the technique in use.

Incidentally: I see that Ampersand also sells floater frames that can accomodate flat panels (such as gessobord). They don't come in my size, but if I ever reach a skill level worth framing, I'd use a larger board and try one of those frames. Their web site has a useful video and product data sheet.

01-17-2019, 08:42 PM
^^^ good to know the gessoboard holds up well and doesn’t warp.
I had to order them on Amazon today as both Jerry’s and Dick Blick are out of stock with most of the sizes.
Those floater frames for the gessoboard are reasonably priced at Jerry’s and they even have a video showing how they look.

You are correct I was not talking about clayboard but the value “smooth” series that Ampersand makes which should really be called their “slippery” boards.