View Full Version : oil on masonite?

09-18-2001, 01:42 AM
Hi everyone,

I was going to post in the portaiture forum, but I was curious how many have tried masonite? I normally paint on stretch canvas, but I think it's always good to experiment. This is a 9x12 study I did from a model.





09-18-2001, 03:01 AM
Hi mmza,
Did you just paint onto a gesso primed piece of board ( masonite,mdf,hardboard) or did you cover it with canvas beforehand and then gesso ?.
Billyg :( ;) :D

09-18-2001, 10:56 AM
I paint almost exclusively on masonite. It is a great option for a rigid surface. Gesso both sides so it doesn't warp and is protected from moisture.

09-18-2001, 12:21 PM
I have often wondered, Which is more archival...canvas or masonite??

09-18-2001, 01:39 PM
Boy, do I like that portrait! And the detail, too! Just great.
Can you tell us more about yourself and how you work?
Where did you study? Do you teach? How did you learn to paint like that? What would you recommend to someone who wanted to paint like you do? {me} many thanks.
it is sure good to see quality artists joining our forums here. We've had a couple join in just the past few weeks ("aaasp") and they have, already, added a lot to the scene.

09-18-2001, 02:39 PM
I paint 50% on masonite. How you lay on the gesso will determine the degree of smoothness or roughness you have to paint over.

If I want to do a lot of glazing I put on 4 thin coats sanding after each. If I want to do impressionistic I use a rough brush....the kind used to put on wallpaper paste...and put on 3 coats...one horizontal, one verticle, one diagnol....so I get the degree of roughness I need

09-18-2001, 07:10 PM
Very good work! I like very much your style that presents freedom from detail, heavily loaded brush strokes, sureness of where you intended to lay down your paint while still presenting a wonderful kind of realism.

Gessoed board is a wonderful surface to work on, quite a different rythym to it than the give of canvas. One nice quality about board is you can make the surface as smooth or as rough as you desire. Traditonal gesso can be smoothed to high polish with a damp rag wrapped around a pad of some sort. There is no need to use sandpaper and obviously less mess. :oL

09-19-2001, 06:45 AM
Leopoldo, thanks for the tip about the damp rag...I suppose that this is done after the acrylic has dried....I have to try it.

09-19-2001, 10:15 AM
Originally posted by Mario
Leopoldo, thanks for the tip about the damp rag...I suppose that this is done after the acrylic has dried....I have to try it.

Mario, Arcylic gesso is quite a different animal, that would have to be sanded to obtain a very smooth surface when dry. Traditional gesso(rabbit skin glue/ whiting or precipitated chalk) easily becomes smoother with the damp cloth method. Damp woven silk works well in a tight bundle or wrapped around a sanding pad and rubbed briskly. There is alot of possible surfaces that can be attained with gesso. When still wet a piece of lace or open type material can be laid on the surface and then remove when semi-dried to obtain a textured support for varying techniques. It is fun to work with because it opens up areas of experimentation. :oL

09-19-2001, 11:18 AM
i like the feel of a hard surface for my paintings. but i paint on wood, partly because i am worried about the longevity of masonite (but partly because there is an excellent woodshop newar my studio in brooklyn).

can anyone speak directly to the archival quality of masonite?

great painting, btw...

09-19-2001, 04:17 PM
when I was in college my prof showed us some of his work in college that he did on masonite... which was in the 70's... and they looked great... on all sides... I didnt see any problems... and most of my paintings are on masonite also... and the oldest one is 5 years old... and they look fine on all sides... I just made sure that i had a number of good layers of gesso... and i sealed the back side also...

09-19-2001, 05:46 PM
Originally posted by Mario

Can you tell us more about yourself and how you work?
Where did you study? Do you teach? How did you learn to paint like that? What would you recommend to someone who wanted to paint like you do? {me} many thanks.

Thanks everyone for all the responses!
I never really thought about the archival of masonite vs. canvas. A very good question, I guess I never really cared because I end up recycling a lot of my canvases. I had bought one of those pre-gessoed masonite boards, just to try it out.

Mario -
I'm flattered, by you're post, but if you want to paint "like me" or any other artist for that matter, find out who they study. When I go to paint, I say to myself " I want to paint like Sargent, Zorn, Rembrandt, Repin, Waterhouse, Bouguereau ". Those are the artists I admire a lot, and many of contemporary artists whose works I like, usually have a similar list. What all those artists have in common is they all painted and studied from Life and they all had impeccable draftsmanship. SO practice drawing too!

What advice would I give you? If you wanted to paint in the same vein as "those" artists, it's more important to learn how they "see" and how they "think" rather than what their color palette consists of, or what mediums they use. Although I think it's wonderful that everyone shares techniques and approaches on here, the fastest way to learn is by watching others as they work, and to have someone over your shoulder telling you how to paint more efficiently and effectively. Try to find where you can take classes, if you're not taking them already.
Since you asked. I graduated from the Academy of Art College, San Francisco 2 yrs ago. I don't think I've been painting long enough to be teaching anyone:confused:

I'm at that point where I know more about how to paint, than I'm physically capable of achieving. A very bad place to be in because most of the time I'm more frustrated than just having fun. Ya know?
I feel I still have a lot to learn, but I'm happy to share what I know. (In other words pick my brain if you'd like ):p


A great artist, given a burnt stick and a brown paper bag to draw on, can still create something good.

09-20-2001, 07:39 AM
Thanks Molly, It's great to have you around.
This seems to be the perfect thread to ask for remedies to a problem that is defeating me. I have been using wood panel and card board to paint on and I run into the problem that; during the second or third sitting, my brushes are unable to lay paint onto the support. I have not been able to figure this out, I've just been "putting up" with it and now I'm quitting my paintings before completing them.
Last nite, in figure class, my teacher said that the probable cause is either the painting is "too oily" or my surface (card) had become too smooth from my original paint drying and smoothing what little tooth the card had to begin with. She mentioned that some painters lightly sand the surface before reworking it.
Well, I am stumped. I just seemed to quit listening and quit painting for the night. It is the second time this month in which I couldn't get any more paint onto the surface even though trying for a couple of hours.
I recall someone saying that if the paint had gotten that "beaded" look like when simonizing a car and didn't take to the support, that you had to wet {oil} it because it was too dry. I tried that once and it worked and then, last nite, it didn't.
I remember having the same problem with "canvas" sheets. I do recall once using a small sable brush when I had this problem and the paint laid on beautifully...Does anyone know what may be happening? Should I quit using synthetic and natural bristle brushes? Should I switch to using only sable brushes on hard smooth surfaces? Any ideas, guesses, personal experiences, etc. will be greatly appreciated.

09-20-2001, 09:22 AM

I keep telling my wife - "Stop me from sanding too much - it doesn't work!" I have tried getting my surfaces too smooth and frankly, they don't work for me. Oil paint does not adhere well to slick non-porous surfaces. Further, a very good realist artist said that a good artist should be able to paint a 1" face very detailed on burlap - my ongoing goal. :)

So I put my gesso on with a sponge roller and sand lightly between coats. The second to last coat, I sand it more to a pretty smooth surface and then apply the last coat of gesso. Get an egg shell type of surface which works really well.

Now, a slick surface may work better with a traditional lead white oil gesso, I don't know.

09-20-2001, 09:59 AM

A very smooth surface doesn't prevent oil paint from adhering well, it just gives a different flow to one's paint strokes. A more textured surface obviously provides more tooth and will grab more pigment off your brush.

The problem you describe sounds like you have an excess of fatty oils in your pigments. The oils work themselves to the surface when drying and subsequent added layers of paint want to bead as opposed to a firm even layer. Try reducing oil content and add more resin to your medium, just a little.

Another trick that works when the layers are throughly dry is to rub the surface with a garlic or a onion. Other than the preliminary smell of these bulbs on your painting you shouldn't have any problem with additonal paint adhering. :oL

09-20-2001, 04:11 PM

I don't have any experience with wood, although I would love to try it. I'm not sure what type of surface you are using when you mentioned card board, are you talking about canvas board? Usually when I'm working on a painting for more than one session, I lightly cover my surface with some oil medium ( I use linseed oil, or liquin). It gives me the feeling of working wet-into-wet again.
I rework the shadow areas and then the lights. Always keeping my shadows more thin (using more terpinod), and then more thick/painterly/direct strokes in the lights (more medium). The only time I switch to sables is for fine detail, and finishing touches.

Leopoldo - I would like to know what the garlic and onion do? I'm very curious is this mainly for painting on wood/masonite or can I try this on canvas?

09-20-2001, 04:54 PM
Hi Mario,
I'm not too sure I understand your question. Are you refering to the paint adhering to the canvas or paint adhering to another layer of paint already applyed to canvas or board? The reason I ask is because I have seen students who use the pre-stretched canvas just remove the wrapping and proceed to paint directly on the canvas without gessoing it first. Now Frederick and some better brand canvas' might be okay to do that with, but some of the less expensive ones require it. On those "cheap" canvas' I have seen where the paint appears to "bead" up like it is oily and doesn't adhere well. I alway tell them they need to think of their canvas like a door or house...you need to "prime" it first before applying paint. Usually that solves that problem.

If however, you are refering to painting on an already painted surface, I have only experienced the problem when painting wet to wet. The problem is when both the wet paint on the canvas and the wet paint on your brush is of the same consistency. Thinning the paint will make it flow better and stick to other better.

If I'm totally off base, its probably because I haven't really experienced that problem myself as I generally paint in layers letting each subsequent layer dry before applying another. With my schedule, I don't usually have the luxury of spending a long period of time straight working on a painting..usually an hour here and there, so its rarely wet on wet.

09-20-2001, 06:41 PM
There is little doubt that in terms of longevity a rigid support is better for oil painting because of the increasing inflexibility of an oil film over time. Hardboard has been used for quite a while as a painting support (since the 1940s at least) and from what I have been able to find out if properly primed it shows few problems over this time period. There are some questions about the bonding degrading over time - but less than with plywood and MDF - but 50+ years is certainly a reasonable minimum lifespan.

Hardboard comes in two types: tempered and untempered. The tempered variety is denser, more resistant to moisture and, contrary to what you may have read, this is still because it has oil in its makeup. For this reason it should not be used with a water-based primer (and probably not with size either). Untempered is the way to go, especially if you prime with acrylic gesso; if you can only find the other kind make sure you sand the surface with particular attention to provide plenty of tooth. It is also generally available in two thicknesses: 1/4" and 1/8". For larger pieces, say over 18" in either dimension, I would suggest only using 1/4" as from my reading and personal experience the 1/8" just does not have enough inherent rigidity. On large panels bracing for the reverse is a good idea, over 30" it is a must.

Remember to prime both sides, and all edges, at least three coats!


P.S. Tempered hardboard is slightly stronger than the untempered variety but this is negligible in the 1/4" gauge.

P.P.S. The best type to look for is Masonite Duron apparently.

09-22-2001, 10:47 AM
Originally posted by mmza

Leopoldo - I would like to know what the garlic and onion do? I'm very curious is this mainly for painting on wood/masonite or can I try this on canvas?
It can be used on any surface with surface tension problems. Years ago my sign painter friend which did alot of my advertising, used this trick on slick surfaces like glass, plastic etc. These were in the days when this trade held some very talented and inventive artists. Today most of them use computer lazer cut-out vinyl letters and their talents seem to be lost to that ease of programing the right letter format to their machine.

The starches and proteins in garlic/onions acts similiar to a surfactant which reduces the surface tension of the oily dry paint film, causing ones paint strokes to spread across and penetrate more easily on the surface of the support. This works fine but I believe it is better to solve the fatty oil problem by adding a bit of resin(mastic, damar, balsalm, copal, etc.) to your medium before hand, keeping the oil to minimum and there shouldn't be any additonal adhering problems. The problem you talk about seems to come about when the oil proportions are too rich and occurs more in blending and glazing techinques. :oL