View Full Version : Masonite

05-13-2002, 05:48 AM
I need information about this materials from who's used it.
In particular I would like to know something about the priming of it, and if it suitable for oil painting.
has masonite a smooth surface?
I need a completely smooth surface, because I need to do a full-detail draw, and then decide what make perfectly and what only a little visible, with oils...
Thank you all!

Wayne Gaudon
05-13-2002, 05:59 AM
Prime it like canvas .. primer .. sand .. primer .. sand .. primer .. sand .. it's as smooth as you want to make .. it's been used since it's conception .. some people use the smooth side and some use the rough side .. it's up to the artist. Some people glue canvas or liner or other over it and paint on that.

05-13-2002, 11:00 AM

Obtain the best quality hardboard you can find, Duron is tops. Masonite which is smooth on one side only is not very strong unless it's professionally braced.

For a perfectly smooth ground use traditional RSG and chalk, 6 to 8 layers, sand and rub down smooth. You can't get a smoother ground. You can do your detailed drawing on this in ink or egg tempera. Seal the surface properly before you start with oils.

Wayne Gaudon
05-13-2002, 11:08 AM
.. forgot that concern .. I wouldn't worry too much about strength on anything 18 x 24 and under but on large pieces it would be a big concern.

Never heard of chalk and gesso .. do you mix it with the gesso? I don't use the board as a painting surface, I glue canvas to it and paint on the canvas but it's always nice to know how things work.

05-13-2002, 11:46 AM
Unless you are doing a particularly large work, just go buy a pre gessoed panel from your art store, or online. I think they come in sizes up to 24x18 in. I pay about $6 a panel for this, but it will run you 10-12 in an art store. sure you could get it for $3 at the hardware store, but after you were done cutting it, sanding it, buying and spreading the gesso, etc... I'd pay the extra couple bucks and be done with it.

If you are doing a larger work, you really need to reaserch the issue, some masonite will react with oil paint and cause discoloration or gradual deterioration. You need to get specific kinds of masonite, also warp will occure in anything over about 24" probably why art stores don't sell it bigger than that. it will need to be braced.

05-13-2002, 01:13 PM
Wayne, Duron would easily go over 18 x 24 before needing proper bracing.

The gesso I talked about is not an acrylic or oil gesso, it is the chalk or whiting ground that is most commonly used by traditional egg tempera painters. It is made with rabbit skin glue size or gelatin, water and chalk, gypsum, whiting, and/or pigment. This ground takes perfectly to hardboard and the most precise drawing can be applied to this smooth white surface. It is porous so it needs a sealer applied to the surface before oil paint is applied.

Most all pre-made gesso hardboard will have an acrylic gesso, some may be better than others - as long as you feel comfortable painting oil over acrylic.

Wayne Gaudon
05-13-2002, 04:00 PM

thank you for the reply.

alzarin J
05-13-2002, 10:06 PM
Hi there,
I have had some experience with masonite. Sometimes the masonite board bends or curls up if you don't prime it right. Some people that have experience priming masonite exclude this fact. I sanded and sanded and primed with gesso and sanded and primed more with thinner layers of gesso and the experts forgot to tell me know that you have to seal the masonite board before you prime it with GESSO with polyurethane, some people call it shellac. it seals board so it doesn't rot or warp before you gesso.!! First thing is to sand all of the board, don't forget to put something in back or if you are doing a shadow box or something you can have it ready to hang, that's if it is really big.. i did a 5 ft x 5 ft. Sand the edges too, then you seal with a polyuerathane a type of shellac both sides. you wait till it dries at least 48 hours. you prime with an acrylic medium mixed with gesso. wait til it dries then you sand again and then you place 2 layers of gesso. some people use latex paint as their last layer on the gesso. anyway that's my advice from personal experience!
have fun,
lady Alzarin J

05-15-2002, 10:32 PM
I have some experience with hardboard, I used to paint on it exclusively when I couldn't afford canvas. It is cheap for sure, where I'm at you can get an 8th inch 4 by 8 sheet for about $7. Add to that the cost of gessoe and the structure you will need to build if it's more than a tiny thing and it's still economical.

Concerns? yes there are some, you have to prime thoroughly with gessoe, I never shellacced or urethaned first I just applied the gessoe and it always worked fine. Hardboard has a smooth and a rough side, the rough side has lots and lots of tooth, too much for me, the smooth side is really smooth, a nice, if unbending, surface. Longevity is a concern, these panels are suceptible to moisture, they will curl and be ruined if exposed to moisture, trust me! The edges can also be a problem, they have a tendency to "potatoe chip" or peel off in time or with careless moving. The solution is of course build a frame to encase it.

Overall...I'd say canvas is much better.

raison d etre
05-21-2002, 11:32 PM
You can find Untempered masonite at your art supply store or on-line at Cheap Joes etc. Do not use the hardware store masonite that is only finished on one side.

Sand. then Gesso your board ON BOTH SIDES. This will prevent warp. Three coats, sanding the finish side in between.

Good luck

05-22-2002, 09:08 PM
I use masonite all of the time now. I stopped for a while and went to birch panels because of all of the above concerns, but nothing is quite as wonderful to paint on IMO as masonite. The texture you get is there because you chose for it to be there.
I don't shellac (never heard of that before...wow). I just gesso, sand, gesso, sand, etc. I do both front and back also, though I've heard arguements from carpenters not to do this because the board has to "breathe" they say. I do it anyway. :D Any warpage problem I've run across gessoing has been easy to fix just by laying the board flat and putting a weight on it for a bit to flatten it out. If it's a big painting, cradle it with a box-type frame that you can build onto the back. There's a thread around here about how to build one. When I have more time I will look for it for you.
Have fun with it. :)

05-22-2002, 10:05 PM
"Masonite" as a brand name, that artists believe they are buying may not even be made in the original Masonite process - what you may be buying could be better, and of course very likely it could be worse, much worse! We have to ask ourselves do we have a trusted assurance with whom we are buying our Masonite panels through? Many lumber stores, and I'm sure some art supply houses don't even know the country of origin, let alone the process and/or additions in the processing of the "Masonite" they sell. A high quality smooth two sides, very hard, <B>Hardboard</B>, made under great pressure through a wet processing is best for artist's use. This type of Hardboard is many times more stable, and uniformly so, than what most artists know as the product called Masonite. If you want to use Masonite I would strongly suggest gluing it to a good quality plywood. If you choose to by a hardboard like Duron then only a simple 1by2 framed bracing needs to be glued to the back along the edges - up to 3/8" x 40" x 40" maybe more.

Acrylic grounds past performance of discolouration may be fixed (?) though I get very squeamish when they are used under oil paintings. Anyone who chooses to use any brand or type of ground (gesso) for whatever medium should test it for years on whatever support surface it's applied to. Trust doesn't have to be blind when we have choices.

05-23-2002, 09:38 PM
There was a long discussion about this concluded only recently, I recommend a look:

Alizarin, you don't need to seal hardboard before you prime it, you just need to prime both sides equally to even out the stresses on each face. Uneven priming is a principal cause of warping. By the way, polyurethane and shellac are totally different, who uses the names interchangeably?

Originally posted by Linoxyn
Masonite which is smooth on one side only is not very strong unless it's professionally braced.
...A high quality smooth two sides, very hard, Hardboard, made under great pressure through a wet processing is best for artist's use...
Really? Wet-process board, which you yourself recommend here and in the above thread, is smooth on one side - that is the original Masonite process. Wet-to-dry and dry process hardboard is smooth on both sides. Just which type are you recommending? BTW do you know which process is used to make Duron? I would check if I were you.

Obviously you're a fan of real gesso and this is probably fine for tempera but it sure ain't the best thing for oil painting, it is far too hygroscopic. If one doesn't want to use acrylic primers then an alkyd ground is probably the best option.

FWIW in my opinion dry-process probably has the edge, it certainly is the most dimensionally-stable and stiffest of the three types, read my post on page two of the above thread for why.


05-24-2002, 08:51 AM
Einion, I messed up on the description of Duron, sorry it is a wet/dry process. It is smooth two sides.

Traditional chalk grounds are extremely stable, even with RSGlue in the mix, there are many very old examples of such a ground that has survived very well under both tempera and oil. In practice a very thin veil of chalk ground sealed with stand oil will provide a perfectly stable and smooth ground for oil painting. I don't use the chalk ground myself now a days, I use lead oil ground.

Alkyd grounds or alkyds layered with straight oils has proved to be troublesome to some artists - delamination.

Masonite in composition is a fine material, it's weakness is that it is not uniform in structural strength. If a piece of Masonite gets wet, or damp it bows like wet paper. The stronger Hardboards are much, much more resistant to this. MDF is harder and stronger as evidence of pressure and force tests, maybe even for moisture - but MDF is held together buy a glue bond which should bring up the questions... how long will it last? and, Will it effect (stain) the ground, the paint?