Friday, January 22, 2010

Do-It-Yourself Hardboard Painting Panels

I apologize for neglecting my blog for so long again but I really have been busy!  I bought a 4x8 foot hardboard panel (1/8 inch thick) from our local home improvement store and my husband and I have been cutting different sizes of panels that I can prep to paint on.

Since I use the 11x14 inch size most for my paintings, I took half of the panel (4x4 foot) and cut eight 11x14 inch boards.  I could have gotten more from this half of the original panel but I wanted to have some leftover to cut into other sizes.  There were a couple of leftover strips that were 4 and almost 6 inches wide respectively and I cut a couple of 4x6 inch OSWOA-sized boards from the first (still with enough leftover material for more of the same size) and from the other piece, I plan to cut some 5x7 inch boards in the future.

I debated with myself for a very long time as to the practicality of making my own painting supports and read as much as I could find about the process.

The biggest drawback at first seemed to be finding hardboard that did not use any oil in the process of forming the panels.  But the more I read about the process of making hardboard (also called "Masonite" in much the same way we say "Kleenex" when referring to any tissue brand), I saw that most modern hardboards are not processed with oil any longer but use a resin to hold the wood particles together.  I also felt pretty safe in using common hardboard as long as I used a blocking sealer/primer to seal the hardboard after cutting to size and before doing any kind of finish or actually painting on the panel.

So, after cutting the panels that I've cut so far, I lined them all up and gave each at least 2 coats of Kilz water-based sealer/primer and after that, I sanded lightly and am in the process of coating each panel with many coats of gesso, dry-sanding smooth about every second or third coat.

For the panels that I plan to use for pastel, I'll use about 4 coats of gesso, allowing it to dry 24 hours between coats as recommended.  After the last coat of gesso is thoroughly dry, I'll prime with Colour-Fix primer.  For the panels that I may use for acrylic painting or even watercolor, I'll apply 6 to 8 coats of gesso.

I knew the preparation of the panels would be time-consuming but it's not been as bad as I thought it might be.  Once I had the panels cut to size, it was a simple matter to lay them all out on my big work table and coat them with the primer.  I used a roller and it was very quick to do them all at once.  Once the primer was dry on one side, I could just turn them all over and repeat the process.  Pretty much the same goes for the applications of gesso.  The biggest thing there is the drying time between coats.

Of course I'm not finished with any of it yet but I do think preparing my own panels may result in significant cost savings over buying them already prepared.  I do value my time but I also happen to like using power saws and I like preparing my own boards because then I know what's gone into the process.

The 4x8 hardboard panel was probably the cheapest element of all with the whole panel being less than $7.00.  The Kilz stain-blocking sealer/ primer wasn't outrageously expensive either and is touted to block any migration from the surface it is applied to to the finished surface.  I'm pretty sure it was under $10 for a quart and I still have about 3/4 of it left as it goes a very long way.  By far the most expensive items are the gesso and the Colour-Fix primer.  But, I had both on hand already so will have to compare prices when I buy more to replace what I've used.

All in all, I think making your own painting panels is worthwhile costwise but only if you like doing all that prep work.  Again, it really only takes a short time to coat the panels with either primer or gesso, the sanding doesn't really require much time or effort and the worst part is just waiting for the panels to dry so you can proceed to the next step.

I have to say something about the cutting of the panels though.  It's a pain in the patootie to figure out the most efficient way to cut the panel sizes you want but this is a crucial first step!  You'll end up with a lot of waste if you don't take the time for this.  Also, if you aren't comfortable with (or don't have) power saws, or saws in general, then I wouldn't advise you to even consider making your own panels.  If you have to pay to have the panels cut to size, you'll probably lose any savings you might have gained by making your own.

So, that's what I've been up to lately - what's going on with all of you?


Teresa Mallen said...

Excellent post Jan! You have done a terrific job explaining your process. I have been meaning to venture into this myself. This just adds more fuel to my fire! :-) I look forward to seeing what you do on them once this prepping is done.

"JeanneG" said...

Thankfully not prepping panels. I don't do messy. I'm glad you are enjoying the process tho.

Jan said...

I thought about and researched it for quite a while myself, Teresa. Just from half of the 4x8' sheet, I've already got 8 boards of 11x14, a couple of OSWOAs, a 5x5 piece and an ACEO size that I cut from a piece that would have been wasted because of a damaged corner (choose your sheet wisely & be careful of the corners) plus, I still have enough material from that half sheet for at least 4 more 11x14s, several more OSWOAs or 5x7s and maybe a few ACEO's. Plus, I still have the other half of the sheet left! I probably have less than $50 invested so far and still some of the materials left to use on the next sheet. I am going to have to buy more Kilz, gesso and ColourFix (but may try the Golden next time)but it's still a substantial savings when you consider the cost of already prepared panels - the shipping alone is costly for me.

Thanks for stopping by, Jeanne. As I said in the initial post, preparing your own panels isn't for everybody. I happen to like doing stuff like this - I'm comfortable with tools and my personal mantra has always been "Anything to do with Paint". But, I can certainly see why you wouldn't want to do it if you aren't into messy. Actually, it's not really all that messy but I have my work table covered with a cheap vinyl tablecloth that catches any mess I do make.

All in all, the only thing I don't like is the wait between coats of gesso but I refuse to take any shortcuts. As you've probably gathered from my relationship with CP, I'm more into instant gratification! lol Teresa, you should be really good at this with your patience!