Preparing Art Surfaces

There are numerous surfaces used in the creation of Art

To give you an idea of surfaces that can be used in traditional art making here are a few:

MDF - Medium Density Fiberboard, this is a common surface for painting on, and comes in both medium and hard densities. It is made by finely pulverized wooded particles and combined with a formaldehyde resin making it highly toxic when sanded or sawed, so be sure to wear a mask when doing either of these activities. To give you an idea of just how serious this wood is to your health, Bunnings, Australia's largest hardware chain store will not cut it any longer for their customers, so that speaks loudly about its potential hazard. But that said it still remains a favorite surface for some artists! It is a very versatile surface, it can be painted directly or covered with various textured fabrics to achieve different looks. Lets check some out: 

Boards are pre sanded lightly with a very fine sandpaper and coated with diluted binder
medium, this allows to correct bongage of everything that is painted on top of it.

Boards are painted with white 100% acrylic ceiling paint, you can use artist gesso, however it's much more expensive and ceiling paint works fabulously, because it flat, matt and easy to use. So if your a student or novice or hobbyist its awesome.

There are several ways to cover these boards if your looking for a more textured appearance over a painted surface. Here are two, the MDF boards are covered with 
binder medium which acts as the glue, so give it a generous coat, than apply either Muslin or Hessian cloth. Both are available and cheap as chips at fabric stores. Apply binder medium over the fabric to ensure a flat surface when dry.

Here's how to finish the underside. You need a staple gun, or some very small tiny nails, but if your an artist you'll need a staple gun before long so just buy one, a good one! The fabric goes over the sides of the MDF and around to the back, remember to pull it tight, you don't want a baggy finish, and pay attention to your corners, the neater the better. Try to get the join right on the corner, rather than down to one side, it's much more professional looking.

Here they are finished

The next step is to cover them with 100% Acrylic ceiling paint (cheap) or Artist Gesso (expensive), use a roller for the best results, and lightly sand between layers when dry, do at least two layers. Tip: do multiple boards at once, this is quite a process so the more you do at once the more time you spend on the good stuff.

HDF- Hard Density Fiberboard (MASONITE)

This board comes either tempered or untempered panels. The beauty of this is it can come in large sizes. There are some things to be aware of however, untempered masonite can warp when painted, whilst tempered masonite guards against easy warping it is treated with linseed oil guaranteeing a smooth, hard surface that requires sanding before preparing in order for the surface to stick. The main drawback of this surface is the weight, it's heavy. The surfaces can be used in the same ways as MDF.


Some say only use 100% rag (Cotton) paper, but l have indeed used dirty old computer paper with positive effects, lets have a go.

Varying sized paper and cardboard were coated with a
diluted binder medium solution on both sides before being coated with 100%
acrylic ceiling paint, 3 coats each side, no sanding was done between coats.

The more coats of paint the heavier and flatter the paper becomes, not so warped and wrinkly so to speak.

As you can see, the paper looks flatter, many artists than attached to boards.

Painting on paper


Plastic surface are tricky because of their shiny nature, and in the art world nothing sticks properly to a shiny surface, it will eventually peel and crumble leaving your artwork the same way as the city of Pompey. So lets try doing a fiberglass mannequin, a great surface for art.

Give it a good clean, chances are its dusty, grimey or dirty, so wash well with soapy water, and dry really well.

Binder medium (Art shops, hardware shops) is your best friend, this takes shiny surfaces and creates a surface where paint will stick and not peel off 5 minutes later, see instructions on the individual products label.

Finally coat with 100% Acrylic ceiling paint (cheap) or artist gesso (expensive), sand lightly between coats and allow at least 3 coats.


Again glass can be a tricky surface to paint due to the non porous, shiny surface.

Again you first have to get a surface that paint will adhere to so again binder medium is you best friend, you can find it in art shops or hardware shops, it comes as a liquid that you dilute with water, or you can get it premixed as a spray. Simply coat the glass and allow to dry.             

Paint on minimum 3 coats of 100% Acrylic ceiling paint or artist gesso sanding lightly between coats.

Artwork on glass, this could be done for table tops, by painting the underside of the glass in an abstract print. 


If you are going to be using oil based paints, copper, zinc and steel are the best metal surfaces to use. Oil paint can create transparencies onto metal surfaces that look amazing. If you are using acrylic paints you are best to stick with aluminum otherwise you risk paint peeling off. However if you follow the same instruction as that of glass, see above info, then it could work for you. Abit of trial and error here as l have not worked a lot with this surface base.


Canvas is your pretty standard painting base, and most of it come pre primed, so your off and running, however you may like to jazz and roughen up your surfaces to achieve unique looks, such as creating textured finishes,  afew favorites of mine are using a hardware product called Gap filler, it's a white creamy  paste like consistency, that comes in a tube that requires a tube gun to squeeze the contents out, its cheap as chip under $2 and the gun around the same price, so inexpensive. The beauty of this product is its minoverable meaning you can drag it around your canvas or board with ease, using a spatula or knife, spoon, stick, or whatever tickles your fancy to create what you need, but however you leave it is exactly how it dries, so you can get great height and texture. And its totally paintable! Brilliant.

The second product l use is called plumbers gap filling spray, it's actually designed for spraying into holes to fill them up, it sprays like a liquid but then expands like mad, l use it by spraying certain sections of the canvas then l scrap it across using a plaster scraper plastic tool, you can use a piece of wood or anything with a flat edge, but scrap well, because it continues to expand, and you don't want a ten centimetre expansion coming out of your canvas like a giant growth. It is a highly effective tool for getting maximum texture especially for abstract art. Here's one that l used it for in the background. 

I hope you learnt a bit from this blog


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