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All Things Ampersand

Ampersand 101: Claybord

Welcome to the fourth installment in our continuing series of “101” features on Ampersand Bords. Many artists are just now discovering our panels and this back-to-basics series is designed to help distinguish between our different surfaces, and to provide a review for the Ampersand veterans. In this article, we are going to look at our signature (and very first) product – Claybord.


Claybord is our most versatile panel and is a favorite of both fine and graphic artists. It features a velvety-smooth and extremely absorbent clay finish to which no other surface compares. This kaolin clay ground formula is very similar to the clay gesso grounds used during the Renaissance period. But Claybord also has one incredible characteristic that really sets it apart. Its unique surface traps pigments in the top layers, allowing you to use sgraffito techniques to cut into the surface and re-expose the white clay ground. This is how Colorado artist and Claybord inventor Charles Ewing was using it from the very beginning.

Claybord Inventor Charles Ewing


Charles was making clay-coated panels for his own work. He wanted a smooth, rigid surface that allowed him the ability to manipulate his ink applications with scratchboard techniques. He partnered with Ampersand to further develop these panels and make them available to artists everywhere. This is how Ampersand Art Supply got its start. Charles remains instrumental in our product development and testing to this day.

The smooth finish and the absorbency of the clay ground allows the use of an abrasive tool like oil-free steel wool or sandpaper to remove pigment without damaging the finish. The dense coating is 7 to 10 dry-mils thick which holds up to multiple cut-ins and erasing. You can work and rework an image until you get it exactly right!

Claybord is extremely absorbent. The clay particles form a lattice that acts like a filter when wet pigment is applied. Because the paint or ink binders saturate the top layer of clay, the pigment holds tightly to the surface. Its absorbency means that paint applications on Claybord will dry faster – so you can work more quickly.

Any type of artwork that requires a smooth, absorbent surface can be done on Claybord. This makes Claybord perfect for use with nearly any medium. Claybord’s pH neutral, acid-free coating is sanded to an ultra-smooth finish so you can achieve remarkably fine details. And when you are finished, apply a fixative and display your artwork without the glare of glass!

Claybord is one of Ampersand’s “Museum Series” panels. There are no other wooden panels on the market that protect an artist’s work against damage from humidity and temperature changes like an Ampersand Museum Series wood panel.

Museum Series Claybord is made using 1/8″ True Artist Hardboard. Only Ampersand uses true high-density hardboard made from US grown and renewable, FSC Certified Aspen wood fibers. Ampersand’s panels have been tested under extreme conditions and are tested to last more than 200 years. Read more about the hardboard we use and why we’ve found it to be a better substrate.

And Ampersand’s panels are truly archival. Every Claybord panel receives our patented Archiva-Seal coating, the most advanced formula for sealing wood that prevents support induced discoloration. Because Claybord’s Hardbord substrate has been properly sealed, your work will remain acid-free.
Claybord is available as a 1/8” flat panel or with 3/4″, 1.5″ and 2″ cradle profiles. It has a wide range of standard sizes from 4” x 4” up to 36” x 48”. Only Ampersand builds their cradles by hand with premium-grade 13-ply birch plywood for maximum stability and a clean, finished look from edge to edge. Cradles can be painted or stained to complement the artwork or sealed and then primed with gesso to wrap your image around the edges.

For ideas on how to treat the edges of the cradle, consult this article on hanging and framing.

Claybord panels are eco-friendly, and proudly handcrafted in the USA – just south of Austin in Buda, Texas.


  • Great for use with ink, graphite, acrylic, gouache, collage, egg tempera, airbrush, and more!
  • Unlimited Techniques — etching, erasing, reworking, adding color and scratching it away!
  • Seal and frame without glass!
  • Similar to chalk/gypsum gessoed panels of the Renaissance used for egg tempera and oils
  • Sanded to an ultra-smooth and absorbent finish

Using Claybord

Claybord is perfect for painting with India ink, pigmented and alcohol inks, egg tempera, casein, acrylics, gouache, pen and pencil, dry media and airbrush. Thin applications of paints and inks can be scratched away to vary tonal value, create detail, to develop highlights, and to correct mistakes. Various artist tools can be used such as Ampersand Scratchbord tools, hobby knives, razor blades, etching tools, sand paper, Ampersand Oil-free Steel Wool, and electric erasers.

Claybord’s inventor Charles Ewing demonstrates his process for using India inks in an additive and subtractive process here.

Claybord is also an excellent printing surface and can also be used for image transfers. It bonds well with adhesives, making it exceptional for mounting papers, prints and fabrics.

While Claybord allows the use of traditional materials, tools, and techniques, it is also an ideal surface for mixed media and experimentation. That’s why we call it, “The Ultimate Multi-Media Panel!”

2017 Fall Back to School Sale!

The Fall Back-to-School sale on Ampersand panels is going on now and runs through the end of September. Gessobord, Claybord, Scratchbord, our Artist Panel Series (Primed Smooth, Canvas Texture and Unprimed Basswood) and more on sale for up to 50% off at select retailers across the country.


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