1 (800) 822-1939   USA toll free
+1 (512) 322-0278   outside the US

All Things Ampersand

Painting with Oils on Claybord

Ampersand’s Claybord is designed for use with inks, graphite, acrylics, and other media. But what about using Claybord with oil paints?

For some artists, Claybord’s unique absorbency and the detail that they can achieve on its smooth surface offers them unmatched advantages in their painting. Many oil painters are using Claybord straight from the package, with beautiful results. One of these artists is Chicago painter, Louise LeBourgeois. Her process on Claybord involves painting in glaze layers, building her painting through several passes on the Claybord surface. By the time that she is beginning to hone in on the details of a painting, she has applied three to four applications and the absorbency has been greatly reduced, slowing the drying time and allowing for longer blending of colors.

Claybord’s smooth kaolin clay surface is very absorbent like the marble-smooth chalk gessoes of the Renaissance. Oil painters using traditional gesso will find many similarities when working on Claybord. However, oil painters who are used to working on less absorbent grounds such as acrylic gesso or oil ground will find that their paints work differently on Claybord due to its absorbency. The two main ways that this difference is apparent are in oil paint’s drying time and its final sheen. Oil paint dries more quickly on Claybord reducing the blending time of direct applications and the final sheen of oil colors is more matte.

If you’d like to use Claybord with oil paints, you can use it directly from the package for a more traditional Renaissance gesso feel, or you can modify the surface to reduce its absorbency. There are several possible ways to do this, allowing you to slow the drying time and retain the gloss of your colors.

Some possible modification options include:

  • Oiling-out
  • Toning the surface
  • Indirect painting method
  • Adding your own surface

Oiling Out

Oiling out is a process where the absorbency is reduced with a combination of oil painting medium and solvent (a “fat and lean” mixture). First, apply a liberal coating of 1:1 drying oil (such as linseed oil) or a fluid, commercially available painting medium (like Galkyd Lite) and solvent (such as OMS) to the Claybord surface. Next, allow the mixture to be absorbed into the surface for approximately five minutes. Finally, wipe off the excess painting medium with a soft, lint-free cloth and allow the surface to dry for one to two days before painting. This “oiling out” procedure can also be applied to a finished painting after it is completely dry or just to an area that may need to be enlivened.

Toning the Surface

Another option is to tone the surface with a single color to create a background tone that suits your intentions for your painting. Working on a neutral-toned surface helps to create more contrast in the values (the light and dark areas) of your painting as well. Select or mix a color of your choosing and thinly brush or wipe this color over the entire Claybord surface and allow it to dry. This can be done with a little solvent added to the paint or just the paint on its own, undiluted. A similar approach is to use this underpainting process to begin to map out the forms in your painting. You can apply the paint to define the light and dark areas as a first step, so when dry, these areas are already defined. This process can also be used for beginning a method of indirect painting, which is another option for using Claybord with oil paints.

Indirect Painting Method

Work in Process, Oil on Ampersand Claybord by Louise LeBourgeois


Indirect painting is a process that was used by the old masters, where the painting is created through several glazes of transparent and semi-transparent color. The final image allows light to pass through the paint layers for a visual mix of color and a “lit from within” quality. Since Claybord’s surface is like the old-masters’ gesso, it makes sense that the old-masters’ techniques would work on this panel too! By the time that there are three or four glaze layers applied to Claybord, its absorbency no longer shortens the drying time or effects the sheen of the paint. This is also the process that Louise LeBourgeois uses, working in layers to create depth within her paintings, taking advantage of the ultra-smooth Claybord surface.

Adding Your Own Surface

Claybord’s absorbency can also be altered by applying your own surface to the panel. You can apply a coat or two of a different coating, such as acrylic gesso or oil painting ground to the already sealed clay surface. Also, you can even mount canvas or linen to the Claybord surface. This allows you to personalize the surface absorbency and texture to your liking.

Although Ampersand offers less absorbent panel surfaces designed for oil painters, such as Gessobord, Claybord offers a wide range of unique advantages when used with oils. Whether you take advantage of Claybord’s absorbent clay coating with an indirect painting method or personalize the surface through oiling-out or applying your own ground layers, Claybord can be an exciting selection for oil painters!


The Spring Sale on Ampersand panels is going on now and runs through the end of May with participating retailers. Aquabord, Claybord, and Pastelbord are on sale for up to 50% off at select retailers across the country.


4 comments on “Painting with Oils on Claybord”

  1. Avatar Jean Marmo says:

    Thank you for sharing this!

  2. Avatar Lynn Alker says:

    Thank you Dana- great information.

  3. Avatar Bo kim says:

    This is very helpful. Wasn’t quite sure if oil would work at all on claybord. Thank you.

  4. Avatar AMY Green says:

    I tried oil directly on clayboard for the first time. I got the coolest effect! Esp when I thinned the oil in spots. I got neat texture and results. Definitely a cool matte finish. So glad I picked up this brand of canvas to try, and jumped in. So fun.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.