Ampersand really does provide a surface for every style of painting and medium out there. With the variety of surfaces, it can be tough to choose which surface is right for you, especially if the medium is so versatile, like acrylic. Let’s take a look at the properties of both and what works best with this medium.
Acrylics, or acrylic dispersion paint, is relatively new to the art world, coming into its own as the paint it is today in the early 60’s. Acrylic paint is pigment that has been dispersed, or evenly homogenized and stabilized in an acrylic binder, which differs depending on the brand of paint you use.
Unlike any other painting medium, many raw materials may be added to provide a variety of working properties. Brilliant color and quick drying time are commonly known attributes of acrylic paints. A variety of additives can control the thicknesses, density, hardness, flexibility and gloss levels of the paint. As such, acrylics are a versatile medium, able to adhere to almost anything, work quickly as a watercolor wash or go on super heavy like alla prima oil paint. They can work as washes under colored pencil, pastel, graphite, charcoal or ink. And, they can handle specialized additives like marble dust, granite or pumice. Acrylics can also be printed on via an inkjet printer or they can be used to embed an image from a printer. Acrylics can be used to seal a watercolor painting, seal a raw panel, prime a raw canvas or “be the canvas” themselves. Acrylics are so versatile that it seems they would work on any Ampersand panel. And, while that is true, here are some thoughts about using acrylic on specific Ampersand boards.
Gessobord™, our #1 recommendation, was designed with acrylics in mind for both thin washes and thick strokes of paint. To make Gessobord, we use a professional quality acrylic gesso that is sanded to a finely textured and slightly absorbent finish. Gessobord works well with gel mediums, scraping tools, palette knives and heavy layering. And now, it comes in a 1 1/2″ profile that fits into standard gallery and floater frames or that can be painted or stained to finish.
Claybord™ excels with thinned acrylic watercolor techniques because it’s highly absorbent, vellum-smooth and extremely forgiving with changes and clean-up. Like Gessobord, it’s also now available in the 1 1/2” cradle.
With more fluid and thinned acrylic paints, only Claybord™ allows for additive and subtractive art techniques. Easily remove color or add lines and texture with the Ampersand scratch tools and oil-free steel wool adding dimension and clarity to your image.
Since Claybord™ is so absorbent, when trying to preserve color, always thin down your acrylics with the appropriate medium, like a matte acrylic medium, for example, rather than with water.
Aquabord™ is more textured and absorbent than Claybord and allows for a more even build-up of paint layers and stacked brush strokes similar to using a cold press paper. Since it’s designed for use with watercolor, it’s also amazing with acrylic wash techniques and mixed media.
Pastelbord™ is also a viable option because it offers a longer open working time with acrylics due to its clay, gesso and marble dust finish that is not only finely textured, but also absorbent. This unique ground allows seamless flows and washes better than on any of our other surfaces.
Pastelbord™ comes in three great colors and white already, but can be easily toned with an acrylic color wash for your own choice of under-painting color.
Encausticbord™, originally designed for the unique demands of encaustic painting, is also an ideal choice for those looking to use acrylics alone or with mixed media and collage. The surface is sanded smoother than the Gessobord and is also a bit more absorbent. Encausticbord functions well for all types of acrylic paint applications. We don’t recommend using acrylics with encaustic paint, however, because the wax will not permanently bond with it.
For Scratchbord™ art, acrylics can be thinned down and used to color the white scratched-in areas. Our Scratchbord is coated with jet black india ink, but reveals the white underneath when scratches are made — it’s a smooth white clay surface that accepts all types of watermedia.
All of the Museum Series Ampersand surface coatings I just mentioned are pH neutral, acid-free and archival.
For more information on specific panels with acrylic paint, check out the articles below:
“I love drama, not in my life, but in my paintings.” ~Cynthia Haase
Cynthia Haase was given a set of pastels and a pad of paper from a neighbor friend when she was young planting her love affair with art. She continued her pastel work and moved into colored pencils into adulthood even though life called her to work full time for a while to care for her family. In 1992, she was able to leave the corporate world to pursue her passion for art full time.
Haase took time in her self-directed study to work under Deborah Bays who gave her a deep appreciation for atmosphere, lighting and a sense of drama in her work. It has only been a recent move to oil painting for Haase as she picked up a paint brush in 2010 and began painting daily, bringing the same atmosphere to her paintings as she has to her colored pencil work and pastel paintings.
Since Haase already had a background using Pastelbord™ as a favorite surface for her colored pencil and pastel work, she picked up Gessobord™ and found that her oil painting style worked well with the coated panels. Haase explains, “the smooth surface of Gessobord best allows me to achieve big brushstrokes with thin paint in some areas and thick paint in others. I also love soft edges and Gessobord allows my brush to slide so smoothly to create that softness. You can either fight with a surface or you can focus on what you do best and assume the surface is going to help you.”
Blue Sake Pitcher, 8″ x 10″, Pastel on Pastelbord
In choosing quality art materials like Gessobord or Pastelbord, Haase shares that the high quality and archival features of the panels are top priorities in her work. She also finds that the sizes she prefers in the bords pack and ship well to her clientele with no fuss.
In today’s art supply market, artists have a plethora of surfaces to choose from to create their work. We’d like to share some information regarding the advantages of painting on not just a rigid panel, but the true advantages of painting on an Ampersand panel that has been well prepared.
Well-prepared rigid panels are the best support for an artwork — It is difficult, over time, for a stretched canvas to support thick layers of oil colors, acrylic paints or alkyds without resulting in cracking of the paint film. Stretched canvas is also much more susceptible to atmospheric changes in moisture and temperature – again affecting the stability of the artwork over time. Rigid substrates, on the other hand, can support heavy bodied paints and thick layers without cracking. Paintings on prepared wood panels from the 3rd and 4th centuries are still in tact without cracking of the paint film
Archiva-Seal™ barrier technology protects your art — All wood panels should be sealed before applying the painting ground and before painting on the surface. Have you ever used a pure white gesso ground directly on wood only to discover that it looks yellow or marbled? Not with Ampersand’s acid-free surfaces. Ampersand’s hardboard supports are first properly sealed with Archiva-Seal™. Ampersand uses this unique patented barrier technology to seal the hardboard preventing any support-induced discoloration and any separation of the painting ground from the panel.
Acid-free surfaces from top to bottom — Every single ground Ampersand uses is acid-free and long lasting, from the smooth absorbent clay ground of Claybord™ to the bright acrylic gesso ground of Gessobord™.
High-density hardboard engineered for stability — All of Ampersand’s Museum Series panels are made with premium US made hardboard that has a high-density fiber core engineered for maximum dimensional stability. Ampersand’s hardboard outperforms MDF and raw wood panels when it comes to eliminating panel warping and bowing.
Museum Series Sampler
Easy to frame or not to frame — There is no need to frame the cradled panels as they are ready to hang as soon as the painting is complete. Only Ampersand cradle support frames are handcrafted with 13-ply stable Birch plywood that can be painted, stained, waxed or left unfinished. Ampersand offers up a few hanging tips and cradle treatments here: Hanging Tips
Choose from a variety of finishes without having to seal and prime — Claybord™, Encausticbord™, Pastelbord™, Gessobord™, Scratchbord™ and Aquabord™ are all ready to use right away without the need to seal, prime and gesso the panel. And, if you want to prepare your own special ground, you can use Hardbord™.
Many popular standard sizes and profiles — Ampersand has a wealth of sizes and cradle profiles, choose from over 500 configurations. Download a pdf of the complete list here: Sizes and Profiles
Panels can support any paint medium — Any medium can be applied to one of Ampersand’s panels: pastel, charcoal, acrylic, oil, watercolor, gouache, alkyd, casein, ink, oil pastel, oil bar, encaustic, egg tempera and more. For tips on which panel might be right for you, here’s a panel comparison chart: Panel Comparison Chart
Made from FSC certified sustainable US forest products — Using wood panels can be daunting, knowing that trees are processed to make them, however, Ampersand takes the environment seriously and although more expensive, they choose FSC certified wood products from US forests that are renewable and sustainable. FSC certification is the most effective environmental standard for the protection of wildlife, soil and water quality. Ampersand hardboard is also manufactured using a completely green process: no harmful chemicals used, no hazardous waste and no gas emissions for the end consumer—and completely formaldehyde-free.
Made in the USA — Ampersand official headquarters is located in Austin, Texas providing manufacturing jobs in their community and the highest quality products for artists nationwide.
Claybord™ is an extremely smooth surface, workable for both additive and subtractive art making. Its name comes from the absorbent clay ground that is reminiscent of the clay gesso grounds, made with chalk and animal hide glue, used during the Renaissance. Claybord has an archival finish, suitable for acrylics, casein, gouache, tempera, egg tempera, pen and inks as well as for mixed media techniques, airbrush, and collage.
Since Claybord is so receptive to watermedia, it is recommended for painting when an absorbent ground is needed.
Claybord’s coating is thick enough to use a razor blade or scratch tool to reveal the white clay beneath a layer of painted color to give detail and definition to a painting.
When painting in acrylics, if removal of paint is desired, consider painting in thinner films. Acrylic dries to a more flexible, plastic-like film.
First layers of oil paint will dry rapidly to a matte finish, due to the absorbancy of Claybord. Subsequent layers will dry more slowly and keep their luster. In order to keep the oils from absorbing into the panel’s coating, consider using Gessobord or following these steps to prepare the Claybord for oil paints.
Claybord is ideal for casein and egg tempera, considering the fragility of these ancient mediums. Both are prone to cracking when dry and need the stability and absorbency that only Claybord can provide. Apply these paints in thin layers.
Softer leads with high pigment content work best on Claybord when using pencil or graphite. Claybord tolerates repeated erasing without marring the surface and can be sealed and framed without glass.
Claybord works well with pen and ink as fine lines do not smudge and the ink dries rapidly; however, take heed to prepare the board by dusting and wiping down in order to prevent clogging of pens.
If you are interested in sealing your work in watercolor, ink or scratchbord for glass-free presentation, we recommend using the Krylon® UV Archival line of spray varnishes found on Krylon’s website.