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

FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How do you cut Ampersand panels to a different size? 
Answer:  If you don’t have access to industrial equipment such as a panel saw, you can use a sliding table saw with an ATB (Alternating Top Bevel) blade that has 40-80 carbide teeth to cut an un-cradled panel. We recommend cutting the panel with the coated surface face up, making certain that the points of the blade are cutting down through the painting surface and not up through the back of the board. The latter may cause unsafe movement of the panel and can also result in a ragged edge. After cutting the panel, use a 150-200 grit sandpaper to smooth out the edges. Other equipment like a band saw or a skill saw can be also used. Cutting a clean straight line may be more difficult using these cutting tools, but can still work if set-up properly. Note: if you are uncomfortable using power tools, we recommend seeking assistance from a carpenter or your local cabinet or frame shop.

Q. Can I paint with oils on Claybord?
Answer:  The short answer is yes. All of our panels are multi-media and may be used with any type of paint. We do not usually recommend the Claybord with oils because the surface is very absorbent and does not behave like a typical acrylic gesso. What happens is the oil paint “soaks” into the clay surface and settles to a matte finish. Many oil painters love this because they can work so quickly or can take advantage of the glossy-smooth surface, others would prefer a longer working time. Painting on Claybord is very much like painting on a traditional chalk and glue oil painting ground. If you like the smooth finish of the Claybord, but want to slow down the absorbency, try adding more painting medium in your initial layers of paint. After about 3-4 layers of paint, the absorbency greatly decreases, if not stops altogether. Another technique is to apply one thin coat of oil painting ground. This lessens the absorbency while maintaining the smooth surface. Oil paintings on Claybord are very beautiful however, we usually recommend Gessobord first for the oil painter who prefers a standard acrylic gesso ground.

Q. Which Ampersand surface should I use for encaustics?
Answer:  We recommend Encausticbord or The Artist Panel Unprimed Basswood for encaustic painting. Encausticbord is specially formulated and is the ideal surface for encaustic paints. Before developing Encausticbord, we used to recommend Claybord. If you do use Claybord, it is important that to use proper fusing methods. This includes heating the surface of the Claybord before painting in your priming wax layer and also fusing carefully between encaustic layers.

Q. Is it possible to get a custom size panel?
Answer:  Yes. Ampersand can make custom size panels up to 48” x 90” with cradles and cross braces up to 3 inches deep in any of Ampersand’s Museum Series surfaces. Currently, Floaterframe and the Value Series Artist Panel (including The Artist Panel Smooth Finish, The Artist Panel Canvas Texture, and The Artist Panel Unprimed Basswood) are not available in custom sizes. Email us at bords@ampersandart.com for a custom quote to get started. We are only able to accommodate custom panel requests within the USA and Canada at this time. Please plan on a 4 week turnaround time.

Q. How do I seal my watercolors so I can frame without glass?
  Seal finished watercolors or gouache with several light coats of spray varnish (or fixative), being careful to spray outdoors during warmer months or in a well ventilated and heated area during colder times of the year. We recommend Krylon UV Resistant Clear – Gloss, followed by Golden’s Polymer Varnish with UVLS (in satin, or matte). Golden Artist Colors’ Polymer Varnish with UVLS offers additional protection against scratches during transport and also ultraviolet light. About 4 coats brushed-on, provides a very durable archival finish and is also removable for conservation purposes.

Q. Why are there white specks on my watercolor washes on Aquabord?
Answer:  During the manufacturing process of Aquabord, air becomes trapped in the clay coating. After the coating is dry and water or watercolor is applied to the coating, this air is released and comes to the surface and can cause “bubbling” or “pin-dots” on the surface. We recommend “flushing out” Aquabord before beginning your painting by simply applying an even wash of water with a large brush over the entire surface. Let the air escape. Once the board is back to a damp stage, you can begin working on it. This method tends to eliminate these “bubbles” and will give you a more even wash. 

Q. How should I store my artworks on panel?
Answer:  Panels are made of wood and wood tends to absorb the moisture or lack of moisture in its surrounding. Therefore, be careful when storing your artworks on panel. It is best, as with all artworks, to store them in a temperature controlled environment. Make sure not to store them in a location like a garage or attic where temperature changes fluctuate drastically. Also, it is best to store artworks on panel laying flat, in a frame or hung on the wall. If a panel is left leaning against a wall for extended periods, gravity can cause a twist or warp in the wood. By storing the panels flat or on the wall, any pressure from gravity is more evenly distributed across the panel helping to prevent warping. If this happens to one of your flat panels, lay it flat for several days weighted down and in a controlled temperature and it should snap back to its original shape.

Q. Why are panels recommended over flexible supports?
Answer:  Conservators mainly recommend panels because of their rigidity. Rigid supports, when compared to flexible supports like canvas or paper, greatly reduce the movement of the paint film. Flexible supports like stretched canvas are more susceptible than panels to changes in temperature and humidity that can contribute to the movement and deterioration of the support over time and therefore affect the paint film in the process. These changes in the flexible support will cause movement and result in cracking and adhesion issues for artwork. This is especially true with strong, yet brittle mediums like oil paint, egg tempera or encaustic. Paintings on rigid wood panels will not experience this movement and therefore serve as a better support for paint film. For example, paintings on wood panels from the 3rd and 4th century are still intact as compared to canvas from later periods.

Q. How can I repair a damaged corner?
Answer: If a corner has been damaged on one of your panels, you can rebuild it using wood filler, modeling paste or even just acrylic gesso. Place tape around the damaged corner creating a square support edge, fill the space with the filler, allow it dry, remove the tape and sand it square and flat. Apply gesso over the patch so you can reapply and repair the painting if necessary. If a corner has “spread” after being dropped, you can iron it down using a household iron on high setting with plenty of pressure. Cover the surface of the corner with a heat resistant paper or fabric so that the surface of the panel does not scorch. If the painting surface is also damaged, you will need to reapply gesso or other surface coating. If the panel is either Claybord, Scratchbord, or Aquabord, request a patch kit with a small amount of the coating you’re using to get a perfect match. Contact us by phone or email for the patch kit.

Q. Is the new Artist Panel archival since it’s a value series product?
Answer:  The short answer is yes. The Artist Panel has an acrylic gesso surface with a neutral pH. The wood is sealed during the coating process to prevent discoloration and to ensure that the artwork will stand the test of time.

Q. Why can’t I find Claybord Fixative?
Answer:  Claybord Fixative was discontinued in 2007. We recommend using Krylon® Matte Finish #1311 as the fixative option most similar to Claybord Fixative. Other fixatives that work well to coat watercolors and other media that you want to frame without glass are Krylon® UV-Resistant Clear #1309, Krylon® Archival Varnish with UVLS #1378, and Lascaux® Fine Art Fixativ.

Q. Can I order directly from you?
Answer:  No. We do not sell products direct to artists with the exception of custom size panels. As a manufacturer, we work hard with our retail partners to help them provide competitive prices on Ampersand products. You will find super prices at our premier dealers and mega centers. To find a store near you, use our store locator on the main purchase page. If you do not have a local retail store, there are online/catalog options.

Q. If I have a cradled panel, do I need to seal the cradles?
  If you want to paint the cradles another color or if you want paint to drip over the sides of the panel, then yes, you need to seal the plywood in order to protect the paint film. First, seal the bare plywood with 2 coats of Golden® GAC100 or Gamblin PVA Size. Then, use 1-2 coats of acrylic gesso over the sealed cradles if you want to extend your painting around the sides or before painting the cradles.

To leave the natural color of the wood and to protect it from over-painting and drips, use painter’s tape to cover the cradles during painting. Remove the tape after you’re done and then apply GOLDEN® GAC100 to seal the wood or use a wax product like Minwax® or SC Johnson® Paste Wax. Buff the wax finish out to a satin sheen with a soft cloth or chamois. The Birch plywood cradles can also be sanded, stained and sealed to imitate a different wood species like Pecan, Cherry or Oak.

Q. Why do you need a surface for encaustic?
Answer: Richard Frumess from R&F Handmade paints explains: “When I began painting in encaustic in the early eighties, one of my first questions was “What can I paint on?” In 1988, I began building a business manufacturing encaustic paint and in 23 years, this question remains one of the most commonly asked. The answer has been that a support should be dimensionally stable. It should be as absorbent as possible. It should be heat resistant. Plywoods and hardboards were able to fill this purpose. If you wanted a white background however, you would have to mount watercolor paper to your panel or use the labor-intensive rabbit skin glue gesso method. Happily, when we joined forces with Ampersand, we were able to craft a one-word answer: Encausticbord. Encausticbord comes with a smooth uniform white ground with the tooth and absorbency of traditional glue gesso, but it is also a multimedia board that allows you to use oil paint or aqueous paints, either alone or as under-layers for encaustic.”

Have another question? Submit your question by email here: