Making Textured Panels

Materials for and preparation of the panels:

I use 1/4" MDF (medium density fiberboard) or 1/4" finish grade plywood (birch is less porous than oak). I buy 2 ft by 4 ft sheets (about $10) at the home store (Home Depot) and cut them up on my table saw to size. I most commonly make 9" by 12", 11" by 14" and 12" by 16" panels.  After cutting to size, I sand the edges and face to paint on with 120 grit or finer sand paper and coat the back with Golden Acrylic Polymer (GAC-100) to seal it. You can buy plywood or hardboard panels online or from your art store, or you can have a friend with a table saw cut them for you.  You can use 1/8" fiberboard if it is tempered (Masonite or Ampersand panels) or 1/8" plywood if it has 5 layers (Baltic birch from woodworking stores). Warping is more likely with thinner panels.

Texturing the Panels:

I use Liquitex Super Heavy Gesso (this costs about $29 per quart but goes a long way). An alternative is to mix 50/50 acrylic soft body gel medium (Liquitex, Golden or other) with artist's acrylic gesso. I then brush one coat on the front with a coarse 2" bristle brush using small strokes of this texture coat; don't make it too thick and the smaller the panel, the less texture needed.

Gessoing the Textured Panels:

When the texture coat is dry, I paint the sides and front with 2 coats of my casein modified gesso using a soft 1 inch gesso brush (Princeton) or any soft bristle brush from the art or hardware store. The way I make my caein modified gesso is as follows: I buy a 16oz jar of Blick Artists' Acrylic Gesso and dump 1/2 of it into an 8 oz or largery glass jar and save it for the next batch. Then I add to the 1/2 full jar a 3.75 fl. oz bottle of casein emulsion from Richeson (The Shiva Series). I get the gesso and the casein emulson from Blick. This gesso has more tooth and less absorbancy than plain gesso and seems to work well.

Experience with the textured panels:

I have been using these textured panels for most of my paintings 12" by 16" and smaller for about 18 months and really like them. Johannes Vloothuis was doing a similar thing for a lot of his paintings using Acrylic heavy body gel mixed with gesso instead and after I told him about the Liquitex Super Heavy Gesso, he switched to it. Larry Seiler mixes pumice in with his gesso.   David Curtis (UK) paints on similar panels.

What is special about the casein in the gesso:

I started using the casein modified gesso after reading about it on a Dutch artist's website containing a lot of recipes for oil painting materials. The site for the PDF E-book of oil painting recipes is: Because there is no chemical bond between an acrylic dispersion (gesso) and the oil paint, it depends only on a mechanical bond. The casein (milk protein) provides a chemical bond to the oils. Toning the panel will be best with oils rather than acrylics, so that the chemical bond is maintained. An alternative would be to add some pigment or tube acrylics into the final casein modified gesso coat.


What your textured panel should look like:

When you have finished the panel and allowed it to dry the accompanying photo shows what the texture will look like.  To show this off in the photo, I applied some OMS thinned raw umber and wiped back with a flexible silicone spatula to accentuate the strokes.  Note the random pattern.  Don't make the texture layer too thick.   This can be used on a canvas panel or stretched canvas as well because this is just a thick gesso and very flexible.


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Comment by Stuart J. Gourlay on August 8, 2014 at 21:13
Craig, thanks for your comments. Yes, I have made about a dozen 12" by 16" panels and a couple of 16" by 20" panels. For the larger sizes I use 1/4" hardboard or plywood. Stu
Comment by Craig Seaborn on August 8, 2014 at 14:18

Hi Stuart good stuff , thanks for the info , have you ever cut bigger sizes?

Comment by Silvana M Albano on July 21, 2013 at 15:22

Wow! Thanks Stu! I realize that I have to learn many more things! At least for giving instructions to my husband on what to do!!!! LOL!!!!I have just googled images on the frames you have described, I have never seen them already prepared. And framing  is also quite expensive around here... !

Comment by Stuart J. Gourlay on July 21, 2013 at 15:01
Silvana, I frame them. They will do just fine in a regular frame. If you want to put them in a shadow box frame, you need to put some wood around the edges to bring them up to 3/4 inch (19 mm) in thickness. You can buy frames online at most of the art supply vendors. I usually frame my plein air paintings in plain gold leaf finished wood frames that I get online from Jerry's Arterama. Framing can be an expensive venture. I always make my panels in standard sizes so that I can use ready made frames. I do make my own shadow box frames, but one of my other hobbies is woodworking, so I have all the tools needed for this. Stu
Comment by Silvana M Albano on July 21, 2013 at 14:11

I will try to find it! 

Another question Stu, what do you do with your paintings on panels? It may sound as a very stupid question, but I wonder if you just place some nails and a wire for hanging them or if you do anything else. I have just hung some which were canvases... 

Comment by Stuart J. Gourlay on July 21, 2013 at 13:38
No, Silvana, it is just a heavier gesso that will show the brush marks and not level out. You can make a substitute for it by mixing 50/50 the regular artists acrylic gesso with any thick acrylic gel. Most of the manufacturers of acrylic paints make both gessos and acrylic gels. Liquitex is a US manufacturer's brand name. See what you can find at your art store or give one of the online companies a try (ASW, Jerry's Arterama, Dick Bick, or Cheap Joe's). I would not use wallboard cement because I doubt it is neutral pH and will harm your paint film. When you paint a mural on a wall, you always coat it with gesso first. Stu
Comment by Silvana M Albano on July 21, 2013 at 13:23

I am here again, checking your textured panels. Wanted to check what you used, but I have  a a translation problem. What would Liquitex super heavy gesso be like? Is it like the fillings for the walls? what you put on them so they become smooth? I just know the artistic gesso, which is very expensive and it comes in small containers.

Does it have any alternative name? 

Comment by Stuart J. Gourlay on May 9, 2013 at 12:38
Thanks Ann. Stu
Comment by Ann Turner on May 9, 2013 at 10:09

Thanks for the information Stu. I also enjoy the discussion that your information generates

Comment by Stuart J. Gourlay on May 5, 2013 at 10:06

Silvana, you can glue them to a panel and they will be more durable.   Make sure that you use pH neutral glue (bookbinders type glue) so that you don't cause the paper to oxidize.   I glue canvas to hardboard and plywood all the time when I make canvas panels.   I usually use acrylic soft body gel and trowel it on the board and then cover the canvas with paper and use a brayer to work out the bubbles.   I then put weights on the panel.   Stu


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