Wood Art Panels For Painting – Complete Guide For Artists

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Wood art panels for painting are supports which create a surface that you can lay your painting down on. There are quite a few different painting supports but in this article we are focused on exploring wood art panels for support!

Wood is one of the most common painting supports that painters use and is what was used for the painting above by Jan Van Eyck. There are a few different ways wood boards can be used for paintings – all of which we will go over here. One can either mount a painting with glue onto a wooden panel support. Or use wood art panels to temporarily attach a gessoed piece of canvas, for support during the process of the painting. 

Why Are Wood Art Panels Good Supports for Paintings?

The main advantage of using a rigid surface like wood is that it exerts no strain into the paint layers. By that I mean that the painting is less likely to crack or become bent in some way. In addition, during the process of painting a rigid surface is excellent for being able to apply any pressure onto the surface without worrying about damaging the surface.

Natural Wood Art Panels

The main defect of a wood support is its tendency to sometimes warp, shrink or expand. The two wood types are:

Softwood:

Often have a lot of resin and sometimes deteriorate quickly.

Hardwoods:

This variety is more durable and resistant to wet rot.

Purchasing Wood Boards from a Lumber Store

You can go to a lumber store and purchase a wood board to use as painting panels. You might be able to have them cut the wood into smaller sizes for you to use for smaller paintings. This is a sensible option to go for if you need to cut a board to a custom size.

Purchasing Ready Made Boards

I am a fan of purchasing ready made boards as I personally do not have the equipment to cut my own wood art panels. There are some excellent archival quality boards available on the market today. The only down side is that you are limited to standard sizes boards. If you want to have a custom sized board you will either need to find a way to use wood cutting machines or contact a wood worker.

Different Ways to Use Wood Art Panels for a Painting

Mounting Canvas onto the Wood Art Panel: 

You can apply acid free glue to wood art panels and apply a piece of canvas so that you have a good hard surface to paint on. 
 

Paint Directly on the Wooden art panel:

You can paint directly onto a wood panel that has been applied with gesso or treated with rabbit skin glue. 

Using a Wood Board as a Temporary Support:

Gessoed canvas mounted with masking tape
I like to use wood boards to temporarily mount paintings to by simply taping down a piece of canvas with masking tape as seen in the photo above. It is an easy way to get started quickly. You do not need to spend time mounting canvas to a wood board or treat the surface of a wood board so that it is ready to paint on. 
 

Ready Made Wood Art Panels

When purchasing ready made artists’ panels from an art supplies store you can be assured that the wood used for these will be suitable for your purposes. Typically the wood used for these comes from the temperate or tropical hardwoods. Occasionally, softwoods are used. You can check with the manufacturer if you are uncertain! This is one of my favorite painting boards to use since they come ready made and you do not need to go through the hassle of getting a board cut. 
 

Wood Art Panels Actually Last a Long Time

 Despite fears some may have of wood deteriorating over time, history shows that it is a great surface to use when treated and chosen carefully. Wood panels were nearly universally used (especially in Italy) until the late 1300’s. Ancient Egyptian paintings done on cedar panels are still well preserved to this day. The 15th century artist Cennini recommended for artists to use poplar, linden and willow wood. In northern Europe Oak wood was favored for its resistance to the damp climate – as well of course for its strength. Cedar and mahogany are also two recommended woods for wood art panels. 

Jan Van Eyck used an oak panel for one of his works. It is coated on the back with gesso glue and tow. Additionally, it is covered in black varnish. To this day it is free from woodworm and is in perfect condition.

Manmade wood

It is best to try to stay away from manmade wood for wood art panels. By this I mean plywood, blockboard, chipboard, hardboard, and MDF board. They usually are quite heavy and sometimes include acidic elements. Any kind of acid can cause deterioration in your painting over time. 

Examples of Other Rigid Supports:

  • Aluminum
  • Fiberglass
  • Steel
  • Copper

Recommended Wood Art Panels Available 

Here are some wood panels that I recommend and use myself. They are all ready made and are in standard sizes. 

Raw Wood Birch Panel

 
 

This is a simple raw wood panel that can be used in a variety of ways – either to mount canvas on or paint directly on after treated with gesso or rabbit skin glue.

Ampersand Hardboard Panel

ampersand hardboard panel for painting

These are one of my very favorite hardboard panels! You can find them in either cradled versions or 1/8 inch thick panels.

Cradled Wood Panels

cradled panel for painting

Cradled panels can be great if you are looking to have more support on your painting surface. Having a cradled panel can save your painting from getting warped! There are typically different thicknesses offered – 7/8 in, 1 1/2 in, or 2 1/2 inch. 

Richeson Hardboard Panels

richeson hardboard panels

I love these painting panels! They are a great affordable option that I often use for my own work. I also sometimes use the larger sizes as a support to temporarily mount a painting too as I work on it. 

Concluding Thoughts on Wooden Art Panels for Painting

I hope this article inspires you to try painting on wood panels, and if you already use them I hope you learned some new things about them! Leave a comment below about your experience using wood panels for painting. Here’s an article if you have your board and canvas prepped and are ready to get started with your painting.

Elisabeth Larson Koehler creator of art studio life

Hi! I am Elisabeth

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