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Plywood panels for oil painting

Hello, I live in Norway, and have just started oil painting. I use the Geneva oil paint, and follow the draw mix paint workflow when I paint. However, I have only painted on cheap canvas with a very rough surface, and this is not a texture I like.
As far as I'm concerned it is impossible to buy artist quality linen canvases where I live, and the price is very high abroad. 
So, I was wondering if someone here has any experience with using regular, inexpensive plywood panels for oil painting? Are there any major advantages/disadvantages compared to canvas? And is every type of plywood okay to use? How should such a surface be prepared?
In my opinion, plywood is an interesting alternative, mainly because it is very easy to obtain, and I can cut it to the exact dimentions that I want.

Would have been very interesting to hear your thoughts on this.


  • PaulBPaulB mod
    I have used plywood and birch panels, which are a kind of plywood.

    You need to seal the panel, on all 6 sides.  This stops moisture from the humidity entering the wood and causing daily expansion/contraction cycles.  This will eventually crack your paint.

    If you only seal one side, the panel will warp.  Mine did.

    I suggest sanding and painting the panels, all over, with two or three coats, lightly sanding in between.  I use external house primer paint, which is Latex/Acrylic.

    Consider using aluminum composite panels, which are also smooth and not affected by humidity.
  • dencaldencal -
    edited August 2018

    Welcome to the DMP Forum.

    There is so much to say on this answer. Try this link and come back with any questions.

    A Guide to Painting on Hardboard or Wood

  • Welcome to the forum. @PaulB gave you the short definitive answer. Here is a previous discussion on different painting supports with many links. This is all about texture and tooth.
  • Once I tried panels I was hooked. I use them whenever possible. They stay still and are smoother. but yeah,seal them, sand and optionally gesso.
  • I see no disadvantages except they are heavy and require a frame, where stretched canvas doesn't.
  • If you want to use plywood then get birch or marine plywood. Get all sides covered with acrylic gesso. You can even put canvas on top of panels if you need them. There are tons of videos on YouTube.

    Thickness of ply will depend on the size of the painting. You can use ply for size upto 16-20 inches. You have to choose canvas though if the painting is too big. Otherwise they will become extremely heavy.

    If you are doing just studies and not planning to charge humongous prices for selling then you can use MDF panels. quarter inch would be good.

    I would suggest that you use nylon bristle brushes. Otherwise the painting will have scratchy marks (ply surface smoother than canvas). But if you like scratchy marks and can use them in the painting then it is ok.

    Before painting put braces behind panels if they are about 12X16 inches or bigger. Otherwise, painting may warp. 
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