Preparation of Wood Panels for Oil Painting

Wood panels are a beautiful surface for oil paintings and offer a stiffer support for those of us who prefer it. I've had quite a bit of trial and error in the way of hand-built and pre-made panels over the past 15 years, but with some help from Golden I learned how to properly seal them.

I started using wood panels for oil painting in college. It was cheaper and less labor-intensive to get sheets of birch from the hardware store to work on than it was to build frames and stretch canvas. Recently, I started to re-use (rather, repaint over) my old panels within the past year, and found that there were a lot of them that had not been primed as well as I'd thought. When I started reworking older panels, I had trouble blending the oils on them, which lead me to believe that the gesso alone did not reduce oil penetration.

I had a customer come in to the store having the same issue. She had gessoed her wooden panels with several layers of Golden gesso, and was noticing her oil painting seeping into the canvas. We both could only describe it as "a lot of drag and resistance," as well as losing the ability to blend. I decided to call Golden, and we learned that the panel should be sealed first with GAC 100.

Their website has excellent information on the GOLDEN GAC TECHNICAL INFO page:

Linseed Oil Blocker:
Two coats of GAC 100 before gessoing will substantially reduce linseed oil penetration into the canvas fibers. If stiffness and oil-blocking are desired, apply a coat of GAC 400 to the front, directly into the raw canvas, followed by one coat of GAC 100 onto the front of the canvas. Follow this by the desired number of gesso coats.

This being said, I documented refurbishing a hand-cut wood panel I made in 2008.

The original on the left was an acrylic for a self portrait assignment in college that I was lazy about (and did not want particularly to do), which resulted in cutting out way too many inkjet printouts of tiny CDs. The photo is from before I painted over it in 2015.

The photo on the right is the result of the attempt to paint over the original collage work, which.. didn't work. This particular photo was taken right before I started scraping and sanding the panel down.

So now I'm left with the task to somehow scrape this stuff off, sand down as much acrylic as I can, and prime the panel properly.

After using a scraper to get the collage work off, I started to sand it down with first an 80 grit, then a 120 grit sandpaper. it helped significantly. When all that was complete, I took a damp paper towel to wipe it down before trying the GAC 100. The shiny layer over the painting is the GAC 100. It is glossy, but that didn't matter because it's just a transparent primer before the gesso.

This is the final result with Golden gesso over it. It turned out beautifully, and I'm excited to get ideas going to work on it at some point soon.

In the meantime, in case anyone is wondering "how will you know if you haven't tried this panel yet?" The good news is, I decided to paint over another old acrylic painting on one of my hand built panels, and it turned out fantastic. I brushed over the top of the old painting with two coats of GAC 100 (leave a day for each layer to fully dry), but because the GAC 100 is transparent, I was able to use the old painting almost like an underpainting.
It's a great, smooth surface to work on for oils, and it truly does work as a fantastic primer for wood before painting.

Thanks for reading!


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