Which Side to Use?

Q. Can either the smooth or rough side of untempered Masonite be used as a painting surface for acrylics or pastels? I’m currently using the smooth side for an acrylic painting. I was worried about the brown bleeding through, so I first put a coat of Bulls Eye 1-2-3 water-based primer-sealer stain killer on the panel. I then went over this with numerous coats of acrylic artist’s gesso before starting my picture. What do you think of this treatment?

A. I can’t think of any reason why you shouldn’t use either side of a hardboard panel, provided you can work with the roughness of the texture. Moreover, it’s a good idea to seal the surfaces of both tempered and untempered hardboards, especially if you’re using water-thinned paints.

Golden Artists Colors has thoroughly documented a phenomenon called “support induced discoloration,” wherein the water content of acrylic emulsion primers can cause organic materials to dissolve out of both hardboard and textile supports and migrate up through the primer, discoloring it.

I also don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing to use a Bulls Eye product (a “latex acrylic”), but you may want to consider that Bulls Eye’s sealers and paints are made for commercial sign-painting applications and not specifically for artists’ use. Golden makes a medium specifically for reducing support-induced discoloration called GAC 700 Acrylic; the company cautions against brushing it on too aggressively to avoid foaming. It might be worth a try.

Margaret Huddy is a signature member of both the American and National Watercolor Societies. She’s on the faculty of the Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington, D.C., and The Art League School in Alexandria, Virginia. The internationally known artist has works in collections across the country, including the Supreme Court of the United States, the National Cathedral of Washington, D.C., and the Carnegie Museum in Oxnard, California. Her work can be seen in her studio at the Torpedo Factory Art Center (Alexandria, Virginia) and at the Foxhall Gallery (Washington, D.C.). She lives in McLean, Virginia.

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