A Demonstration of the Best Way to Prepare Ampersand Hardbord Using Daniel Smith Gesso
The tradition of panel painting dates back to the Renaissance.
If the masters had today's technology available, they would have used Ampersand Hardbord as the substrate for their meticulously prepared panels. When sealed correctly, Ampersand Hardbord can be a better substrate to use than a solid wood panel because it is not subject to expansion and contraction as it absorbs moisture. Ampersand Hardbord is made by permanently binding wood fibers under extreme heat and pressure. The result is an extremely hard, grainless panel of uniform thickness and density that offers a dimensional stability not found in solid wood panels. This article explains the process for getting the best possible surface to paint on when using DANIEL SMITH Gesso and Hardbord for your substrate.
Sizing the panel. We used DANIEL SMITH'S White Gesso for this demonstration. This gesso will dry within a matter of hours. DANIEL SMITH Gesso comes in a range of colors that allow for variation in your foundation tone.
Protecting and preparing the cradle. Hardbord comes in either a flat 1/8" panel, with a 3/4" cradle, or with the 2" DEEP cradle. You have the choice of painting all the way around the cradle or leaving the natural wood showing for framing purposes. Be sure to prime the wood if you want to paint completely around the edges of the cradle. Or, to protect the wood from paint and primer, cover the sides of the panel with painter's tape up to the edge of the Hardbord. Do not remove the tape until the painting is finished. Painter's tape does not leave a sticky residue like many household masking tapes that can be difficult to remove, and will leave a pristine surface underneath when your painting is complete.
Apply the Gesso. DANIEL SMITH Gesso can be applied with either a large trowel-shaped knife or a large stiff bristle brush. When priming with a palette knife (3A), begin by placing a portion of the gesso in the center of the panel. Spread it in one direction, and then in the opposite, and finally in a diagonal direction. (3B) Clean the trowel and run it over the gesso to smooth and even out the surface. Prime the wood edges of the panel if left unprotected. When the first coat of oil gesso is completely dry (about 7 hours), lightly sand the surface with a sanding block using a 400 grit sandpaper.
Another great option for sanding is to use a hand held electric sander. Since Hardbord is a rigid wood panel, the electric sander can be used, especially for more difficult spots. A second coat Ccan be applied the next day or any time after the first coat has dried. If priming with a bristle brush, use a large bristle brush, at least 2"-3" wide, and apply the gesso with quick alternating strokes, working it well into the surface. After evenly distributing the gesso over the entire surface, finish by going over it lightly with a clean brush, carefully in straight lines. Let the first coat dry, then sand and apply a second coat. At least two coats of gesso should be applied. The more coats of gesso that are applied, the smoother the surface will become.
Finishing. Eliminate any unevenness on the gessoed surface by lightly sanding the panel after it has thoroughly dried. The gesso panels should be allowed to dry completely at room temperature before painting. If you prepare several panels at a time, then you will have stock on hand that is dry and ready to paint when needed. Now you are ready to put your panels to the test.