Learn How to Seal and Prime a Wood Panel for Acrylic Painting
Create Long-Lasting Paintings With These Simple Steps
After working with canvases for some time, I’ve decided to focus on creating smaller abstract paintings on 6-inch square cradled wood blocks.
Wood can be a wonderful surface to work on — it never ‘talks back’; unlike canvas, which gives way slightly as it stretches when applying paint. This flatness can be particularly ideal for abstract hard-edge paintings.
If you buy an unprimed wooden block, there are additional steps you need to take to make sure your painting is archival: meaning that the painting will remain stable for a long time without degradation.
In this tutorial, I’ll teach you the important steps of sealing and priming a wooden block.
Before we get started, it’s important for me to mention that if you are happy to spend more money, you can get a wooden block that’s already primed and ready to accept acrylic paint. The cost difference isn’t much for small pieces but can be significant when preparing larger panels.
But for this tutorial, we’ll be priming a wood block that hasn’t been prepared in any way.
Let’s get started!
Sealing prevents discoloration when using acrylic paint on wood by creating a physical barrier between the wood and paint.
For this, we’ll be using Golden GAC 100 Acrylic Primer and Extender.
Squeeze out the liquid onto the surface of the panel (including sides, if you’re painting those).
Take a brush and work the primer into the wood.
Wait until this dries and repeat the process with a 2nd layer.
Now that the wooden block is sealed, we need to prime it.
A primer is a base coat that makes it easier for acrylic paint to stick to the wooden block, sometimes referred to as ‘tooth’.
For this, I’m using PEBEO 524122 Studio Acrylics 1 Litre Gesso.
Apply the first coat with a brush and wait for it to dry.
Then, repeat with a second coat and again wait until this dries:
Congratulations — your wooden panel is now sealed and primed for acrylic paint!
Activating the Canvas
Abstract painters often ‘activate the canvas’ before working on the main composition, which can be done by scribbling (pencil, graphite stick, charcoal, etc) and/or random paint marks.
These foundation layers will mostly not show in the final product. However, these layers can help add interest to the piece, peeking through beneath layers of paint on top.
I’ve chosen to activate this canvas with Liquitex Basics Phthalo Blue, which is a dark blue color. I apply this with a rubber brayer to add lots of interesting marks.
Once that’s dry, I get my palette knives out, ready to start building a composition.
I prefer to create simple geometric compositions in an impasto (thickly-laid painting) fashion with Liquitex heavy-body acrylic paints.
Scraping the paint across the block with a palette knife adds further interest, as some of the paint surface tension gives way, creating breaks.
I build up layers of color, one on top of the other.
It’s important to wait for the layers underneath to dry completely. Remember, with thickly applied acrylics, some of the paint could still be drying underneath the dried surface, which can easily be disturbed by scraping a palette knife over it.
Here is my finished painting, keeping it loose and simple:
Thanks for reading! Let me know what you think in the comments section below, and don’t forget to subscribe 👍