Painting on wood is not a new thing. The old masters did it, and so shall we. For instance, did you know that the Mona Lisa is painted on a regular wooden board?
Now, before you go out to the shed and begin to pull out old pieces of plywood and start slinging paint at it, there are a few things that you need to know about painting on wood.
What type of wood to use?
There really are no rules regarding this, however, wooden plates with smooth surfaces seem to be the better choice as they don’t soak up too much paint, making it easier to add fine details to your painting. I prefer smooth surfaced plates myself. Most often I go for salvaged wood; you really can paint on anything. Old doors, wallboards, roof panels; anything goes. Nothing is better than bringing scrap back to life.
Preparing the wood
Now, after you have found a proper piece of wood you must clean it for dirt and other things that might sit on the wood and cause it to rot. I usually go over the plate with good old green soap and a cloth.
I then use some fine grained sanding paper and carefully sand the entire surface using circular motions. After the first sanding I take a moist cloth and run it over the plate. This will make the surface of the place swell slightly so it is possible to sand down any irregularities on the plate.
You should now have a well cleaned and sanded wooden plate, ready for some paint! Before we begin on our masterpiece we will need to gesso the plate or canvas if you like.
The gesso will give us a smooth and even surface for us to paint on and it will seal the wooden surface, making it much less likely to swell up and create cracks in the painting. Did you know that the Louvre keeps Mona Lisa in a moisture controlled box in order to keep the wooded canvas from swelling and forming cracks?
I usually recommend two layers of gesso before the canvas is ready, and sanding after the first layer has dried. I do this because the first coating of gesso will cause a few bumps and spots in the wood to appear, so sanding the canvas one more time should remove whatever irregularities that may be left. After the final sanding, the wooden plate is ready for the final coat of gesso.
Ready for the masterpiece
Once the gesso has dried up, it’s time to start painting! Painting on wood is a bit different from painting on regular canvas. The paint will move much easier and doesn’t absorb into the canvas as much as it does on regular fabric canvas.
The best way to master the technique of painting on wood is to get your hands dirty and try out different motives and acrylic/water mixtures and different types of brushes.
Below you will find some instructional videos on prepping the wood for painting.