Thursday, October 10, 2013

More Apocalypse-Surviving Panels

A couple of months ago Dave shared his approach to making panels.  Now, I know you all think that Dave and I live in a state of blissful marital harmony, with him checking the oil in my car and me ironing pleats into his boxers, but the truth of the matter is that we do have completely incompatible ideas about panel making.  I confess, the darkest moments of my married life have been when Dave has coerced me into helping him make panels.  Normally I try to schedule some sort of errand outside of the house so that I can be gone for a good ten hour period.  And I know you all are like, hey, she jokes around a lot on the blog, but guys, I'm f***ing serious about this one.  I have a couple of different ways of making panels and I'm going to share those with you now.

But before I get into my personal panel-making, I just want to tell you WHY you should make your own panels:
  1. Cost
  2. Complete control over dimensions
  3. Quality control 
If I didn't have you at cost, you're no starving artist.  Congratulations.  Try not to spill your caviar and champagne on your keyboard as you scroll down.  Cost used to be such a big deal for us that Dave and I would have to have sit down conversations about large scale paintings.  We would have to agree to spend the money.  Now we just laugh maniacally as we throw that dibond through the saw blade.  Dimensions are super easy now too.  The other day I cut a panel.  Decided it was an inch too narrow.  Cut a new one from my endless stash of dibond.  No biggie.  Bam.  And finally, I'm really happy with the quality of my panels.  I prepare them myself, so I know that a lot of care went into them.  I'm not wondering to myself, was this store-brand panel primed with a reputable brand of acrylic ground, or is it powdered milk mixed with Elmer's Glue?

So let's make some panels.  The first step is to buy your panel material.  Skip the baltic birch and go right to your local plastics depot for a 4x8' sheet of dibond (if you have trouble finding dibond, call up your local sign-makers and ask them who they buy theirs from).  Unlike birch, this stuff won't splinter when you cut it, warp, crack, or expand/contract with humidity fluctuations.  It is perfectly rigid, though very thin, and won't need bracing, making framing it a cinch.  It's also perfectly smooth.  If you are completely wedded to the romance of using "traditional" materials, get a divorce.  I don't care that plywood's been around since ancient Mesopotamia.  Dibond is the space material of the future, the immaculate love child of plastic and metal sent to earth to save sinning artists from creating paintings on inferior supports.

Dave and I cut the dibond with an 80 tooth carbide tipped blade on our table saw.  We have complete control over the dimensions of our work.  I then remove the plastic wrapper and lightly sand the factory priming with 320 grit sandpaper (or finer) wrapped around a sanding block.  I sand until the surface looks matte.  Now, before you apply your ground, it's important to have a clean surface.  So if your dog dragged his bum across your panel in that split second you laid your panel on the ground while you grabbed your priming brush, you need to clean it with some rubbing alcohol or solvent on a cotton ball/paper towel (fair warning: if using OMS it will take a long time to air dry).  This will remove the dust, and the greasy residue that the plastic wrapper has left on the surface.  After cleaning the surface thoroughly, avoid touching it with your bare hands.  Let it dry, and then dust the lint from the cotton ball/paper towel off the surface with a clean house paint brush.


Sanding block
I sand in circular motions with very little pressure.

Clean off the dust and grease with some rubbing alcohol

From here I have two options: gesso or acrylic dispersion ground (aka acrylic gesso).  While Dave likes to use linen, I think this is a big fat waste of time and money.  Sorry, honey, but your frivolous expenditures will put us in the poorhouse ere long.  I used to love painting on oil-primed linen, but the fact of the matter is, it's all primed with zinc and titanium.  Even when they say it's lead-primed, dig a little deeper and you'll find out that the base coat was zinc and only the final coat lead.  I'm just flat out sick of not knowing what is in my art products, so I yanked the bandaid off and quit linen cold turkey.  I also was tired of running out of linen, of finding out that that last yard was speckled with inconsistencies and was completely unusable, the turn around time of ordering a new roll, and the cost of importing.

ACRYLIC DISPERSION GROUND

Materials:
Dibond cut to size
320 grit sandpaper
Rubbing alchohol
Paper towels
Brush or roller plus paint tray
Golden White Gesso
Saran Wrap to wrap the brush between coats.  'Cause who wants to clean that brush four times.

This is hands down the easiest of the two methods.  After sanding and degreasing the factory priming, I apply four coats of Golden White Gesso with a brush.  Just so you know, they are misusing the word "gesso" here, since it's not really gesso at all.  When in polite society, you should always call it a "ground."  I apply the ground with a brush, taking care that my brushstrokes are tidy and parallel.  My first coat is horizontal to the picture plane, and the next one vertical.  Repeat.  The reason for this is so that the final coat, which will be the most pronounced, is vertical and does not catch light as strongly.  All those horizontal strokes would cause a lot of reflections under gallery lighting.  I like to create a faux weave with my perpendicular strokes.  One of these days I will try using a roller to apply the ground and that won't leave any brushstrokes at all.

The raking light here really exaggerates those brushstrokes

Just wrap that brush.  I've left house painting brushes like this for over a year and the paint does not dry.  I wish I could do this with my oil painting brushes.

GESSO (the real stuff)

Materials:
Dibond panels cut to size 
320 grit sandpaper
Easy Gesso
Water
Stirring stick or spatula
Rubbing alcohol
Container, preferably with lid
Bowl
Brush
Orbital sander plus 220 grit paper
Dust mask
Newspaper

This method is more work than the former, but I believe that that is only the case because I'm still mastering it.  I'm certain that a couple of batches from now, I will have this down pat.  I use Easy Gesso by Natural Pigments.  It's even easier than the name implies.  They should call it Baby's First Gesso.  I think that if you want to try out gesso to see if it's for you, you cannot go wrong with this product.  The instructions are basically: Measure out gesso.  Add water.  Allow to sit.  Reheat.  Apply.  You don't need a double boiler or anything.  So if you want to take gesso out for a spin to see if it's for you, go ahead and skip the insane and complicated recipes that you'll find on the various artist forums, and skip the scavenger hunt to find a double boiler and a thermometer and a Bunsen burner and an RV and a secluded stretch of New Mexican desert.  Just fish an old yoghurt container out of your recycling and make a batch of Easy Gesso.




It's hard to know how much surface area your batch will cover, so have a bunch of panels ready to use and play it by ear.  Lay down some newspaper to make clean up easier.  Four to eight coats, stirring gently each time before applying.  The first coat will go on very thinly, but each subsequent coat will feel meatier.  You can sand in between layers if you're sanding by hand, but it's far easier to sand at the very end with an orbital sander (trick: rest the sander on the surface of the panel before turning it on.  Derp).  I use 220 grit paper.  If you sand by hand you will have to use something finer, like 320, and you will have a remarkable deltoid in your dominant arm by the end.  And just so you're prepared, there will be a lot of dust.  There will be about ten times more gesso dust coming off those panels than you put in the damn gesso mix to begin with.  You will sand and sand and sand away until your tears of frustration drip onto the panels and give the sandpaper the moisture needed to do that final wet polish.  Or at least that is my experience.  Periodically you should hold the panel up to oblique light to check for ridges or imperfections.  I find that a bright sunny day is the best time to sand gesso.  Nothing beats a bright sunbeam coming in through a window for laying bare any irregularities.

Once the surface is smooth, I brush or wipe off the loose dust and seal the surface to reduce absorbency.  You need to do this last step because gesso is simply too absorbent to paint on otherwise.  Besides being an unpleasant paint surface to work on, the oil in your paint will get sucked into gesso, leaving your pigment resting underbound on the surface, and resulting in a weak paint layer (underbound means a paint does not have enough binder in it to make a strong paint layer).  To reduce absorbency, you have a lot of different options--you can use any drying oil, or a resin like Canada Balsam.  Personally, I use shellac, which I make with flakes from Natural Pigments prepared according to their instructions.

Materials:
Shellac
Anhydrous alcohol or methyl hydrate (the former is safer)
Ventilated area
Coffee filter
Water bottle
Jar
Small-mouthed jar
Marker
Make up sponge

Place a given amount of shellac flakes in the bottom of a jar, level them out, and mark the height of the shellac on the jar with a permanent marker.  Next, fill up the jar with methyl hydrate or anhydrous alcohol to a level that is twice as high as the height of that mark.  This a is a quick and dirty way to get the right ratio.  It should be left overnight to dissolve, after which you should filter it.  I use a coffee filter tucked inside a funnel made out of half a water bottle (this later goes right in the trash).  After filtering it, I keep it in a very narrow mouthed jar, which makes it easy to wet a make up sponge with it.  Apply it quickly and lightly, in rows.  Two to three coats does the trick for me.  Observing it in the light you will see how satiny or shiny the surface becomes.  If you should decide you've put too much on, you can always sand a bit off.  The panel is ready to work with immediately, although I usually tone it first.  To tone a panel, I mix up some paint--usually raw umber and a bit of lead white, dilute it with OMS, and apply with a large brush.  It will need a day or two to dry.
Caper jars are the best for storing your shellac.  The shellac flakes have not yet dissolved in this picture.
CLOSING THOUGHTS

Gesso is pretty challenging to paint on.  Because I'm still trying to figure out the perfect amount of shellac to create an optimum level of absorbency, I haven't done any major paintings on a  gesso ground yet.  All of the major paintings you have seen on my blog this past year have been painted on acrylic dispersion ground.  Meanwhile, all of the studies and oil sketches were painted on gesso grounds.

Alright, you may go now.



ADDENDUM:  Dibond is a brand name.  Your local retailer might carry Epanel, or Alupanel, or Omega Panel, or something else entirely.  At very large sizes, you might notice a little bit of flex in the panel.  Once framed, the frame will act as a brace, but you could also avoid this problem by using a thicker dibond.  If flexing is major (something I haven't experienced first hand yet because I don't work very large) you might want to consider avoiding a fragile ground like real gesso, which will crack, and stick instead to a lead oil ground or acrylic ground.

77 comments:

  1. Have you tried NP lead oil ground? I've just made some ACM panels that way. I wet-sanded it to get the top layer smooth.

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    1. I haven't yet. How messy is it? I have this picture in my head of lead paint everywhere, and the idea of having to sand the surface to get it smooth wigs me out.

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    2. I have applied it very thinly using a sponge brush. Even with 3 or 4 coats, there isn't much texture. when it's dry, I spray some water on it, and sand it with a Black & Decker Mouse with fine paper. It really isn't all that messy.

      It's also more flexible than real gesso, as you mentioned in your addendum.

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    3. I'll have to give it a try. I've been missing me a nice slick oil ground.

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    4. Thanks for this, and other, great post. RE sanding lead primer, you don't have to. Lay down a thin coat, brushing in one direction, foam brush or roller is fine. Let it dry well.

      Hold a single-edge blade at 45° to surface and move the blade away from you in short strokes. Then apply another coat brushed in opposite direction.

      Repeat as many times as you need to get the surface you want. Scraping with the blade doesn't raise dust, and produces super-smooth surfaces. Scraping between coats levels the surface and exposes any pits. Subsequent layers will fill the pits...

      Three or four coats will usually do it, then let it dry well.

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  2. Another great post! Thanks for sharing all your great info with us. On another note, I got to see your paintings in person at 1261 a few weeks back and they are fantastic.

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  3. Thank you so much for sharing! Is there any way that I may sign up for e-mail updates on your post? Thank you, again. Carolina Elizabeth

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    1. I'm not sure. I think if you sign up as a follower you get some sort of notification. Or you could just friend Dave and me on Facebook, since we always make a status announcement when there's a new post.

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  4. Holy mackerel, I'm lazy.

    I use a ziplock bag to put my gesso brush in between coats.

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  5. Yes! I'm all for making your own panels. I work with artist William Whitaker. A few years ago a chemist friend recommended to him using ABS...the same stuff used to make your light switch and outlet covers. Cut, sand, and clean and paint directly on it! It's magical stuff: gloriously smooth and archival. Thanks for the post!

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    1. That sure sounds nice and easy. One can paint directly on dibond, too.

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  6. nice post meh, It reminds me of an equally interesting blog on my reading list which is Daniel's Dating And Personal Development Blog .
    keep up the good work meh and also, please visit my blog and drop a comment even if it's a simple "nice post" reply.

    Regards

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  7. A wonderful post. Particularly loved the notes on married life. You should find more time for writing. Who knows, you might be the next Alice Munro!

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  8. Very cool - thanks a ton for this information! I'm totally doing this from now on.

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  9. Awesome post! How much do you guys spend for a sheet of that at 4' by 8'? I currently paint on huge canvases which is great except its like painting on a vertical trampoline.

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    1. It's about a hundred bones, give or take depending on the thickness (3mm, 4mm, or 5mm), and we are looking at a new supplier who might be able to get us an even larger sheet for only sixty bucks. It will no doubt be cheaper in the US. We usually pay extra to have it pre-cut into a few manageable panels.

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    2. Awesome! Thanks! I think the best part about using it will be that detail wont have to be sacrificed at larger scales. Also, that sounds amazingly inexpensive for something that is so archival.

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    3. Please see John Cox's comment below. He has found a supplier of precut Dibond for a pretty decent price.

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  10. okay, I am now tempted. Have been making panels, but not as nicely as this. I have found however, that applying "ground" with a 6 or 8" NARROW foam roller leaves a wonderful paper-like tooth that can easily be sanded to the preferred smoothness. I do not like any ridges showing on my panels as they always want to be in the worst place having gone unnoticed during the sanding ritual.

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    1. I will be trying the foam rollers one of these days. I have heard that it's important to use sandable ground if you plan on sanding for a smooth finish.

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  11. Is Alupanel the same thing, or is actual Dibond the one to use? I can get Alupanel with the white coating, but only bare Dibond. I'm going to add fake gesso to it anyway so does the factory coating even matter?

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    1. From what I can tell, Alupanel and Dibond are just brand names for the same product. And from what I've gleaned from people who know things, it doesn't make a difference if there is a white factory coating or not. Directly on the aluminum should be fine, so long as the surface is clean and has some tooth for the acrylic ground to grab on to.

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    2. George O'Hanlon has alerted us that there is a risk involved in gessoing the bare aluminum. Since bare aluminum will oxidize, you are in fact applying your ground to a very fine layer of what is essentially rust. I guess you will want to abrade and polish the surface with some very fine sandpaper before you gesso it to get around this problem.

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  12. Thanks for your posts, which are informative and a lot of fun. Question - do you think large paintings on Dibond can go without bracing? I'm thinking of 48" x 60". The full sheet panels flex quite a bit, but maybe that isn't a problem as long as the frame holds it rigid. Here in the US the manufacturer sells another product called epanel, which is half the price of Dibond. The aluminum is slightly thinner, but I jabbed a knife at a scrap and barely made a dent, so I think it's okay to use. The rep said the coating is the same.

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    1. For me, half the joy of using Dibond is not needing to brace it. Personally, I'm happy to depend upon the frame to lend the panel a bit of rigidity if necessary. If the panel does have some flex, consider using a flexible ground, like lead oil priming or acrylic gesso. Real gesso might crack. Also, it's worth looking into thicker panels. 3mm Dibond is worlds more rigid than 2mm. I believe it goes up to 6mm, and I should think that would remain perfectly rigid at the dimensions you specified. Good luck!

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  13. Kate, I was just told this afternoon that XP Sign Supplies in Las Vegas will cut Dibond to any size you want for NO charge and ship it to you. They have very good prices from what I see on EBay also. They have precut pacts of 5 or more depending on sizes, between $22 US to 49.95 US for larger sizes and packs. Be sure and specify square corners as they also have round corners. Most packs are 5 panels to a pack and 8x10 and 9x12 are packs of 10 for less than $20! These sound like very good prices, you may know more about it.

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    1. That sounds like a really great way for someone to get their hands on some Dibond if they don't have a table saw!

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    2. I just received panels from XP Signs via eBay, prior to seeing your post. 10 12x12" panels for $22.99, not bad! Even with shipping it's a lot cheaper than other types of panels I use. Prepping them now, thanks for the directions!

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  14. Awesome info! I make my panels very similar except start with a foam roller then switch to a brush for the last 2 coats, one in each directon-- and sanding til just perfect. I even keep my brush in plastic. I have been searching for material for larger works and I am so excited to discover dibond through this post. Also, luckily I'm in NM so driving to the desert to mix hazardous materials is very convenient-ha ha... also so close to Las Vegas for good shipping from above mentioned sign supplier. Yay!

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  16. Does anyone know if this what they will do for commercial painting or do they go through a different process?

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  17. So where might you suggest one go to find the dibond panel material. Sign shop, speciality lumber shop?., are there Canadian distributors that you can recommend. ??? any suggestions much appreciated.

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    1. Okay found a local place that has the Dibond panel named version...it is gray...and most expensive...and two other alternatives...that are less....What is one to look for regarding this material for this purpose of making painting panels?

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    2. Look for a surface that is rigid and won't dent or ding easily. There are some corrugated plastic varieties out there and I've heard that they ding pretty easily. It's up to you to decide how thick you want the panels. I find that 3mm fits into the grooves of my easel really well, and that's a bonus. The surface can be bare aluminum or factory primed. I haven't seen a grey finish before--or is it the bare metal?

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  18. Hi, I enjoyed these and other posts.

    Do you or any other people reading this have any experience with 3mm Dibond at a size of 36" by 48"? Is it a flexy panel, or still rigid?

    4mm seems to be difficult to find in Massachusetts.

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    1. Hi Kevin,
      I'm using 3mm right now for a few projects. It does have some flex at 3x4 feet. The 4mm does not have any flex at those dimensions. Keep looking for a supplier. Dibond's common, although it can be tricky to track down a supplier at first.

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  19. start to finish, how long is this process, including whatever drying time between coats.

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    1. Hi Stanka,

      Acrylic dispersion ground should be allowed to dry thoroughly. It usually takes me a few days to get four coats on (dispersion doesn't just go through a state change--liquid to solid--it goes through a chemical change--creating a brand new chemical substance. So even if the surface is "dry," feel it with your hand. If it's colder than it should be, it's still going through a chemical change. This process can be accelerated with a bit of heat and light.) Then I let it dry a couple more days for good measure. The wait kind of stinks, but it's very non-intensive labor wise.

      The gesso is more labor intensive and you need more space. It too will take three days or so, but once the panels are dry to the touch, they are ready to paint on. The shellac dries instantaeously.

      John Cox (a commenter above) recently emailed me about his methods to create a ground that is ready almost immediately. You should email him.

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  20. Thanks Kate. You two are very helpful with all your info. I have to admit I'm always juggling the "time or money" question, figuring the money is a tax write-off. That may change up the road though.

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  21. Just to add to the possibilities: Winsor & Newton's alkyd ground adheres really well to Dibond. I just scuff the Dibond lightly with some 0000 steel wool (well, the steel wool made from plastic), clean it with OMS, let it dry, and go to town. Thin coats of alkyd ground dry overnight, and it's easier to sand than acrylic dispersion ground (even the "Golden's "hard sandable" type). I like the way it takes paint better, too. It's more like painting on a regular oil ground.

    I just finished doing a six-month adhesion test with the W&N ground on Dibond--primed a panel, let it sit for six months, and then cross-hatched the surface with a razor blade and then used some heavy tape to see if any of the cross-hatched sections of primer came loose. None did.

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  22. Kate - You mentioned you use an orbital sander. Does that leave a circular pattern on the gesso? I really want zero pattern. I have way too many gesso panels now that have slight ripples from brush strokes in the worst possible places (near the eyes on a portrait) etc. Oh, and I bought lots of Dibond panels. Can't wait to get started.

    February 21, 2014 at 1:25 PM

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    1. No pattern whatsoever. I find it kind of confusing, because when I sand by hand using a very fine paper, like 320 or up, it leaves scratches. But when I use my orbital sander with 220 grit, no such problem. As for the brushstroke problem, here's a trick I haven't tested yet but picked up from a water gilder: dust a bit of powdered pigment on the panel before you sand. As you sand, you'll notice that the pigment disappears from the ridges and remains in the brushstroke valleys. Keep sanding till all gone.

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  23. Kate - I've got a few more questions for you on Dibond panel making, then I promise not to bother you for at least another six hours. First, I made a great big purchase from a Dibond company in Las Vegas. Great prices all around. However, one of the panels - 30" x 48," bows. I mean by a good inch. I'm actually going to have to glue it to stretcher bars. Sadly, the company only sells 3mm Dibond. Do you know any companies that sell thicker Dibond for a reasonable price? I haven't found any. Second, Dibond panels have some pretty sharp square edges. (I've already cut myself twice). So I've been filing the edges out of fear a buyer might complain. Especially if it's an unframed panel. Have you noticed this, too? Any advice? Thanks. David.

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    1. Some other people have mentioned having a hard time finding the thicker stuff. I can only suggest you tell the supplier to special order the 4mm. Or go the reverse route--find a manufacturer of a thicker dibond and ask where they distribute in your area. As for sharp edges, we tend to rub ours down a bit with sandpaper too. They still stay pretty sharp, which is great for cleaning my nails, carving my steak, and cutting my husband when he steals my tape measure. You six hour ban starts now.

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    2. Is the 4mm really necessary? I haven't tried any really large size paintings on Dibond yet, but at 16x20-ish and below, the 3mm seems *very* rigid. 30x48" is a lot larger than I normally paint, so maybe not something to worry about?

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    3. If the the 3mm is good for you, there's no reason to worry about tracking down the 4mm.

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  24. Hi Kate,

    Thanks for sharing all this good info! Can you please also let me know where you're getting your Dibond from? I'm also on Van Island (south)...

    CJ

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    1. I've bought it from this company in Victoria: http://ippnet.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=400&Itemid=681

      They also have a location in Nanaimo. Recently, I bought some from a sign maker in Duncan: http://www.yellowpages.ca/bus/British-Columbia/Duncan/Mark-s-Instant-Sign-Shop/2977654.html

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  25. Kate - The six hour ban has now ended so I have a few more Dibond questions. First, you were right. Priming with Gesso is not enough to keep the oil paint from being sucked in. But I've had a hard time with Shellac. It's very difficult to keep smooth, brush stroke free. Any advice? Friends have suggested a Matte Medium as a barrier. Others acrylic paint. Second, I have a few paintings already in progress and it's difficult to even make a brush stroke over the Gesso. Can I add a layer of shellac over the oil paint to use as a barrier? Or is it too late? The paint layer is thin, not thick.
    Thanks as always for your helpful comments.

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    1. Gesso is extremely absorbent and I would never paint directly on it. I've been applying shellac with a make up sponge. If you get ridges, why not sand lightly with fine sandpaper? Although don't sand too much, or you will sand away the shellac entirely.

      You could also try sealing the gesso with Canada Balsam or even saturate it with some oil. I had a gesso panel that was a little too absorbent for me recently (not enough shellac) so I wiped some oil on the surface before painting. You are allowed to break the fat over lean rule when painting on unsealed gesso, because the oil gets sucked right into the ground.

      Personally I think it's besides the point to combine gesso and acrylic ground or any other acrylic products. If you like the surface that an acrylic ground gives you, save yourself the trouble and just use that.

      I would absolutely not put a layer of shellac between paint layers. Please try oiling out.

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  26. You could try Zinsser Cover Stain [Oil base not the water version] over the gesso. This may also be tinted at the store if you use a ground coat color frequently enough to want a whole gallon in one color.
    It can be rolled to a uniform beautiful finish
    This idea was first suggested by Stapleton Kearns
    Good luck

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  27. Perhaps a good idea might be to glaze the ground with an under painting tint like some old masters did like Rembrandt where you take a cheap earth pigment such as umber, yellow ochre, a neutral grey, etc. and perhaps cut it with a medium to increase absorption such as half and half turps and linseed oil.

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  28. Hello Kate,

    I have recently discovered your blog. Love the title, the paintings and repartee and the wealth of information ! I´ve painted on linen for years for my large landscapes but after reading this I want to try dibond on some smaller paintings that I am starting. I always paint on linen over panel as I do alot of scraping and scumbling. So panels have an enormous appeal !

    Kate, my question is regarding thickness which is not mentioned in instructions (as far as I can tell !) but only later in comments . You mention 3mm and 4mm as your preferred thickness. I would be making panels ranging from 60 x 80 cm. to half that size or even smaller.

    I live in southern Mexico, so I want to make sure I know for sure exactly what I need before hunting this material down and getting it cut to panels etc.

    So, what thickness do you recommend ?

    Any comments welcome. Thanks, George

    georgemeadmoore.com


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    1. The 4mm will definitely be rigid at 60x80 cm. 3mm will be rigid at sizes smaller than that. If I were you, I would just go for the 3mm and see how that works.

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  29. Kate, thanks for the great post. I am looking into Dibond as it is now available in the UK. But am not sure how/if to prep it. I like working on oil-primed linen as I love a non-absorbent surface. But I also like no ‘ready made’ and no-prep as time is precious or I am just lazy...;)
    Can you paint directly onto dibond without a ground? Why would anyone add a primer/gesso? Could you add an alkyd oil primer directly on it you think? I am concerned about adhesion - would hate the paint coming off in years to come! Thanks so much.

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    1. Hi Sophie,
      I've tried painting directly onto the dibond. It can be done, but I wouldn't say it was enjoyable. The surface has to be lightly wet sanded (600-1000 grit) in order that the paint will have something to grab onto, and I found this surface unpleasant to paint on. Furthermore, the bond between the oil paint and the dibond surface is not as strong as the bond between the various grounds and the dibond, or the oil paint and the ground. The ground is acting almost like double sided tape in this case. I was able to scratch my paint off of the dibond with a fingernail a few days after drying, something which I can't normally do when working on a ground.
      As for the oil alkyd primer, go for it. I've experimented with oil primer too. The product I used didn't cling to the dibond as tenaciously as the acrylic gesso, unfortunately, and add to that drawback the fact that oil grounds take longer to dry and are messier, I've decided to stick to acrylic ground for now.

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  30. Thank so much for that reply Kate. I really appreciate it. I will try to use it ‘bare’ (just sanding and cleaning) but heard the ‘scratch off paint’ before so that is probably a no-go. Acrylic ‘gesso’ and/or alkyd oil primer it is then.
    Just out of interest - do you use copper at all - in the same way? Am about to try that too!

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    1. I haven't painted on copper before. If you want to learn more about it, I know Candice Bohannon and Julio Reyes co-authored an article about the technique. I think it was published online on Artists on Art. Also, Erin Anderson seems to be doing all her work on copper these days. She's come up with an innovative way of removing paint to expose the copper underneath.

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    1. Sophie, I am just trying dibond for the first time and I stumbled across this thread as part of my research. I saw your question about painting on copper, so I thought I would respond and suggest that you try using a thin couch of oleogel on the copper---it works really well!

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  32. In the United States, 3A manufactures Dibond. If you go to their website and type in your ZIP code, you can find retailers who sell it. I'm not affiliated with 3A, by the way. I'm just an artist in Seattle who easily found seven retailers in the city, two of which are in my neighborhood. http://graphicdisplayusa.com/en/distributors/

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  33. I used to use Dibond a lot for temporary signs when I worked in graphics at Disney. I had often thought about using it as a painting surface but had one BIG concern, the corners. There are several comments about the sharpness of the corners, but how about the corners getting dinged up? Once framed I know they would be fine. However, I usually can't afford to frame things right away. Have you ever had a problem with the corners? If not do you reinforce them?

    On another note, for anyone using mixed media techniques with leafing or other metal components (or paint that contains copper as in metallic colors). Make sure that the aluminum is primed well with complete coverage, even on the edges. There will be corrosion if there is any contact between aluminum and copper, or any alloys that contain copper.

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  34. Gambling makes an oil ground they claim (1) is so opaqu that 2 coats are enough and (2) is ready to paint on in about one week.
    http://www.dickblick.com/products/gamblin-oil-painting-ground/
    My google sign in considers me "anonymous" so... scott Agnew. (On diBond I'd thin you would still need one coat of acrylic "gesso" first, because this stuff is formulated to adhere to PVA size or Rabbit skin glue-- I don't know what the outer ( white) coating on DiBond is, so maybe it would work o.k. To apply Gamblin's goop directly... I have some on order and once I've done some "stress tests" I will come back and re-post.

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  35. So why not just paint on a solid 1/8" thick piece of aluminum instead of dibond?

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  36. any luck using soft gel gloss by golden to glue canvas to dibond panels

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    1. Never tried, might work. I have used Lineco in the past and that worked.

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  37. I just brought some Alucomp over here in Australia, sanded the surface abit and applied some bookbinders glue which is basically PVA. Unfortunately I noticed the glue blooming when applied to the panel so I tried priming the sanded surface with Acrylic Gesso. The Gesso hasn't bloomed so I assume when its dry the Glue will adhere better this time...

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  38. You might want to use a drywall trowel to apply gesso if you want to get rid of the brush strokes. I apply in strips, leaving space between them. After dry I fill in the ungessoed strips. This way the trowel doesn't touch the other strips when they are wet. Repeat in direction of right angle. I have bent the edges of the dibond to create a pan with a 1" edge because I use it for pouring paint into. After, cut the edge off with a skill saw and glue a metal frame on the back with 3M fabrication tape.

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  39. Fantastic info- thanks so much. I have painted using acrylics directly onto the white factory surface of dibond and I didn't mind the glide of it, in fact I liked it. I am wondering though, for next time when I will try prepping as suggested, about scratching into the surface to reveal the shiny aluminium below, as I have seen other artists doing this- Surely some sort of fix is needed to stop the raw areas turning white thru oxidisation? Any thoughts or experiences in this area?

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    1. There's no benefit to sanding right through the factory priming to expose the metal underneath, but if that's what you want to do, I would say just go ahead and apply your ground pronto so that the metal doesn't have a lot of time to oxidize beforehand.

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  40. Hi Kate, thanks for such an informative post. I see this post is a bit older and was wondering if you're still using the Easy Gesso? I recently got some and primed some panels and did a couple coats of shellac also. The surface is still super absorbent, I'm assuming I should just add another layer or two of shellac? Have you honed this method anymore or are you using a different ground all together? Thanks!

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  41. I am looking for ways to hang dibond without framing. When I have peered around the sides of an artist's work in a gallery I have seen brackets on the back. Any ideas?

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    1. Might have to cradle it but I don't have a great answer really.

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    2. I learned a lot from this post, and I thought it would be decent to share a site I found while googling "Bracing Dibond Panels". Artist Bryan Larsen has a whole detailed blog post (with pictures!) regarding the topic.

      http://www.bryanlarsen.com/

      http://www.bryanlarsen.com/building-and-preparing-and-aluminum-composite-panel-for-oil-painting/

      Thanks for sharing your work and the behind-the-scenes stuff.

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  42. use mounting tape. you can get it from opus or directly from scott. You can stick a metal or wood frame that is smaller than the piece you are working on. I get cheap frames fron the junk stores and mount them on the back of the panel and it's ready to hang. Opus also sells mounting frames and they also do sublimation infused dye prints on dibond or 1/16" aluminum. Expensive...about $120 for 16X20 ready to hang. You upload the image and they print and deliver. The good part is you don't need to print until you sell and the customer pays you.

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