When I first returned to oil painting I bought cheap, small ready-made canvas and painted one after the other to improve my skills and self-discipline. After using a makeshift easel set up at first, I eventually bought a pleinair easel [open Box M] and a tripod so I could paint outside with ease. The easel was best equipped to handle panels. So I began researching and buying different products. There are many kinds of panels and quite a range in price. Right now I have limited space to make my own but it is cheaper if you are painting regularly. For now I buy ready made panels.
I like a rigid surface since I often use a palette knife when painting outdoors. Also the rigid surface is less susceptible to damage. One issue that came up was how the surface was prepared in oil or acrylic? Oil primed is less absorbent and slicker.
When I first began to buy panels I started using Guerilla Painter Plein Air Gessoed panels. They are acrylic gessoed over hardboard. Much of my plein air work is on these panels because they were cheaper yet I thought well made. The recent painting shown at the top is on a Guerilla 12×12 inch panel. As I mentioned, I’ve some concerns that it soaks up too much paint. I have tried to improve the acrylic gesso panels by covering them with a thin coat of walnut oil [the medium I use] mixed with a small amount of oil paint for an underpainting. The downside is that it takes a long time to dry.
My favorite is a linen Raymar panel L84C. Oil primed with 4 coats of primer on mdf core. What a beautiful surface even without anything painted on it. However they are expensive. This cow painting done earlier this year is on a Raymar panel. Generally I do like working on the oil primed surface best. Two other panels I liked were the Clausens 13DP and the Aluma Comp Panel [aluminum]. Both are oil primed.
Finally this painting is done on a rigid surface but cradled making it 1 ½” in depth. It is on an Ampersand Gesso Board. The surface is super smooth and quite slick. This is a more expensive option to consider.
I continue to try new panels and recently ordered Centurion all media primed canvas from Jerri’s. I look for a fairly smooth surface, not too absorbent at an affordable price. Can I have it all? Maybe but still searching at the moment. I make the effort to attach labels to the backs of my paintings so I can identify the type of panel, long after it’s been painted. What’s your favorite surface?