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Painting with Oils on Non-Porous Substrates

14 thoughts on “Painting with Oils on Non-Porous Substrates”

  1. Thanks Golden/Williamsburg (Greg) for sharing these results!

    I’ve been preparing ACM panels with acrylic gesso, before painting with oils. Would you suppose that the adhesive quality of this preparation would be similar to that which you experienced with acrylic on birch (without issue)?

    If I decide to paint directly on scuffed and cleaned ACM or apply an oil ground to a scuffed and cleaned ACM, how would you suggest I scuff? Sandpaper? In any particular direction? Did you find that the scuffing affected the topography or appearance of paint layers? or would an oil ground smooth the appearance?


    • Hi Joshua,
      We have tested Gesso onto ACM panels, Dibond specifically, and found good adhesion. Here is the article with those findings: https://justpaint.org/painting-on-dibond/
      In terms of scuffing, we used a 220 grit sandpaper. We probably could have gone to a finer paper, but settled on the 220. On our Dibond panel, we scuffed vertically and horizontally, which worked really well. You could probably use a random stroke too as long as it has a uniform scuff across the surface. A customer recently reported using a orbital sander for this purpose and indicated they had excellent results. You just don’t want to sand through the manufacturer’s paint layer on the surface of the ACM panel and expose the raw metal. The scuffing was not visible through the paint surface we applied. It shouldn’t be visible through an Oil Ground application either.
      Let us know how it goes!

  2. This was an informative and well-concieved study of alternative substrates for oil painting. I understand this is an initial study and further review is of course warranted. I really look forward to a full-on study with the possible inclusion of the use of mixed media.

    • Hi Dillard,
      Thanks for your comment. We are happy to consider broadening our testing, What do you mean by “mixed Media”?

  3. That is a very thin coat of the Lead Oil Ground on the Copper…did you apply one or two coats of it? And what brush/tool did you use for applying such a thin application?

    Thank you.

    • Hello Ari,
      Yes it is. I used a hog bristle brush to gently work the ground onto the surface and then feather it to a extremely thin, uniform film. I wanted the copper color to glow through slightly. Additional coats should be able to go over top in a couple days after first sets up. The application was based on historical accounts of applying the ground extremely thin and smooth by rubbing it onto the surface with the fingers. This from “Painting on Copper, and other metal plates – Production, Degradation and Conservation Issues”. If you end up using copper to make paintings, send us some pictures at gwatson@goldenpaints.com. We would love to see what you do!
      Take care,

  4. I found your article very informative. I would like to paint in oils on Zinc plates. i would appreciate any thoughts you have on that type of substrate. I would prefer using a transparent paint to initially protect the surface, rather than a heavier paint. I would also like parts of the metal to show through without distracting brush strokes from a heavy ground coat. I would appreciate hearing from you. Thank you for your help.

    • Hello Estelle,
      We did several oil applications onto a scuffed and unscuffed zinc etching plate. Within several months the oil application was visibly cracked on the surface. We think this is due to the zinc influencing the oil layers and causing embrittlement, which led to the cracking and minute cleaving. We did not test transparent glazes directly over the surface, so cannot comment on the performance of those type of layers. But expect similar results eventually.
      Aluminum had much better results and looks fairly similar. It may be worth testing aluminum with the recommendations of cleaning and scuffing before the oil is applied.
      Here is an article about zinc oxide and its influence on oil layers: https://justpaint.org/zinc-oxide-reviewing-the-research/
      We hope this is helpful!

  5. Greg —

    Really enjoyed this article… and now I have a question.

    I am about to paint the entire top surface of an electric guitar body. To prepare for my oil painting, I used 120 grit sandpaper to scuff up this musical instrument, and now — thanks to your research — I believe the oil paint will adhere well.

    When the painting is finished, I will varnish it, but I’m wondering if there’s something else that needs to be done. As you might imagine, guitars can be treated roughly, so I’m wondering if a tough polyurethane clear coat can be used to cover the varnish layer, OR is the varnish itself all that I need to protect the oil painting below?

    Naturally, I’m concerned that polyurethane and varnish may not work well together. Your guidance would be welcome.

    Cheers from Houston,
    Steve Kobb

    • Hi Steve,
      Thanks for your comment! We didn’t test oils over guitar body though, so you might have to test a small area to make sure.
      It sounds a little tricky. 1. Traditional oil paints take many years to fully cure and still change over a very long time – decades and longer! It would be different with One-shot type sign painters enamel oils. 2. Even with the most breathable type varnishes, it is recommended to let the oils dry for 6 months. and those type of varnishes are not durable enough to handle. 3. Polyurethanes are durable enough to handle, but they form tight surfaces, so will not allow the oil layers to continue curing over time…
      There wouldn’t be any concerns if you could do the painting in acrylics.? That way you allow them to dry for a couple weeks, then you can use the Polyurethane directly over top. Some polyurethanes do have the tendency to yellow with time, but there is a variety of options in that category. KBS Diamond Finish is a moisture curable urethane that is very hard and does not seem to yellow. it can be used over acrylics.
      Not sure about what to recommend over the oils. If you do go that route, you should probably consider using a good bit of fast drying alkyd medium in the paints. That way they dry fast and are more durable like an enamel. Thinner layers will cure faster. You might be able to go with just that. Or check around to see what the guitar painting community uses over oils. Maybe Nitrocellulose lacquer would work, but we have never tested. Sorry cant give a definitive.
      Good luck with the project! let us know how it goes.


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