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Surface Checking and Plywood, Is It a Concern?

6 thoughts on “Surface Checking and Plywood, Is It a Concern?”

  1. In my ten year experience as a painter I’ve almost abandoned wood for portrait sized paintings, it always cracks. In the past quarter sawn oak was used and if you can afford it then it still may be a great solution to avoid cracking. For larger paintings I use canvas with all its problems :-(. I’ve replaced the wood with aluminium panels, I glue them to marine ply, I find this surface, easy to prepare, super smooth to paint on and really stable, I believe from my research that it is archival. I would never have believed it until I tried it and I recommend it to anyone looking to try something to solve the problem of wanting an archival surface.

    Reply
    • Hello Purcell,

      Thank you for your comments and suggestions! Solid wood does release stress more readily than plywood, but this also correlates to greater dimensional movement. As you suggest, the use of aluminum panels can be a great alternative to wood if you are interested in having a stable rigid support. For those interested, information on preparing metal panels can be found here: Painting on Metal an Introduction

      We hope this is helpful and if you have more questions, feel free to contact us at help@goldenpaints.com.

      Reply
  2. Thanks Scott, this is was very informative, and also disconcerting. I’ve been using plywood panels for years, thinking I’ve got all my bases covered. I had always assumed that two generous coatings of GAC100, followed by Gesso, would shield the plywood from environmental stresses… But your research casts doubt on plywood’s structural integrity. I live in a country where our summers are scorching dry, and our winters are soaking wet. I’m guessing that these fluctuations will only aggravate the plywood’s habit of checking. I guess it’s time to bring on the aluminium panels….

    Reply
    • Hello Alex,

      As you mentioned in your comment, fluctuations in the relative humidity of the environment plays a key role in whether or not the plywood will develop surface checks. If the painting remained within a particular relative humidity range for its lifespan, it may not develop surface checking.

      We do want to mention that acrylics or even varnishes do not act as good vapor barriers. While your method of preparation may help block Support Induced Discoloration (SID) or even block oil penetration into the plywood, the piece will still be very much influenced by its environment.

      We hope this is helpful and if you have more questions, feel free to contact us at help@goldenpaints.com.

      Reply
  3. Sorry, one last question Scott… After reading your newsletter, it seems preferable to attach a more stable support to plywood than painting directly on to the wooden panel. If I wanted to glue aluminium panels on to plywood, which Golden product would you recommend? Would GAC 100 be strong enough? I’m guessing that the smooth, non-porous surface of the metal might cause adhesion problems?

    Reply
    • Hello Alex,

      If you wanted to adhere an aluminum panel to plywood, we would recommend using a Construction Adhesive. There are many options available at your local hardware store, just make sure the one you choose is compatible with both aluminum and wood. We have not tested using acrylic to bond metal to wood, and something like GAC 100 or even a heavier Gel may not be strong enough. Due to the lack of porosity of the metal, it may also take a long time to fully dry as acrylic dry through evaporation. Using an acrylic gel, for example, would also require treating the glue side of the aluminum by scuffing and de-greasing first and depending upon the type of aluminum panel, it may require a Direct to Metal Primer (DTM). This is the same surface preparation we recommend for painting on Aluminum with acrylics. More information can be found here: Painting on Metal an Introduction

      Additionally, if you are getting a nice rigid support from the aluminum panel, it may not be necessary to further back this support with plywood. The metal itself would be dimensionally stable. If doing so is important to your process, then the construction adhesive may be the way to go.

      We hope this is helpful and if you have more questions, feel free to contact us at help@goldenpaints.com

      Reply

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