Panels toned and ready for plein air painting!
When painting outdoors most plein air painters use panels. These can be hardboard panels, aluminum composite material panels, linen/canvas covered panels, or Ampersand Gessobord. Some artists will use stretched canvas but this is usually for large paintings used in combination with a French Easel. For most plein air painting, panels are the support of choice.
Sizes can range anywhere from 4" x 6" to 11" x 14". This depends on your preference but my advice is to go no larger than 10" x 12". 8" x 10" panels are a good choice to start out with and you can increase the size of your panels in the future. Smaller panels such as 4" x 6" and 5" x 7" can be used to create nice, small studies especially sunset and sky/cloud sketches. These would be perfect for a cigar box pochade box.
When selecting a panel size to work with there are several things to consider. Make sure that your pochade box can handle the size of your panel. Even the smallest boxes except cigar boxes can hold panels up to 15 to 16 inches. Second, your panels should fit the your wet panel carrier. Some panel carriers can be adjusted or inserts added to accommodate smaller sizes but most only accept a specific size.
Types of Panels
Many panels can be purchased, ready to paint on. If you want control over the ground used you can prime a panel yourself. Here are some of the options for panels.
Ampersand Gessobord- Ready made, acrylic primed panels. I use these for 5" x 7" and 6" x 8" studies. These sizes come in packs of three. It does have a texture to it which I'm not crazy about. The texture reminds me of a paint roller. Regardless I am content with panels and they are not expensive to have as a supply for studies.
Speedball Gessoed Hardboard Panels- I recently discovered these while shopping for supplies for students I was teaching during Experiential Learning Week. They are cheaper than the Ampersand Gessobord and the surface is not comparable. It has more of a texture and the ground is weird, slick, and shiny. I'm not sure how that would work with oil colors. However I think they would be useable with several extra coats of acrylic or oil ground. I'm a currently experimenting with them. What I did was lightly sand the board's primer with 150 sand paper. I did this gently, scuffing the surface. The purpose of this is to provide some tooth for the next acrylic ground layer. I used Golden Acrylic Gesso.
Raymar Panels- These panels are MDF and covered with primed cotton canvas or linen of various textures. They are primed either with acrylic or oil ground. They are available in standard 1/8" or lightweight 1/16" thickness. I have tried 6 samples at 9" x 12" and they are a pretty good product. If you like to work on canvas or linen these panels are a nice choice. Myself, I prefer smoother panels especially for smaller plein air studies. In my opinion the canvas texture combined with a smaller scale is distracting. Overall I'm happy with the quality and I like the oil primed linen-http://www.raymarart.com/default.asp
Cotton and Linen Raymar Panels
1/8" Panel in the front, 1/16" in the back
Aluminum Composite Material Panels-This is my choice for larger studio paintings but I do have a few 9" x 12"s and 6" x 8"s among my supply I have reserved for plein air painting. These panels are superior to any other substrate. They will not warp and priming them is easy. Check out Painting Stuff to Look Like Stuff. This material is not available in most hardware stores or art stores and must be bought from a sign supply company. In the Seattle area I buy my panels from Sun Supply. You can either purchase a an entire 48" x 96" sheet and have the supplier cut it down for you ( at an additional cost) or get scraps if they are in stock. The last supply of panels I bought a month ago cost me $128 which included tax and the cutting fee. I did give the guy who cut them for me a $10 tip because I appreciate his service every time I buy panels.
Lots of ACM Panels- 4" x 6" and larger
I now have a supply of panels for landscape paintings in the following sizes and quantities-
- 4- 4" x 6"
- 6- 6" x 8"
- 4- 10" x 16"
- 2- 12" x 16"
- 1- 12" x 20"
- 4- 14" x 24"
- 2- 17" x 20"
- 1- 18" x 24"
If I was to buy these panels or equivalent sized wood panels from an art supply company I would have spent three two to three times as much. If you've never tried ACM panels there are several suppliers who have them ready cut- Natural Pigments and Amanda's Panels. Amanda's Panels is owned by Seattle Artist realist painter Amanda Teicher. She's a proponent of ACM panels and she often beats me to the scraps from Sun Supply when I go there looking for some.
Wet Panel Carriers
Once you figure out what size panels you want to work with you will need a wet panel carrier. There are wood versions available on the market. These look nice but the panel sizes they hold are limited. The bulk of the boxes limits their use in the car or very short walks. Hiking with them would be out the question.
My recommendation for a wet panel carrier is Raymar. I have a 10" x 12" and 6" x 8" carrier along with an insert to carry smaller panels in each. They are lightweight and durable and cost a fraction of the wood carriers. I like these a lot and I have hiked with the 10" x 12" strapped to the back of my pack.
At Lake 22
10" x 12" Carrier
6" x 8" Carrier
This can also carry 4" x 6" Panels
6" x 8" carrier with insert to accommodate 5" x 7" panels
Making your life easier while handling wet panels
A wet canvas is easy to pick up if it's stretched on stretcher bars. Panels can be a bit awkward because there is nothing to grip. What I do is make a tabs out of Gorilla Tape (any duct tape will work) and stick it onto the back of my panels. This will make inserting a wet painting into a panel carrier much easier. Of course removing the painting from the carrier will be easy too. No need to worry about paint on your hands or smudging the edges of your painting.
My next post will cover the colors I use for plein air painting.