Painting on Matboard



Anna and Elsa by Meg Lyman

3.5 x 4.5 inches each

Gouache on matboard

One of the joys of being a gouache painter is the toned background. There are plenty of ways to get this effect in various media, but it’s fun and handy to paint right on whatever background you find. Some of the toned/colored supports I’ve used with gouache include matboard, Canson Mi-Teintes Board, Pastelbord, Colourfix board, Canson pastel paper, colored ACEOs, notecards, and various other colored papers. Some are more archival than others, some are rougher, some smoother; some are flimsy and some sturdy. Matboard is probably my favorite, for several reasons:

  1. It’s cheap – often art stores will have scrap bins and you can get pieces for $0.50
  2. You can get archival material if you want it (Canson Mi-Teintes Board is a good one, already cut to size)
  3. It has a nice texture – not too smooth or rough
  4. The surface can usually take a bit of abuse
  5. It’s sturdy – it won’t buckle and you can wave it around all crazy-like
  6. It comes in lots of pretty colors

Little left-over scraps are great for quick studies or plein air paintings. I also use them sometimes as backing when framing up ACEOs. In conclusion: matboard is great for gouache people!

4 thoughts on “Painting on Matboard”

  1. I am curious about this surface to paint on because it’s far less expensive than canvas, takes up less space, and it looks like the colors remain solid. I’m having problems with my acrylic on canvas pieces, because now the large black areas have what look like small water dots on them. Does one need to gesso the board to keep it from bending inwards eventually, or can I simply attach a wooden frame onto the back with glue and then small brads on the front? It’s very dry here in Phoenix, so despite the fact that my studio has air conditioning, the heat may have played a part in the damage my work has received. I’m still researching this, but would like to read your reply. Thank you very much.

  2. Hi Paul! Sorry to say I have pretty much zero experience with acrylics, so I’m not sure about your water dots or how matboard will hold up to acrylic. It’s cheap enough to try though! I have had problems with it bending, so your ideas about gessoing may help (or not, this stuff can really bend if you get it soaking wet), or maybe wet it and flatten it with brads like you say. I’d love to hear how it goes!

  3. I’m a professional framer and a hobby painter and can confirm matboard warps when wet, however I have yet to try painting on it. I’m taking some scrap matboard peices home tonight to experiment on!

  4. Sprout, thanks for the insight! I absolutely believe that it does warp, and if the edges get wet, I bet it starts to come apart as well. I still use it now though, for plein air landscapes mostly. As long as you aren’t saturating it, and keeping away from the edges, it works nicely!

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