Question: What Do You Paint On?


Do you have a favorite brand of paper? Have you found a particular surface that works well for a specific medium? Have you ever used an unusual material in order to save money?

Leave all your tips and tricks in the comments section. For my answer, read on…

When I’m not working on the computer, I use mostly gouache and oil paint. In general, I like to paint on paper, as opposed to canvas, wood, or panels. However, I like having a sturdy base to work on. Sometimes I will tape the paper down to a board, but the paper still bubbles and wrinkles easily. Illustration board is okay, but is often very bend-y and the extra heavyweight stuff is hard to find. Plus, I have a favorite brand of paper – Strathmore Bristol Vellum, which has a nice surface and doesn’t peel with my masking tape – but I can’t buy it on a board.

My solution? I mount my paper on foam board. It gives me a sturdy flat base to work on, plus it’s light and easy to cut to any size. I can also use whatever kind of paper I choose, whether it’s bristol, watercolor, or drawing paper.

This is how I make my illustration board…

  1. Cut a piece of foam board that is slightly larger than your paper.

  2. Glue your paper onto your foam board. The quickest and easiest way to do this is use a good quality spray glue, like Super 77. For the best stick, spray both surfaces before you stick them together.

    If you paint with a lot of water, I’ve found that the paper tends to bubble a little, but it flattens back down as it dries. I’ve also experimented with using gesso to glue the paper down, which might be more durable in the long run; it’s just messier and tends to make the board bend slightly. See what works best for you and your medium.

    Update: Kristin has noted in the comments section that spray glue tends to yellow the paper over time, which is a good point that I failed to mention. So, it is probably best to use gesso or find an archival spray glue.

  3. Place the paper on your board and carefully smooth out all air bubbles.

  4. After it dries, cut off the excess foam board. Voila! DIY illustration board!

Granted, I don’t know how long-lasting or archival this method is, but it seems to be working so far. If you like this method and come up with any suggestions or improvements, be sure to let me know.

So, what kinds of materials do YOU paint on? Let us know in the comments section.