How to Prep Wood Panels for Paint

For those of you who don’t know what kind of prep work goes into something like a painting on panel, here are six awesome birch panels I got from my supplier.  They come sanded and smooth, but are raw wood.

The birch panel is a laminated product that is mounted to a solid wood frame with glue and nails.

Gesso and acrylic paint contain water, which can cause oils and adhesives in the panel to leach and eventually discolor the artwork.  For this reason we must seal the wood completely before any gesso is applied.

I use two coats of a Liquitex product called Matte Medium, on every side, front, and back.  This impervious product blocks any migration of stains from the wood to the artwork.  The matte finish also provides a nice “tooth” for the next layer — Liquitex gesso.


Next, I tape the sides, then apply a thin coat of gesso to the front and backside of the actual panel. One coat goes on the front and dries, then a coat goes on the back. I repeat this process, sanding each coat before recoating.  The gesso stabilizes the structure of the panel and provides a great surface for paint.  Coating the front and back equally prevents any buckling or warping — especially on larger panels.

I then give it a final sanding on the front side, and it’s ready for paint!

 Since it takes about 3 days to get them ready, I have time to do some drawings or work on other paintings.