It has become impossible to find, for me, and the Masonite panels sold for painting online are only an eighth inch thick.Not to mention expensive, for what they are.Gee, maybe they're made in the US. Nah.
SOHere's my current solution if you're handy, or have a spouse/friend/neighbor who is.
MDF stands for Medium Density Fiberboard. Formed with pressure and high temperature, considered an "engineered" wood product. Kind of like taking a chicken with all it's parts and making nuggets.
The good news is that it's denser than plywood or particle board, has no grain, is stable and is easy to cut.
(The MDF, not the chicken) (well, maybe)
The bad news is that the resin binder is toxic, and not good to inhale the sawdust. So use a mask and do your cutting outside if you can.
MDF comes in 4' x 8' panels at Lowes or Home Depot, and cost about $20. Be sure it's a quarter inch thick.The store will cut it twice, a freebie. So you can easily get the four 2' x 4' panels in your car.
At this point, you're probably way ahead of me, but I'll continue.
While you're in the store, get a quart or more of alkyd primer, and a tray and roller if you don't have them.
It's easier to prime both sides of the MDF before you cut it into smaller sizes. You can prime the edges later.
Always prime even if you're going to adhere canvas or linen to the panel, it helps with adhesion.
If you're a plein air painter who likes 6"x 8" size panels, just think, you can get 96, countem.
That brings each panel down to .21 cents plus labor. But custom made. Here. Or anywhere but China.
Hmm. Sorry if you're reading this in China. Nothing personal. Really.
I have a few odd size frames, so I've cut the panels to fit. Otherwise as you know, stick to stock sizes.
Another layout could be 8-18x24s, 8- 9x12s, and 8-6x8s...all from one 4x8' panel.
I'm sure I'm not the only painter who has odds and ends of linen or canvas, some primed some un.
Plus double or triple primed linen which is a bugger to stretch. Saved by panels!
Linen or canvas will shrink, so cut a little extra. I use Elmers' glue to adhere the canvas to the panel, then protect the surface with paper and use a brayer or rolling pin. Making sure there are no air bubbles, I stack books on the panel overnight. Usually those big heavy art books.It's about time they earned their keep.For larger panels, use any weight and clamps that will do the trick.
Another surface I like is Goldens' Sandable Hard Gesso. Its not for flexible surfaces, but great on a panel.
A coat or two of this over your pre-primed panel allows you to damp sand to an eggshell finish. A little like French Polishing. Lovely.
Please leave a note or comment below if you have any questions or problems with these methods.
I don't like all these words, but can't think of a picture. If I do, I'll stick one in. Did a much better job with Masonite.