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MITRA Forum Question Details

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  • Sizing hardboard/fiberboard - hardware store productsApproveRejectUn-ApproveSubscribeUn-Unsubscribe
    Question asked 2017-07-03 12:49:24 ... Most recent comment 2017-07-08 18:11:40
    Sizes and Adhesives Rigid Supports Industrial and Non-Traditional Products

    "Artist quality" PVAs and other such sizing products are too expensive and hard to obtain for me. There is no BEVA/MSA Varnish/B-I-N either. What I can obtain are various acrylic primers made for porous surfaces, regular PVA glue (the manufacturer states that the pH is 6-7), as well as methylcellulose wallpaper glue and boiled linseed oil.

    The acrylic primers are basically watery liquids that smell just like acrylic mediums. Their manufacturers typically state that they are made from acrylic dispersions, and that they are made for priming porous surfaces, unifying them and decreasing their absorbency - some add that they still let water vapor pass through after drying.

    I was wondering which one of these would work the best for sizing before laying down a layer of (artist quality this time) acrylic ground. The acrylic primers seem to be the best option, but I read differing opinions about the properties of hardware store products. I know methylcellulose is a good size, but I don't know how well it would perform on surfaces like hardboards and fiberboards.

    As for the boiled linseed oil, I'm not sure whether it wouldn't reduce the adhesion of the acrylic ground.

    I'm open to suggestions if there's something else I could try.

Answers and Comments

  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    The problem with a lot of ad-hoc, hardware store substitutes for bona fide art supplies is that they are formulated with different performance goals, and often include ingredients that would not normally be included in art materials.

    Are the "acrylic primers" you mention sold as architectural coatings, or are they sold as an art supply? ​Your description sounds like they are art supplies, and if so, they would probably be suitable for this purpose, though they probably won't block staining from a hardboard support.

    Of the other materials you mention, Boiled Linseed oil is, in my opinion, the first to tick off the list. Boiled Linseed OIl is not suitable for use in permanent painting because it's not alkali-refined, and because it includes a large amount of catalytic siccatives. You are correct in assuming acrylic would not perform well on top of boiled oil.

    Wallpaper paste is hygroscopic, and remains water-soluble after it dries (though if you've ever had to strip old wallpaper, you might find that hard to believe). When acrylic dispersion painting ground (gesso) is applied over a soluble size, often the result is a crazed priming layer. There are probably more issues the other Moderators can point out.

    Utility-grade PVA adhesive might be OK, but the type sold as a professional-grade art material typically retains neutral color and flexibility long-term, and is more resistant to damage from UV light exposure. If the glue you're considering is recommended safe for use in archival preservation or antique book repair, it might be a good option.

    Matthew Kinsey, Utrecht Art Supplies
    2017-07-03 19:10:34
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer


    I think that you covered it well. 

    Brian Baade
    2017-07-04 15:21:03
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser Comment

    Thank you for the reply. I don't think they are art supplies, they're simply classified under "preparation for painting" - presumably this means interior/exterior decorative painting.​

    I haven't seen any PVA glue that was recommended for archival purposes - most of the time they are just sold as wood glue. I'm not sure whether UV exposure is an important factor considering that the sizing will ultimately be hidden under the layers of ground and painting.

    As for "bona fide" art boards and such: I could probably get something that claims to be for "artist use", but I haven't yet seen any evidence (certificates) that it's fundamentally different. The best I can do is get some acrylic ground from Talens and trust that it will perform well on the mentioned rigid supports. Anything else worth trying?

    2017-07-05 08:41:10
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    ​If it's sold as wood glue, are you sure it's PVA? If Talens primer is available, I would just use that rather than taking a chance on "off-label" use of construction adhesive.

    Matthew Kinsey, Utrecht Art Supplies
    2017-07-05 11:51:04
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser Comment

    Yes, I'm sure it's PVA, it's in the manufacturer's information sheets. (Together with the 6-7 pH value, which makes me a bit uncertain - is a very weak acid a significant factor?)​

    2017-07-06 13:02:58
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    If you don't mind, I'm going to defer to the conservation specialists on whether very slight acidity of PVA could have a destructive effect. ​

    Matthew Kinsey, Utrecht Art Supplies
    2017-07-06 20:31:25
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    That very slight acidity should not be an issue. Linen and cotton will get slightly more acidic over time and we should keep in mind that the pH of animal glue (which was for centuries the almost universal size for paintings) ranges in pH from 5.8 – 7.4 depending upon the source.

    Brian Baade
    2017-07-06 21:10:52
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    To the OP

    You can certainly use industrial products in your artwork but you should realize that they were formulated for a very environment and expectation of longevity and may or maynot fulfill your requirements.

    This is from MITRA's FAQ section:

    Industrial materials made to withstand outdoor (and even indoor) conditions were formulated for very different purposes than traditional art materials. There are many choices that paint manufacturers make that affect the outcome of a given product and paints produced on an industrial scale often use additives that are relatively economical and/or are the easiest to incorporate into the paint formulations. These additives can aid in creating a more workable paint and helps the paint film to withstand severe weather conditions and extreme exposure to light; however, these additives (i.e. antifungalagents, wetting agents, rheology modifiers, dispersants, anti-freezingagents, driers, thickeners, de-foamers, small additions of toxic solvents, etc.) can potentially lead to problematic consequences when these paints are used to create fine art that is intended to last for decades and centuries rather than a short time in a very hostile environment (i.e. 7-15 years). Some of these additives are known to eventually migrate out of these commercial paints after a certain period of time, industrial products are not recommended as suitable materials for grounds, paint layers, and/or varnish coatings. Additional research is required to assess whether these additives can form potentially deleterious complexes with pigments, create a hazy film on the paint surface, impart brittleness, and/or create a paint film that is more sensitive to solvents. As little is presently known about how these materials will age over extended periods of time, industrial products are not recommended for use. If artists choose to use such products, they are encouraged to record the brand, material, and date of purchase (commercial manufacturers may change their formulation often without notifying the consumer) of the product on the back of the artwork.

    Brian Baade
    2017-07-07 02:14:51
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser Comment

    Thank you for the replies. I do realize that industrial formulations might not be appropriate for artwork meant to last centuries, but sometimes there is just no other choice - especially when living away from big cities and having a limited budget.

    2017-07-08 18:11:40

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