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MDF board for artists

Can you use mdf board for your paintings?

MDF Board as an Art Substrate

Cost of MDF

Very Affordable. Order a large board and make sure that your supplier will cut to the sizes you want…preferably at no extra cost
I use a family firm of Timber Mrchanants based near me in Suffolk whom I cannot fault for delivery and cutting accuracy: Bradnams, Haverhill, Suffolk.

Weight of Mdf Board

3mmLight easy to carry for Plein Air Artists

Preparation of MDF for painters – Do not skimp on this.

I have used professional canvas boards for over 2 years now and they all warp bending towards the painting surface. To mitigate this you must seal the mdf boards for 2 reasons:
1. The colour/stain may eventually leach through your paint surface particularly if you are using a thin paint cover.
Gesso is not good enough to stop this. Buy a can of Zinsser 1.2.3 Bulls Eye Primer, I get mine from screwfix but this is the manufacturer and paint ALL edges – back front and all sides so total = 6 edges.

2. To mitigate warping leave the Zinsser to dry (I leave a full day although zinsser dries very fast). Then apply 2 coats of Gesso allowing each coat to dry. So far boards I prepared this way have markedly less warp towards the paint surface than commercial canvas boards. BUT nb it does depend on your painting technique… if you use loads of liquid it will obviously tend to try and contract the board towards the painted (wet) surface. In past times when painting on wood  (they used Poplar a lot) it was common place to put a cage behind the artwork to stop the warp – see this very interesting pdf from the Getty Institute


I cannot quantify this but given that it is used freely in commercial canvas boards, I assume there is an assessed durability to mdf.
I would think if you prepare the boards properly they will be archival… however, I am interested to research this further and will post up an update on this page when I have a satisfactory answer!