Painting on Masonite: Benefits and Techniques

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You have used canvases and paper for painting, but have you ever thought about painting on Masonite? This is a substrate that has a nice, smooth surface, and it is quite sturdy.

What is Masonite?

In the context of painting surfaces for artists, Masonite refers to a type of hardboard that is commonly used as a painting support. It is made from compressed wood fibers, creating a dense and sturdy panel that provides a smooth and stable surface for painting. 

Artists often use Masonite panels as an alternative to traditional canvas, as it offers a rigid support that is less prone to warping and provides a consistent surface for paint application.

Masonite is particularly popular among oil painters, as it can handle the weight of oil paints and allows for various oil painting techniques. It is also suitable for acrylic and other mediums. 

Benefits of Using Masonite as A Painting Surface

There are so many benefits to painting on Masonite. One of the biggest benefits is the cost because it is rather inexpensive. You will spend a lot less on a large piece of Masonite than you will on a large canvas.

Another great thing about Masonite is that you can get it at just about any hardware store. So, if there are no good art supply stores in your area, you can still get an awesome substrate to paint on without having to travel out of your way.

Masonite is an ideal substrate for oil paintings. It is rigid, and it has a smooth surface that paint can adhere to without having to bother with a whole lot of priming.

Many artists prefer Masonite for its durability and longevity, as properly prepared and primed Masonite panels can last for many years without deteriorating. 

Additionally, Masonite panels can be easily cut into custom sizes, providing artists with flexibility in choosing their preferred painting dimensions. Overall, Masonite serves as an excellent painting surface for artists looking for a reliable and versatile support for their artwork.

Below we are going to talk about using oil paints on Masonite, how to prep the surface of Masonite, how to prime it, which brushes to use, and more. 

How to Prepare Masonite Board for Painting

Before you can start an oil painting on a Masonite surface, you will need to clean and prep the Masonite surface. This is going to ensure that the paint will adhere properly.

The first thing you need to do is clean the Masonite panels. Get rid of any surface dirt by wiping the Masonite with a damp cloth.

Next, you will need to sand the surface with fine-grit sandpaper until the Masonite feels nice and smooth when you touch it. After you finish sanding it, be sure to wipe it with a clean, dry cloth to get rid of any dust.

Do You Need to Prime Masonite for Oil Painting?

There are many benefits to priming Masonite before you begin doing an oil painting on it. Priming will seal up the pores in the wood fibers.

This ensures that the paint will not soak into the board and deteriorate. It also helps to ensure that you have a painting surface that is smooth and even.

Since you are going to be using oil paints, make sure that you get a primer that is made to work with oil paints. I suggest using gesso. Not only is it a great primer and base for oil painting, but it will also help to prevent your art from yellowing over time.

Keep in mind that if you are going to prime the Masonite that you will need to give it plenty of time to dry. You can’t simply prime it and begin painting right away.

The length of time it will take for the primer to dry will depend on a few things, including the type of primer you are using. Other factors include humidity levels in your work area and how thickly you are applying primer, and how many coats of primer you apply.

I would suggest painting three layers of gesso, allowing at least an hour between coats. Each coat should be painted in a different direction.

The first layer can be painted lengthwise, and then the second layer can be painted width-wise. You can also paint diagonally, making sure that you paint from a different direction for each layer.

Once you have applied a primer to a Masonite surface, it is a good idea to wait a minimum of 24 hours before you begin painting.

How do you know if the primer is completely dry? Touch the surface with your finger. If it still feels sticky, it needs more time to dry.

Best Brushes for Oil Paintings on Masonite

There are all kinds of different brushes you can use for oil painting Masonite. I almost always recommend using natural bristle brushes for any type of oil painting, including oil painting on Masonite.

Natural bristle brushes tend to hold more paint than synthetic bristle brushes. Natural bristle brushes are also more flexible, making it easier to apply color.

Another option is to use palette knives. These are the ideal tool to use if you want to create texture or use the impasto technique.

Oil paints are a lot different from water-based paints. They take a lot longer to dry, so you will want to take extra care when cleaning your brushes. After all, you don’t want to ruin expensive brushes just because they weren’t properly cleaned. Use turpentine or mineral spirits to clean your brushes.

Check my guide to learn more about the difference between turpentine and mineral spirits.

Techniques for Oil Painting on Masonite

Now that the Masonite has been cleaned and primed, it is time to begin painting. At this point, you may be wondering if there are any special oil painting techniques you should use for painting on Masonite.

There are several techniques you can use that will give you wonderful results. Most importantly, be sure to paint thin layers.

It is better to build up color with thin layers instead of applying one or two thick layers. For one thing, thick layers take a lot longer to dry than thin layers. Also, if you paint in thick layers your painting could end up cracking over time.

If you are on a tight budget, you may be tempted to use cheaper oil paints. I do not recommend this. If you are going to put your time and effort into a painting, you should be using the best paints that you can afford.

Cheaper paints may not have as much pigment or lightfastness as higher-quality oil paints would have. This can affect the overall appearance of your painting.

It is also a good idea to mix all of the colors you are going to use before you apply them to the Masonite. Oil paint dries slowly, so don’t worry about having your mixed colors dry before you get a chance to use them.

How Long Will It Take For Your Oil Painting on Masonite to Dry?

It can take several months or even a year or longer for any oil painting to dry completely. The drying time will depend on several factors.

As I mentioned, when you apply oil paint in thick layers, it will take longer to dry. The humidity levels and temperature in your painting area will also play a role in the drying time of your painting.

As a rule, it will take several days to a few weeks for oil paint to dry on a Masonite surface. At this point, it should be dry to the touch, even though we all know it will take much longer to completely dry.

Once your painting is dry to the touch, use varnish to protect the finished painting.

Using Acrylics on Masonite

Masonite is also a great substrate for acrylic painting. Masonite art boards are sturdy and affordable, but you need to be careful about choosing the right type of Masonite board.

Masonite boards are either tempered or untempered. If a board is tempered, it has been soaked with linseed oil.

A tempered Masonite board is not suitable for acrylic painting. Acrylics and oils do not mix. Always choose an untempered Masonite board for acrylic painting.

Untempered Masonite is softer than tempered, and it is a bit more absorbent, making it the best choice for acrylic painting.

The texture of a Masonite board is smooth on the front and rougher on the back. Most artists prefer to use the smooth side after sanding it to give it a bit of texture.

You don’t necessarily need to prime the Masonite for acrylic painting, but a coat of gesso couldn’t hurt.


If you want to paint a large-scale picture and don’t want to spend a lot of money on a canvas, Masonite is a great option. It is much less expensive, and you can have it cut to the size you need for your oil painting.

Oil paints work well on Masonite, as long as the board has been properly primed first. Be sure to use natural bristle brushes, and take advantage of your palette knife whenever possible to create texture.

*image by YAY_Images/depositphotos