Image of old painting
Now you have a used Masonite panel with as much of the old painting removed as is possible. You have scraped and sanded and wiped until you thought your arms would fall out of the sockets. What next?

The next step is preparing the panel to receive a new painting.

I know many Old Masters reused painting supports, but I don’t know how they prepared their supports for re-use. (If anyone knows, feel free to enlighten me! I love learning how these artists painted and believe that if it was good enough for them, there’s a good chance it’ll be good enough for me.)

The one thing I don’t want is the old color patterns appearing through the new painting. So I remove as much as possible, then cover over the rest.

If the painting is an acrylic painting, that’s easy. You re-apply acrylic gesso or acrylic paint and you’re all set.

If you’re using oils, acrylic gesso is out of the question.

You could use an oil based gesso or primer and do very well. They are available, but they can also tend to be on the expensive side. Oil primers are quite often also lead-based, another big tabu in my studio.

So what I do is paint a good, basic color that doesn’t fade over the old painting. What color do I use? Burnt Umber.

  • Burnt Umber is a basic earth tone available in every line of paint. I use M. Graham Oils and love them because no solvents are needed to thin paints or to clean up, but you can find Burnt Umber in every other line and brand name, as well.
  • It’s also inexpensive. Usually among the least expensive color in any line.
  • It dries fast. Unless the weather is very wet, it will dry over night and is almost always completely dry to the touch within 30 hours of application.
  • It’s a semi-opaque color. Whatever is under it will stay under it.
  • And, it doesn’t fade.

All of those things make it a great choice for concealing those old paintings and laying the ground work for a new painting.

Painting over an old painting
I am again using my 24 x 30 1/4-inch masonite panel for demonstration purposes. I applied Burnt Umber straight out of the tube with no added walnut oil or alkyd medium. Because this panel is was big, I used a palette knife for the first application.

Because I’m not particularly fond of the surface texture with a palette knife, I then used the largest brush I have available and brushed out the paint. As with scraping and sanding, I worked in at least four directions. Horizontal, vertical, diagonal top left to bottom right and diagonal top right to bottom left. The easiest way to do this is to brush across the surface once, then rotate the panel 45 degrees and brush again. Keep going until the panel is back in the original position or until the surface is the way you want it.

Let the paint dry for a week, then check it to make sure it’s sticking properly to the surface. If you can easily scrape it off with a fingernail, the panel may not be usable without a more thorough sanding, perhaps with an orbital sander.

If, however, the paint is difficult or impossible to remove with a finger nail, you’re good to go.

In the photo shown here, the two white marks are thumbnail scratches made in the paint after one week of drying time.

The lighter mark to the left and slightly higher than those two scratches is the result of the thumbnail test a week later. Some scuffing, but not enough to cause problems.

After testing the panel this time, I scraped it lightly with a single edge razor blade and was pleased with the result. Again, there was some scuffing, but nothing that looked risky.

I let the panel dry for one more week and am confident enough after that time period to start a new painting on the panel.

You can either begin the painting process or give the surface a light sanding for a smoother texture.

Related Articles:
Removing Old Paintings From Panels