Oil Paint on Drafting Film Test

October 17, 2009

To follow up some on an older post that explored using drafting film as a painting surface, I thought I’d test out a sheet of it for further oil paint tests. The results are mixed, but less than ideal.

Oil swatches on film

Oil swatches on film

Colors used: Grumbacher MAX ivory black, Lukas Berlin warm gray, Winsor Newton Artisan cerulean blue, MAX ultramarine blue, Holbein DUO red, Lefranc orange, W&N Artists naples yellow, Lefranc raw umber, W&N cremnitz white, Lefranc titanium white, W&N van dyke brown, DUO lemon, Artisan titanium, Artisan burnt sienna, Berlin primary yellow.

I took a piece of matte polyester drafting film made by Grafix, and painted swatches on it of various types of oil paints I had available. These colors have a range of vehicles from refined linseed oil, safflower, soya, and modified water-miscible oils. I painted both a masstone layer (right out of the tube) and a layer slightly diluted with odorless mineral spirits about 1 x 2 inches square for each color. I then let that dry for about 3 weeks.

Close up section

Close up section

In the end, all the oil types behaved about the same; although, some of the them, especially the Van Dyke brown, stained out very quickly after being diluted. The smooth surface of the film caused the thin paint to spread out quickly. I noticed very soon that all the swatches, even the faster drying pigments, took longer to become touch dry on this surface than they would on canvas or wood panels, probably due to lack of absorbancy. In fact, even now, the MAX black and Ultramarine blue are still slightly tacky several weeks later.

To test the adhesion, I first did a “tape” test where I rubbed some strong adhesive tape on the top of several swatches, and then cut through the tape and the paint film below. When I lifted off the tape, no paint was removed. Generally I would say that is very good adhesion, except that I then took a metal palette knife and lightly scraped the surface of each swatch, and it was extremely easy to remove paint this way all the way to the film surface. You can see this in the close up image above. That would not happen on a traditional surface like canvas or wood, or even paper.

I also tried some acrylic primer on this, and although I was able to scrape that off as well, it wasn’t quite as easily removed as the oils. It improved the oil paint adhesion slightly but not dramatically. Commercially available polyester canvas sold for artist’s use has a special acrylic primed surface that is heat-set and permanent (see for example Fredrix Polyflax,) but I don’t know how that’s done (possibly similar to BEVA.) I’m not much of a fan of acrylic primers for oil use anyway since I find the surface unpleasant to work on and rough on brushes. It also defeats the idea of having a surface that won’t be damaged by oils so it doesn’t need any protection.

The conclusion I’m making here is, compared to other surfaces, drafting film is less than satisfactory for painting with oils. It certainly will work, and the film itself is a much stronger and stable surface than the others. As long as it doesn’t get accidently scraped, it might hold up very well, but the permanent adhesion of the paint film is questionable. If that problem can be improved, I’ll reconsider using it.

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