Aluminum Plate for Oil Painting

Oil painting Methods and Techniques: Oil on Aluminium

Scott Naismith blog, painting, technique 8 Comments

Dibond Aluminium Plate

Surface close up of final Painting on Dibond

My Findings with Applying Oil Directly onto Aluminium DiBond

For over a year now I have been looking to try out Aluminium as an oil painting surface. I looked for suppliers a few months back for Anodized aluminium suppliers. It wasn’t until recently when my online supplier of art materials offered DiBond Aluminium as a painting surface. So I ordered 4 panels to have a go at.

Aluminum Plate for Oil Painting

Corner Close up of DiBond Aluminium

Why use Dibond Aluminium as a Painting Surface?

As an artist I’m always looking for new ways to make marks. That’s all I do as a painter… I make interesting marks on a support (surface) and by the end there is a pleasing, harmonious product which makes others look differently at a subject. The materials I use are key to how these marks are made. I’m used to scrubbing paint into coarse belgian linen, however I often try a finer canvas and sand layers of gesso to a smoother finish. This approach can mean a lighter touch with a brush will give a fairly bold statement. This effect is exaggerated with the aluminum DiBond. What the paint wants to do as directed by the brush or knife is uninhibited by the surface texture of the support (basically because their is no surface texture!). You are also able to create extremely smooth blending, gradation and colour transitions. Care must be taken here to use lint free cloths and brushes that wont readily shed hairs. While hogs hair brushes can be used in the more vigorous strokes, much softer brushes must be used for blending and smoothing out the colour. Even watercolour brushes are good for this, just remember to wash with soap and water afterwards.

There are other artists out there who have used DiBond directly onto the white satin surface who I read about on The worry is that the oil properly adheres to the surface which doesn’t have much of a ‘tooth’. The artists out there don’t seem to experience a problem, however I have taken the extra precaution of using little or no turps and only oil to thin the paint. This I believe should make the paint stickier in it’s adhesion.

The example below shows my first painting using the surface after the first stage painted on Monday. The surface is so smooth that very little paint is needed. Because the paint is applied very thinly in places, it’s best to stick entirely to artists’ oils which have a higher pigment concentration and the pigment is finely ground. You also need to be very careful not to scratch the surface once dry.

Oil on Aluminium

After Stage 1


Stage 2 shown below was painted today (the following Friday). Having used a little siccative, the colour layed down 4 days previous had dried nicely ready for the next stage. I rubbed in some safflower oil which didn’t disturb the dried paint. On top of this I applied the next layer of colour which acted to complement and modify the 1st layer. Once this is dry I will apply a light spraying of varnish to protect against minor scratching. If I come accross any issues with the use of this suface without sanding or priming, I’ll be sure to update this blog with my findings.

Oil on Dibond Aluminium

Oil on Dibond Aluminium. After Stage 2


All in all I’m pretty happy with the results. the painting seems to have a very polished, smooth, graphic finish in places with the addition of more freer, flied strokes in contrast. I don’t think it will stop me using my Claessens Belgian linen, however I’m looking forward to some larger scale experiments with this new painting support.


UPDATE 31 Dec 2013

Aluminium Priming

Thought I would update this blog to let you know about a method of priming that I’m having my larger works prepared with. I’m now supplied larger sheets of Aluminium through a framer and gallery in glasgow where I also show my work in called Annan Gallery in Glasgow. They are priming with china clay and shellac which adheres well and also retains a smooth slick finish to work on. While the unprimed dibond may be possible on this scale I’m  happier working on this more stable, manageable base.

Here’s a work in progress shot of an 80 x 80cm sheet on the easel:

80cm oil on aluminium WIP by Scott Naismith

80cm oil on aluminium WIP by Scott Naismith

Comments 8

  1. These paintings are great! I’d never have thought of using aluminium as a platform for oil paints. I have to ask if there are any major issues when using this material though? Any problems with the paint drying or staying put?

  2. Have you ever used acrylic directly on one of these panels and also, have you ever displayed a piece outdoors? I read about a group from Windsor, ONT who used these panels, painted murals on them and then had them clear coated by an auto dealership. It looked like they were air brushed, but couldn’t tell for sure. I have been thinking about experimenting with a small panel with acrylic and setting it outdoors to see how it does in the weather. Any advise from your perspective?

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      I now use a shellac and china clay primer for oil. I would recommend gesso for acrylic. Sand down and it will still be smooth. If you like the high gloss, use a 2 part epoxy resin varnish to finish for outdoor use.

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      Shellac and china clay was used by a local framing workshop for me for it’s increased adhesion, however I’m happy to just use regular gesso. The direct application is fine so long as you handle with care and varnish at the end. I was finding the slightest scrape would take a layer of paint clean off. the absorbency of the gesso ensures the oil paint beds in.

  3. I dig your work. That’s cool you’re working on aluminum. It’s probably the one thing I haven’t tried. Do you ever cut it after priming or always prime after cutting?

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