Home Page: Art Panels for Painting & Pastel

Hardboard vs. Thin MDF Art Panels
Appearance and Performance

Our Primewood panels are made of a wood product called "Thin Medium Density Fiberboard" (also called "Thin MDF", "TMDF", or "HDF"). The large majority of commercial art boards and art panels produced today are made of tempered hardboard (a.k.a. "Masonite", a brand name of hardboard).

From an art conservation standpoint, hardboard is inferior in many ways to Thin MDF. You'll find the reasons for this explained at length throughout our website. [Relevant links are listed below.] From a manufacturing standpoint however, hardboard is attractive because it is easier to work with and is thus a cost saver. The reasons a manufacturer would choose hardboard are cost savings through production expediency and, to a lesser extent, aesthetics. And cutting corners in this way may make sense for a student-grade art board. But we strongly believe that hardboard has no place in a professional grade art panel.

Asher B. Durand - View in the Adirondack Mountains [detail]
Because of the extreme density of hardboard and the very low porosity of tempered hardboard in particular, it is much easier to apply a first coat of sealer or primer to hardboard without raising the wood fibers on the surface of the board, as compared to MDF. This reduces the need for sanding and additional coats of primer, and makes it much cheaper and easier to achieve a flawless finish.
Unfortunately, this also results in a much weaker adhesion of the coating to the wood a compromise that we are not willing to make.

Hardboard also takes and holds a cleaner edge than MDF. Cut or routered edges look neater on hardboard than on an MDF panel.

You may find that manufactured hardboard art panels are cheaper than Primewood panels. Their surfaces may be more nearly flawless. Their edges may look a bit cleaner. We considered those factors when we designed our panels. And then we chose Thin MDF anyway.

The bottom line? A little bit neater appearance and a lower price were less important to us than designing a highly durable, premium quality art panel. Our primary concern is how your paintings will look a hundred years from now. We want our grandchildren to be as proud of our panels then as we are today. This is a sentiment that, over the years, we've found that we share with our customers. A hard concept for a marketing executive to understand, perhaps, but there you have it.

You'll find more information about MDF and hardboard in the Primewood information section of our website and, in particular, in our wood science glossary. To continue reading from where you were, close this window: