What is Dibond? Dibond is one of several trade names of aluminum composite consisting of two thin sheets of aluminum enclosing a polyethylene core. Suitable for a huge range of applications, Dibond is lightweight but strong and the extremely flat surface is great for printing high quality graphics or text. More and more painters seem to have found this material ideal as a painting substrate. The prevailing argument for the use of Dibond is it’s presumed stability over a long period of time. With Dibond you don’t have to worry about the organic fibers rotting (as with cotton and linen), and you don’t have to worry about warpage (as you do with any kind of wood panel). The expansion and contraction of these organic materials, which over many years may compromise the integrity of the paint film, also becomes a non-issue with Dibond.
As with any other substrate, Dibond needs to be prepared to accept oil paint (or any other traditional media, I suppose). As I am a total Dibond newbie I have asked my friend, artist Shana Levenson, to outline the process she uses to prep the surface. Thank you, Shana, for providing the following instructions and photos:
Dibond or Aluminum Panel
Liquitex Acrylic Grey Gesso
Electric Hand Sander
200 and 400 girt Sand Paper
PREPPING THE DIBOND:
Sand the bare aluminum with the hand sander and 200 grit sand paper
Spray the surface with water to help the gesso brush out evenly
Squeeze gray gesso onto panel
Spread with the sponge brush with even brush strokes
Repeat these steps twice more, brushing the gesso in opposite directions each time.
By spraying water for each new layer, it allows the gesso to go on more evenly to avoid line texture.
Once the last layer is dry, take a fine grit sand paper and either hand sand it in circles, or with a sander, until you reach your desired smoothness.
Measure the size wanted and make marks where to cut.
Lay a straight edge firmly down where the desired measurement is.
Make sure when doing this, you are using a flat surface to avoid bending the aluminum panel.
Continuously score the dibond against the straight edge with a razor blade. Depending on the size, you can either stand it while bending it back and forth to snap off, or put the dibond on a table and push down the cut piece on the edge of the table.
Once cut, the sides can be sharp so use a tool to shave down those sharp sides.
To obtain some Dibond panels, Shana recommends getting in touch with a local commercial sign maker. They may even cut and deliver for a nominal charge.
Thank you Shana! I look forward to using this technique to prep my first batch of Dibond panels.
Shana Levenson is a representational painter from Albuquerque, NM. Shana’s work focuses on portraiture and the figure. Her inspiration comes from painting people that are important in her life, and her goal is to capture each person’s story in an honest and meaningful way. Shana draws inspiration from her own experiences and uses specific series as a way to illustrate chapters in her life. Her works can be seen in regular exhibitions across the United States and abroad.
Find out more about Shana and see her work at ShanaLevenson.com. Shana is also a co-developer of Art Crit Academy, an online mentorship program for serious art students and those seeking a career in art. Find out more at ArtCritAcademy.com.