REVIEW: Aquabord Panels from Ampersand Art Supply

Ampersand Aquabord Main Image

What if you had a warp-resistant, tear-proof, shrink-proof and buckle-proof surface that allowed you to frame your watercolors without glass? Museum Series Aquabord Panels from Ampersand™ Art Supply does just that.

So is this marvelous surface the same as painting on watercolor paper? Not exactly. But it gives you bright color, glazing to infinity, and you can wash away mistakes or even your entire painting.

It does require you to rethink your techniques, but dang … all of the above sure made me eager to try it.

What is Aquabord?

Closeup of Aquabord Panel Texture

Aquabord is a warp-resistant Hardbord™ panel, coated with an acid-free clay and mineral. The texture is similar to cold-pressed watercolor paper, but highly absorbent.  The close-up above makes it look rougher than it actually is.

They’re good for acrylic, casein, gouache, ink, mixed media, and allow scratchboard techniques.

Back of Aquabord panel

The Hardbord is 1/8 inch thick, *FSC-certified, and protected with Ampersand’s proprietary Archiva-Seal™ to prevent yellowing. It has no wood grain, so no worries about it cracking or splitting due to temperature changes.

Ampersand uses no formaldehyde or harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

*FSC certification ensures that products come from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental, social and economic benefits.

These panels are available in sizes ranging from 4 x 4 inch to 24 x 36 inch. They also come in cradle format as well as the 1/8 inch panel.

Painting Techniques On Aquabord

Painting on Aquabord is different from painting on watercolor paper.

Fortunately, it isn’t difficult or too different. The nice thing about being able to wash away your painting is that you can play on one panel many times until you figure it out.

You can seal your finished watercolors or gouache. Use several light coats of spray varnish or fixative. Be careful not to spray too closely, or you might dilute some of the color. Spraying doesn’t protect the painting from scratches, so keep your painting where it won’t come into contact with anything sharp.

Ampersand gives you lots of tips at the website. I’m going to list some of them here, so you can get an idea of how Aquabord works.

  • Air bubbles get trapped in the clay — release them with a heavy water wash before starting to paint.
  • Less water equals more control, damp into damp is better than very wet.
  • Use paint that is about milk thickness.
  • Float paint onto surface with a light touch rather than dragging the bristles across the surface.
  • Let layers dry completely between glazes.
  • Only scratch when dry, not when wet.
  • Draw on Aquabord with pencil, if desired.
  • Use hairdryer, if you want to speed up drying.
  • To lift color, let paint fully dry. Use a stiffer brush, wet, blot brush, and lift.

The Scratchboard Technique

You can scratch on watercolor paintings to suggest sparkles on water or texture of various kinds. It does run the risk of tearing the paper too much, and you can overdo it.

With Aquabord, you can scratch to your heart’s content. You can repaint, re-scratch, and repeat as needed.

You need a sharp-pointed instrument, such as an exacto knife, or awl. It is neither super-easy or super-hard to do. You aren’t likely to accidentally scratch the surface, but a little pressure on a sharp object allows you to remove some of the clay.

Aquabord Painting Examples

Usually when testing a new watercolor paper, I try to destroy it, by overworking it severely.

But Aquabord is different enough that I wasn’t sure what I wanted to test.

Watercolor Painting on Aquabord Example

So, I just painted these two women, following the tips and techniques from the Ampersand Art Supply above, as closely as possible. And it wasn’t as different from paper as I thought it would be.

As with most watercolor, it’s in the water-to-paint ratio and in letting it dry properly before adding more layers.

The water to paint ratio was a different than I’m used to. The aquabord took longer to dry than I’m used to. But it’s harder to overwork (if not impossible) because you can just wash away what you’ve done, and start over.

Now I knew what I wanted to test.

Lifting color is extremely easy on this surface, so it might be frustrating for some. I live to lift color, lol, so I had no problem.

The nice thing about being able to wash away the color is that you can completely start over. Right? That was my first test.

I started by just slopping paint on one of my Aquabord panels. I used both staining and non-staining colors. No worries about color coordination, because this was all meant to go away. I let the paint dry for a day.

Clay would probably clog the sink, so I filled a plastic tub with water, soaked the aquabord for a few minutes, then lightly used a soft brush to remove the color. The board ended up with a light, slightly speckled tint. It was rather attractive, and would make a nice background.

But this was a test! So I took a Mr. Clean sponge, scrubbed a circle hard in the center, more lightly around it, and left a circle around the edges with no scrubbing. Then I soaked it in clean water overnight.

I was also testing to see if I’d get any warping. I did not.

The next day, the aquabord was back to white, slightly duller than original. The scrubbing didn’t remove any more color, it just flattened the surface texture.

I let the aquabord dry for another day to make sure it dried through completely.

Once I felt the panel was absolutely, totally dry I painted this prickly pear.

I did my usual lifting, repainting, and lifting to make sure I still could after the scrubbing and long soak. I definitely could.

I was able to get crisp edges, bright color, use scratchboard techniques, and in essence, it was like painting on an unused Aquabord.

I don’t think the hard scrubbing gained anything except smoothing the surface so it was more like a hot press than a cold press. A long soak and gentle removal of color would get me close to like-new without changing the texture.

For my last example, I just painted without trying to test anything, but using all the techniques I’d been playing with.

Overall

Museum Series Aquabord Panels from Ampersand Art Supply are Hardbord panels coated in acid-free clay and minerals. They won’t tear, shrink, or buckle, and they are warp-resistant.

It is extremely easy to lift color — to the point where you can remove your entire painting if you wish to. You can keep glazing, adding layer after layer of paint without losing clarity, brightness, or damaging the surface.

Painting on Aquabord is different from painting on watercolor paper, but mostly calls for a difference in the water-to-paint ratio so that you only lift color when you want to lift color. You can wash away or use the scratchboard technique to get lines of white, for highlights, sparkles, or lighter areas to paint over.

Your finished work can be sealed with a spray varnish or fixative so that color can no longer be lifted, and it can be framed without glass.

About Ampersand Art Supply

Ampersand Art Supply began as a collaboration between a graduate from the University of Texas, Elaine Salazar and Charles Ewing, the creator of Claybord. In 1993, along with three of her classmates, she created a business plan around Claybord, winning a national business contest. They established Ampersand Art Supply with Charles and his wife Barbara, in 1993.

Ampersand has grown the panel category by introducing several more innovative painting panels with unique and inspirational surface coatings suitable for all media, from oils to pastels

Ampersand’s factory team constructs each panel by hand to ensure the superior quality and craftsmanship.

They are still a small, family owned company located in Buda, Texas.

Ampersand is a World Watercolor Month 2022 Official Sponsor. 

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Disclaimer


I received one 4-panel set of 6×6 inch Aquabord and one 3-panel set of 5 x 7 inch Aquabord from Ampersand Art Supply, for the purposes of this review. I received no other considerations, though this post may contain affiliate links which help support Doodlewash. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

Recommended1 recommendationPublished in Art Supply Reviews
9 Comments
  1. JA Wilson 1 month ago

    Interesting!

  2. Shari Pratt 1 month ago

    WOW! First, I saw this product used by an artist at a local art fair and was already interested. Sandra, your description of Aquabord and especially your outstanding and truly beautiful examples convinced me: I’m going to try it. Thank you.

    • Author
      Sandra Strait 1 month ago

      Thank you so much, Shari! Have fun with the Aquabord!

  3. Chantel Keona 1 month ago

    Great review. Thanks for sharing.

  4. M. L. Kappa 1 month ago

    Very interesting! Will try, thanks

  5. Brenda Sommerville 1 month ago

    Thank you Sandra 🙂

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