The Photo on the left is "baby muslin"
It comes in a width of about 900mm and costs about $4.00 a Metre so it is very inexpensive and can be bought from most fabric stores.. The idea of this project is to make boards that are light and cost very little to make apart from a bit of time. Smilar to canvas but often with a varied texture.
Painters are often intimidated by the cost of the material they are painting on and feel that they must produce a successful painting every time.
As an art teacher I always insisted that my students buy an inexpensive newsprint scrap book. That way they would dive right into working drawings without the worrying about "wasting" a piece of cartridge paper.
These boards are for the same reason. You can dive right in with plein air painting or make quick painting sketches without worrying about the cost . Besides this they give a great texture to paint on for either oil or acrylic.
Foam board or MDF, ply or hardboard.
Here I use foam board as i have off cuts which are too small for most framing work so would be discarded. They are constructed of a high density foam inner with a light card fixed on both sides. This makes a very smooth surface and it can easily be cut with a sharp craft knife and the finished muslin board is very light If you prefer something with a bit more weight you could apply the same method using 6mm MDF, ply or hardboard rather than the foam board. It is important if using this method for MDF, ply or hardbaord that the back of the board is painted. This prevents the board from warping. I use a standard white undercoat and roll it on.
Gluing down muslin
Cut the muslin so that it is at least 20mm bigger all round. There are a number of ways to adhere the muslin to the board. I use acrylic satin or matt varnish.
PVA can also be used but it it not regarded as being archival and may yellow with age. EVA glue is widely used in the bookbinding industry and is archival.
Roll ( use a foam roller) or brush a coat of the varnish on the side that you are adhering the muslin to. This will seal the board. Brush is good for small boards but a roller is much quicker for larger boards or when you want to do a batch. Often the acrylic varnish is very thick. I thin it with about 20% water and store this in a separate container. Don't make it watery as it will go into the foam board and make it warp or delaminate. Once this is dry, roll or brush another coat onto the board.
While this is wet, carefully lay the the muslin onto the board. It is easier to work from the short side and lay it progressively onto the board being careful to keep it wrinkle free. This is where ironing the muslin pays off. However, the next stage will usually get rid of small wrinkles.
lay a piece of baking paper over the top of the glued down muslin. Then use your hand to smooth it out . Start in the middle and work out to the edges. Use firm pressure to really get the acrylic varnish or glue to into the weave of the muslin. Concentrate on the edges to make sure it is adhered on all edges out to the corners. I usually then roll or brush another coat of varnish on top of the muslin. Again, use the baking paper to work it in and ensure there are no wrinkles.
Instead of your hand you could use a rubber roller, Allow to dry for at least 24 hours.
In the photo I used a piece of thin foam to rub down the muslin onto the board. Baking paper is better but i had this off cut piece in my studio
Before trimming back make sure the muslin is firmly glued right out to the edges. If not work a bit of glue into the areas that are not adhered.
If using foamboard turn the board over so that the muslin side is down then with a very sharp craft knife and steel ruler, trim a little off each edge to get a clean finish.
With MDF, ply or hardboard. trim the muslin by running the blade along the edge.
Roll or brush on 3 coats of Acrylic Gesso allowing time for each coat to dry.
If you want to fill a little more of the texture more coats can be applied.
Once really dry it is ready for painting using either oils or acrylic.
Close up of finished panel. looks a very similar texture to canvas here but overall you will see variations in the texture of muslin over the board making for an interesting surface to paint on.