My First Glowforge Projects, and Question about Painting Draftboard

I’m an artist, and one of the main reasons for getting the Glowforge was to create painted items that I could sell at fairs and conventions. People are gunshy about buying paintings, unless I seriously underprice them, and prints typically don’t get much traction, but I thought things like ornaments, standees and little props might do well at the sorts of fairs we table at.

These were all cut out of draftboard. Although the cutting and preparation was simple, I’m admittedly disappointed by the paintability of the draftboard. Unlike MDF it has a fibrous surface that takes paint okay, but REALLY doesn’t take gloss or varnish well at all – everything ends up blotchy and splintered-looking. I tried both spray-on gloss varnish and paintable varnish, with pretty much the same results.

For the deaths head moth (which will eventually be a pendant), I used a gesso coat underneath the paint, which seems to have helped a little However, gessoing everything is going to be a bit of a pain. Will I get a better finished product by using something like hardboard instead of draftboard?

The Autobot and Decepticon symbols were hand-pieced and glued onto the backing circle, then hand-painted. The anatomical heart is puzzle-pieced together from a single image where each individual piece was painted separately. The small heart pendant was made from some walnut scrap (which was also frustrating to work with, as it needed to be sanded before it would take paint).

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I don’t know the answer, but I’d just like to say that I really like your work! Very cool, bold colored images.

Hmmm, I wonder if a clear 2-part epoxy resin coat would work for you?


As always, searching before asking is a good plan.

Maybe that’ll yield some tips.

That being said you may have already done so, because I don’t remember any deep dive posts about painting draftboard. You might want to ask google about painting mdf, since draftboard is just fancy mdf.

Thanks so much! I did see someone suggesting doing a shellac coat, then sanding and painting, for much better results. I’m just not sure if the extra cost and effort and time is worth it, or if hardboard would be a more time- and cost-effective solution.

I was also supremely frustrated with draftboard painting without additional steps. I had good (not great) results sanding first. This was sanded, spray painted pink (with sanding between coats), then remasked and lasered. It’s very smooth to the touch and took paint nicely, but still looks obviously fibrous up close. If you use a sanding block, it’s super quick.

What I haven’t played with is sanding and remasking. It might pull up more fibers and be useless. I also haven’t lasered and then sanded, but if it’s just a cutout (no score/engrave) would probably do just fine.

Yeah, and that’s a TON of work to not even quite get the smoothness I’m looking for. :confused: I think they sent me some hardboard with my machine, I might re-run some of the cuts and see how that paints up instead. I’ll have to double-check the price difference, but even a buck or two will be worth it if it saves me time and effort sanding and priming.

I don’t think they have anything like hardboard other than draftboard and the plywoods. If you go the route of getting stuff from a lumber yard, etc. you should be careful about formaldehyde and other potential bad chemicals in the glues. Plenty of posts on that around here

I’ve played a little bit with spray lacquer prior to painting, which helped some with the paint absorption. My favorite for coloring draft board is gel pens, for detail work – they give a nice 3D effect and only need one coat. Oil-based markers like Uni Posca work well, too, which makes me wonder if oil paints might be better than acrylics, but it’s not something I’ve tried yet. Oh, and Prismacolor colored pencils are great on draftboard.


Maybe I’m thinking of the Basswood. Although it looks like that’s finished, which is going to create its own problem in terms of accepting paint without a bunch of sanding.

I really like Sharpie markers for coloring the draftboard - very quick and even without adding a lot of gloss.



I use a lot of High density MDF (It’s Fibre-X, which I got from - they happen to be local to me). It’s got a smoother surface than the draftboard (and a darker color), and I think it takes paint nicely without raising the grain much. YMMV

I don’t know if I’d use draftboard for something like jewelry that gets bumped around and possibly damp/wet. Seems like you’re asking for trouble, but I guess if it’s sealed really well it would be fine. Another thought is to use an outdoor paint that will hold up better without a final coat. There are tons of options, but I used this stuff recently for an outdoor sign:


Draftboard = MDF (medium density fiberboard) and Hardboard (Masonite) = high density fiberboard. Chipboard is LDF, low density fiberboard.

The problem with HDF is it takes about 3 passes to cut through. What a time suck! MDF cuts in 1.

I use store bought 3mm MDF and agree, the paint “furs” the surface and leaves a poor tactile experience. I used Dunn Edwards interior paint samples thinned by 20% with a little Jerry’s Artarama medium (the big cheap gallons). I applied with a sponge wrapped in a t-shirt rag. After the paint dried I lightly sanded with baking parchment wadded up and got a gloriously smooth, almost stained effect, which was my goal.

I have not tested, but I THINK I could add layers of paint to add dimension/detail to the piece if I was trying for that kind of look.


Hmmm. My HDF (1/8") cuts like a dream. It’s my favorite material to work with, although I suspect it’s not quite as safe (for me) to laser as draftboard.

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Yeah, unfortunately I can’t get the same visual effect from Sharpies as I do from paint. :confused:

Love the look. Wish I could figure something out that will cut down on time.

For the first time, I’ve been painting Draftboard these last couple of days. Of the several small tests I’ve run, semi thick spray paint, and acrylic paint pens have been the best. I agree that sharpies are good, but I found difficult to get even with lighter colors. Maybe if you did an enamel primer, that might do it. I also lasered directly onto what I painted and then cleaned with a baby wipe.

I’d recommend using the Basswood if you’re going to switch wood that is offered by GF; it’s lighter tone would probably help. You wouldn’t necessarily need the hardwood, the plywood option would be just as good, and more cost effective. Sanding it lightly would give you a good paintable surface without taking away that undertone, or you could primer it, but that takes away from the natural color.

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How about a layer of gesso before paint?

That’s what I’ve been doing so far. It’s not terrible, and – as you can see from the moth – it does get me closer to a smooth finish. It’s a bit time consuming, especially because gesso is so thick, but it may be the best option that doesn’t involve sanding.

totally trying new materials source.

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I have successfully used PG maple ply for the pins I’ve been making. The pins are small, so I can get many from one sheet and because maple ply IS finished, paint pens work beautifully on them.