Masonite is a useful and cost effective alternative
In the 1920’s , a new construction material was created from wood fibers heated by steam and pressed together. This material is called masonite or hardboard. It comes in two grades hardboard and MDF board. The MDF board is less dense and cheaper than the hardboard and has a resin binder. Masonite has usually comes in 1/8 inch and 1/4 inch thick forms and is fairly rigid. Artist often prefer it because it can hold up heavier coats of paint making 3D and textural painting possible on larger surfaces.
Cutting and preparing the masonite
Once the board is cut, then wipe the board down with a very slightly damp cloth to remove saw dust. The board is now ready for gesso.
Apply the gesso
Apply the gesso in one direction across the board as smoothly as possible trying to avoid brush strokes. After applying the first layer of gesso, allow to dry. When dry, apply the second coat in the other direction to create a cross htched pattern maximizing coverage. Allow the second coat to dry and use a heat gun on low setting to expedite if desired. When dry, lightly sand the surface with 220 grit sand paper or sanding block and remove dust with slightly damp cloth. Next apply a third coat in the original direction pattern and allow to dry overnight if need be.