If you like painting on a toned board, a good surface is a masonite, or hardboard panel, without any gesso or primer. The boards have a nice warm tone to them and I find it easier to judge values on a darker surface. They do need to be sealed so I use a clear shellac, sprayed or brushed on. I use this for smaller boards, 10 x 12 and smaller. The surface gets too slick with larger boards. Home improvement stores carry these boards and they will cut them for you. I do recommend the spray shellac, it's easier and less messy. I apply 3 coats of shellac about 10 minutes drying time between each coat.