Painting Large Backdrops

A free mini workshop on painting backdrops for your studio area no matter how big or small!

In this mini workshop I’ll show you how easy and inexpensive it is to create some beautiful canvas backdrops for your photography work. I hope you enjoy learning how I create these and I’m looking forward to seeing some you create and how you use them!

Supplies

In this workshop, I have kept the supplies pretty simple:

Paint – You’ll need some flat or ultra-flat paint from the paint store. I also used some Chalk Paint colors to paint a few smaller backdrops. For really small backdrops less than 4′ or so I’d recommend about a quart of paint. For anything larger than that you’ll want to go for a gallon of paint if you can. If you mix the Chalk Paint with a little bit of water – it will go much farther and you’ll have better luck rolling it on with a roller.

I went with a very dark gray – not quite black for the large black looking backdrop. Just my own personal preference on that. I didn’t want it to be super black.

I also went with a light gray color which I covered with white and a light brown to get a mottled look for my light neutral backdrop. I wanted it to have a variegated look rather than solid. That is why you see me painting 3 different coats on that backdrop and not being so careful on the 2nd and 3rd layer.

For the color backdrops – those were chalk paints I thinned down. They are fun colors but to be honest – not something I grab for my shoots now that I have them.

I’d recommend you start out with dark gray or black, Grays, more neutral colors, maybe dark blues, etc… for your color choices. Think about what you want to use in the backdrops of your photos and start there. Add more colors as you want later once you have used a few and practiced with them.

Canvas Drop Cloth – You can get these from any paint supply store. I’ve used some from Lowes, Home Depot and Ace Hardware. The ones from Ace hardware seemed to be a little better made and had nice sewn edges. Use any you can find in your area. I like the 9’x6′ for a medium-sized backdrop and the larger size for one that will cover the whole wall like I have with the black one I painted in this workshop.

Paint Roller, Paint Tray – I used the roller and paint tray to paint these in the videos. You can also paint them with a paintbrush if you want – but if you are making a larger size one – you’ll be there for a long while painting!

*tip on the roller – You’ll notice that on some of these backdrops I don’t bother to change out my roller when I go from color to color – I did that on purpose so the colors would mix a little. I liked the effect. Feel free to try it out or change out to a clean roller each time if you want to keep your colors pure.

Plastic Drop Cloth – I got a plastic drop cloth that was bigger than the canvas drop cloths I was painting on so I could spread it out on my driveway and keep everything clean while I was painting.

Extra plastic buckets (opt) – I used these for mixing the chalk paints I got with a bit of water to loosen them up enough to roll them with a roller since the chalk paints are a bit thicker than regular paint.

Grommet kit (opt) – I used grommets on the large black drop cloth to create holes on the top to mount to the wall. After doing that I liked how professional it looks but would have been just fine to cut small slits in the drop cloth to mount from also. I used large picture hanger hooks on the wall and hung the drop cloth from those hooks. I got my grommet kit from Home Depot in stock. Here is the same kit I got on AMAZON.

Backdrop Stand – Some of the smaller backdrops I hang on this backdrop stand and have really liked it. I have these grips for hanging them.

Large Black Backdrop

For this backdrop I went with a very dark gray – not quite black. Just my own personal preference on that. I didn’t want it to be super black. This backdrop was approx 9’x12′ size I am painting on. 

Small Blue Backdrop

For the color backdrops – these were chalk paints I thinned down. Chalk paint is a bit more expensive than regular flat paints – I liked the flat painted ones just as much as the chalk paint ones – so I would recommend you go with the flat or ultra-flat paints from the paint store to save a little money over using chalk paints. On these, I used some fun colors but to be honest – not something I grab for my shoots now that I have them. This backdrop was approx 3’x4′ size I am painting on.

*tip on the roller – You’ll notice that on some of these backdrops I don’t bother to change out my roller when I go from color to color – I did that on purpose so the colors would mix a little. I liked the effect. Feel free to try it out or change out to a clean roller each time if you want to keep your colors pure.

Small Green Backdrop

For the color backdrops – these were chalk paints I thinned down. Chalk paint is a bit more expensive than regular flat paints – I liked the flat painted ones just as much as the chalk paint ones – so I would recommend you go with the flat or ultra-flat paints from the paint store to save a little money over using chalk paints. On these, I used some fun colors but to be honest – not something I grab for my shoots now that I have them. This backdrop was approx 3’x4′ size I am painting on.

*tip on the roller – You’ll notice that on some of these backdrops I don’t bother to change out my roller when I go from color to color – I did that on purpose so the colors would mix a little. I liked the effect. Feel free to try it out or change out to a clean roller each time if you want to keep your colors pure.

Medium Nuetral Backdrop

On this backdrop went with a light gray color for the first layer which I covered with a white layer and then a light brown on that 3rd layer to get a mottled. I wanted it to have a variegated look rather than solid. That is why you see me painting 3 different coats on that backdrop and not being so careful on the 2nd and 3rd layer. This backdrop was a 9’x6′ size I am painting on.

*tip on the roller – You’ll notice that on some of these backdrops I don’t bother to change out my roller when I go from color to color – I did that on purpose so the colors would mix a little. I liked the effect. Feel free to try it out or change out to a clean roller each time if you want to keep your colors pure.

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44 Comments

  1. Janet’s

    Great demo Denise

    Reply
  2. Patricia Kay

    Thank you so much Denise…will look forward to doing this outside when the weather warms up….Can’t do indoors as my dogs would add their artistic touch…
    I have some canvas that will be perfect for this…Take care and be healthy…

    Reply
    • Denise Love

      So glad it was helpful! I did mine outside on the carport floor and it did great. 🙂

      Reply
  3. Name *Alexandr

    Спасибо, Дениз! Это было полезно. Вы щедро поделились своим опытом. Я продумывал другой вариант:использовать доски строительных поддонов, обшивку домов и старые доски забора.

    “Thanks Denise! That was helpful. You generously shared your experience. I thought of another option: use the boards of building pallets, the cladding of houses and old boards of the fence.”

    Reply
    • Denise Love

      So glad it was helpful! Great ideas. Thank you 🙂

      Reply
  4. Novella

    Thank you! This is just what I need!

    Reply
  5. Lucia

    These are all absolutely amazing! So simple yet so effective.

    Reply
    • Denise Love

      Thank you! I hope you make a few for yourself. I love using them! 🙂

      Reply
  6. Niru Karia

    Wonderful. Thank you sooo much for inspiring

    Reply
    • Denise Love

      So glad it was helpful. Thank you 🙂

      Reply
  7. judy

    Thanks so much. When the snow melts!

    Reply
    • Denise Love

      So glad you loved it! Thank you 🙂

      Reply
  8. Bonnie

    A nice respite from the world outside. And, a terrific learning experience.

    Reply
    • Denise Love

      So glad you enjoyed it! Thank you 🙂

      Reply
  9. Lisa

    Very cool! Do your neighbours go”what is that woman up to now?” lol … Great idea 🙂

    Reply
    • Denise Love

      Yes! LOL!! I live in a townhome community – so everyone that drove by stopped to chat 🙂

      Reply
  10. soumaya schnur

    Always inspiring, thank you Denise! Hug

    Reply
  11. DORIS WOODRUFF

    HI DENISE..THANK YOU FOR THIS INFORMATION..GREAT IDEAS…QUESTION..HOW DO YOU GET THE FOLDING WRINKLES OUT AFTER ITS PAINTED? I WOULD PREFER NOT HAVING LINES IN THE BACKGROUND???

    Reply
    • Denise Love

      I wanted the wrinkles – so I painted on them on purpose with the wrinkles. I Like the movement of light and shadow they add to the background when I photograph. If you want wrinkle-free – then you would want to iron the background before you painted. 🙂

      Reply
  12. Holly Ireland

    Thank You Denise

    Enjoyed the demo and information, and loved the colors you chose to work with!

    Holly

    Reply
  13. Carol Wehner

    Thanks for sharing this! What a lovely gesture to teach us these great backgrounds while we are all stuck at home. You’re the bestest!

    Reply
    • Denise Love

      So glad you found it helpful! Thank you 🙂

      Reply
  14. karen forsyth

    Finally got to watch these. Thank you Denise! One thing you might try for fun is to tie string or jute around the roller to break up the flatness allowing more color from below.

    Reply
  15. Carol

    How do you store these? If you fold them does the paint crack?
    Thank you!

    Reply
    • Denise Love

      The paint does not crack. I store wrapped around a pool noodle so it doesn’t create extra creases.

      Reply
  16. Gretchen

    Inspiration needed right now so thank you. I was wondering if you prime the fabric first or just go for it.

    Reply
    • Denise Love

      I just go for it. I like how it creates some variation in the paint when some of it sinks in! Hope that helps.

      Reply
  17. Lili Schaap

    Thanks Denise for all your wonderful videos, it gives me inspirations and love how we can keep watching!

    Cheers, and stay safe! 🙂

    Reply
    • Denise Love

      So glad you enjoy them! Thank you! 🙂

      Reply
  18. Lisa Guy

    thank you Denise, I found this so inspiring. My brain is in overdrive. It is winter here so I am looking forward to nicer days to do one.

    Reply
    • Denise Love

      So glad you loved it. I have really been using the ones I painted in the dark gray. They are my favorite. 🙂

      Reply
  19. mlschless

    What great videos – thank you! These are awesome! I can’t wait to try it myself. We’re headed into fall, so I’d better hurry up before it gets too cold out!

    Reply
    • Denise Love

      So glad it was helpful! Can’t wait to see what you create. 🙂

      Reply
  20. Barrett

    Thanks for this great post! I’m going to be trying this later in the month. You wouldn’t happen to know the name of that rich blue you used on one of the canvases, would you? I LOVE that color! Thanks again!

    Reply
    • Denise Love

      I believe that was Aubusson Blue in the Annie Sloan Chalk Paints. It is a great color! Good luck!

      Reply
  21. Patricia Daley

    Hi Denise,

    Just revisiting your canvas backdrops min course and inspired again to paint some more backdrops!

    Thanks,
    Lynne Daley

    Reply

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