Creating your own Classic Backdrops

With a love of studio portraits, it was only a matter of time before I heard the words Oliphant Backdrops, sure gorgeous, but also a little out of my price league (Or so I thought). But perhaps I could try creating my own, I know other photographers are doing it too. So I went to Bunnings (sort of Home Depot, that has anything for around the house and garden) and bought a 2.6m x 3.6m canvas paint drop cloth, it cost around AUD$35.00, then I bought a 2litre tin of Blackboard paint AUD$45.00 and a large plastic cover to protect the floor AUD$3.00. The Canvas soaked up the paint and I ran out, so I needed another 4 litres so another $90! So for under AUD$200.00, I hoped to have an awesome hand-painted backdrop for the studio. Add in the labour and I am thinking those girls (and guys?) at Oliphant earn their money, but still, it was an interesting experiment.

Step one

Obviously, step one was buying it all from my local hardware store, as well as the paint  (I used classic blackboard paint) and floor covering.

Step two

The canvas was very creased from being folded in packaging so I decided to throw it in the washing machine for a quick rinse, to remove any smells, chemicals (supposedly were none) and wrinkles and creases (It did not remove all, but most).

Step three

Laid out the plastic drop sheet in the studio, after moving everything out of the way. Then I grabbed the still damp canvas and laid it over the plastic drop cloth, stretching it out (ask someone to help you), I then weighted it all down and left for a day or two to dry. Still a little creased, so I was going to give it an iron, but after internally groaning at the thought (I don’t even do the ironing at home), I never did. But go ahead if you think your back can handle it. [P.S. I think ironing it would have been a very good idea, as it is still quite creased after painting]

Step Four

Using a roller brush (mine was designed for painting on a textured surface) on an extension pole, I then applied two coats of Blackboard paint, as close to the edges as I could, allowing ample time to dry in between coats. You could use any paint, but I wanted a deep charcoal that would not have any sheen.

Step Five

Easy, hang it up and use it, I could have done a milk wash (extremely diluted paint and water mix) over the top and sponged off, and perhaps I might do that at a later date, but I adore the final result, albeit a little creased.

I have other sheets of canvas, I might cut and use as smaller backdrops, need to experiment with various paints and sponging and blending. Takes me back to the good old Folk Art and Decorative painting days.

Hanging up in the studio
Final image using the new backdrop

I was very stiff, sore and sorry for myself, it was much harder on the arms, shoulders and back than I was expecting…or maybe I am too soft? But still, all done. Not a bad activity for cold, wet and gloomy days. The creases are not too bad if lit properly, I love the flat light it gives back. Have already used it a few times and have plans to use it many more.

~ Julz