A few months ago I decided to get a bit crafty and made myself a new DIY backdrop for my food photography. Here’s a play-by-play of how its done!
I made myself a white DIY backdrop a year ago, which I absolutely love, and you will have noticed it as the backdrop for most of my food photography on here. I love the bright and white style of photography and a white backdrop really helps keep my photos very consistent. But I decided I want to play around with taking more darker and moodier images, so I decided this DIY dark backdrop would be a good start.
Make a DIY photography backdrop for under $20
You need about a day to make these boards and few basic supplies from the hardware store. It is super simple to make, and can be done for under $20. Which is much cheaper than photography backdrops sell for online. Most of the time is spent waiting for things to dry, so it is not very labour intensive or require much fancy skills. The most intense skill is spackling which is essentially teh same as buttering bread. So if you can spread butter on bread, you got the skills to do this!
You will want to make sure you have a well ventilated area to paint the boards ( I borrowed my sister’s backyard for this). And make sure to let them dry fully overnight before you start using them for any photography!
A backdrop can really step up your photography game. I love the way it gives all my pictures a cohesive look. It can also really enhance the food that is featured.
Tips for making your own DIY photography backdrop
It was actually quite fun to make these backdrops. The hardest part was deciding what colour to make the board!
Spackling the boards is almost therapeutic. The best part is you don’t need to worry about being very precise or accurate with the spackling or painting. In fact, the more haphazard and inconsistent you are with the spackle, the more texture and interest you create in the final product. Similarly with the paint, if you want a marbled look, you want the paint to go on slightly inconsistently. You can also use a clean damp sponge to help blend the colours into each other if you like. I went with two coats of paint, using the black first, spraying all over the board, but trying not to get it too even as I wanted some of the white to show through. Then I did a light coat of serenity green, making sure not to cover up the black completely. I love the end result! What do you think?
Which do you prefer the darker or the lighter DIY backdrop board?
DIY Photography Backdrop (for food or product photography)
- 1 large plastic drop cloth
- 1 2×4 MDF board (particle board) – cut into half – which makes 2 boards approx. 2×2 each.*
- 900 ml spackling paste (or polyfil)
- 1 putty knife
- matte spray paint (or acrylic paint and large brush) any colour you like (I used matte black and a serenity green from Rustoleum brand for these darker boards)
- acrylic clear topcoat spray
- sponge/brush (optional)
- Lay out the plastic drop cloth over the floor or table you will be working on. Ideally outdoors (especially if you are using spray paint).
- Working with one board at a time, spread about half the spackling paste with the putty knife over each board. You don't need to be very perfect about it. The edge of the putty knife will create some interesting ridges as you move it around the board. To keep the pattern abstract, try not to go in only one direction with your putty knife, and vary the pressure of your putty knife as you sweep it across the board to create lots of interesting texture. Once you have covered the board with spackle and like the way the texture looks, allow the board to dry for about 4 hours (check your spackling paste directions for correct drying time).
- Once your boards are dry, use your spray paint or acrylic paint to paint your boards. (If you want to leave it white, just skip to the next step). You can add layers of different colour and dab down on it with a damp sponge for a more marbled look. Or just paint it all one colour, depending on what look you are going for. For my darker board, I went with two layers of paint on each board. First layer was sprayed black. And then topped with a thin uneven layer of serenity green. I tried not to be too perfect with my sprays, so the colours are seen through each other adding a bit of depth and interest to my board. Allow the paint to dry completely (according to the instructions on the paint).
- Using the clear top coat spray, spray an even layer all over the boards. I did two coats just to be safe. The topcoat will not make the board completely waterproof, but it will make it easier to clean up minor spills on the board especially if you are using this for food photography. Note: you can just skip this part, but the surface will not be as wipeable and could stain easily. But it will have a much more matte finish.
- Allow 24 hours for the paint and seal to dry completely before using.
- I prefer to cut a large 2×4 board in half so I get two boards – one for the bottom and one for the side so I have two of the same colour for different shots. But you can keep it as one large board if you like. Or paint the two boards different colours for two different effects.