How to Paint on Muslin for Photography Backgrounds

Written by brian richards
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How to Paint on Muslin for Photography Backgrounds
Backdrops can be solid colours, painted scenes or even abstract works. (texture backdrop image by rob osman from

Most studio photographers have a number of backdrops to choose from so that they may select the most appropriate background for their subject. Painted scenes, abstract patterns and solid-coloured backgrounds in black, white and other colours are all staples of studio photography. Though muslin backgrounds can be expensive, a thrifty photographer can paint her own muslin backdrops. These homemade backgrounds also give the photographer greater variety to make a custom backdrop for any photography job.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Tarp
  • Large muslin sheet
  • Gel medium
  • Acrylic paint
  • Roller pan
  • Paint roller
  • Paint brushes

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  1. 1

    Lay down a large tarp in your painting area. The painting materials are messy and will stain anything they come in contact with, so the tarp will help to protect your floor.

  2. 2

    Lay your muslin backdrop sheet flat over the tarp. The backdrop can be any size you want, but 9-foot squares are the most common. If the backdrop is too large, you can cut it down to size before painting.

  3. 3

    Mix one part gel medium with two parts acrylic paint in your roller pan. This mixture will cause the paint to adhere best to the muslin fabric. It will also dry matt so that there are no reflections on the background when illuminated with photographic lights.

  4. 4

    Cover the muslin fabric with the paint on a paint roller to create a solid colour background. This solid colour can be used by itself or as a background colour for the scene that you intend to paint. Wait for the fabric to dry before applying any more paint.

  5. 5

    Add accents to your backdrop with additional paint applied to paint brushes, sponges, rollers, stencils or other creative media. If you are particularly artistic, you can paint an entire scene on the backdrop. All paint that you apply should be mixed first with gel medium.

Tips and warnings

  • Textures can be added to your backdrop by wrinkling the muslin before painting. The wrinkles will cause variations in the saturation of colour, which will create a variety of gradients and patterns.
  • Roll the backdrop over a wide piece of PVC pipe to store it.

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