How to Paint a Mottled Background

Written by mark morris
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How to Paint a Mottled Background
To create a mottled background, use a blend of three colours. (mottled paper image by Nicemonkey from

Creating backdrops for stage or photography is much the same as painting any style of mural or large wall art. It seems intimidating at first, but a mottled, or blended colour backdrop is one of the simplest projects to start with. You will need to choose your colour scheme carefully. Choose your colours based on the effect you would like your background to have. Reds, oranges and warm browns create a warm homey feeling; while blues, greens and greys create a cooler, more distant feeling. Both work well, depending on the response you want from your audience.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Background fabric
  • Latex paint
  • Wide paint brush
  • Paint pan

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  1. 1

    Hang the background fabric upright in an area with good light, or bring in a work light to light the fabric evenly. Set up your ladder at one side of the background. Pour a small amount of three colours into a single paint pan, in separate pools. Choose a medium tone for the overall colour you want; white, and either black or a darker version of your base colour.

  2. 2

    Dip a wide, soft bristle brush into each colour, getting the top ¼ of the brush wet with paint. Start with the darker colour, then dip the brush into the medium tone and then add white. Spread the paint with a diagonal, slightly rounded stroke. Work right, then left to randomly mix the colours across the fabric.

  3. 3

    Work in one top corner, covering an area about as large in all directions as your brush stroke. Add more of any colour that seems lacking, keeping the colours blended, but allow each colour to show through, with some areas darker, some light. Each colour should roll into the others to create a cloudlike effect.

  4. 4

    Move across the top, working from the top down, so that runs and drips can be worked into the paint scheme without causing problems. Overlap each section so that the brush strokes blend together. Step back from the work every few minutes to get the overall effect, adjusting the colour balance by adding more paint to any areas that feel too heavy or light.

  5. 5

    Continue applying paint until the entire background is covered. When paint becomes too blended, rinse the brush in clear water. If the paint in the pan becomes too blended, rinse it and start over. Check the entire piece for consistency, and add any colours in areas that seem lacking in one colour or another. Allow the background to dry overnight before using it.

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