How to Make DIY Forest Backdrops

Updated April 17, 2017

A backdrop is canvas that hangs behind a stage, furnishing a background scenery as set decoration for the actors in the play. If you're part of a theatre company putting on a play with a scene set in the wilderness, you'll need a forest backdrop. Painting one yourself can save the cost of hiring a professional to do it for you, and is easy to do with a bit of guidance and some preparation. Using fabric, paint and some brushes, you can create a professional-looking backdrop.

Purchase a piece of sturdy fabric that is large enough to cover the back area of the stage. Fabric such as burlap or twill works well.

Measure the back space of the theatre then cut your fabric to size so that it matches.

Lay sheets of newspaper on the floor, and lay the fabric flat over the newspaper. The newspaper will soak up any paint that bleeds through. Paint a base coat of green paint all over the fabric and let dry.

Paint lines that will become the trunks of the trees in your forest. These will run vertically when the canvas is hung, appearing upright. Using brown paint, make the lines vary in width and paint enough so that only a bit of the green background shows through in the spaces between the trunks. Let dry.

Paint some black slashes up and down each brown line to suggest ruggedness and shadow, making the brown bars take on the look of tree bark, giving an authentic touch.

Add one branch to the side of each tree trunk. For the fatter trunks, which are supposed to be nearer the viewer, make the branches about 2 inches wide. For the thinner trunks, make the branches about 1 inch wide. This technique will create the illusion of depth, and make the forest look visually as if some trees are farther back than other trees. Paint the branches close to the top of the trees, about 2 feet from the top of the canvas.

Paint rounded tree tops at the top of the fabric using dark green paint. The tree tops should have the contours of cloud shapes. Let dry, then add splashes of a yet-darker green colour. Using your brush, make a overlapping pattern of strokes, to give the tree tops more colour and depth. Let dry.

Cut five slits along the top of the fabric backdrop. Slide a piece of rope through each slit and tie to the rafters at the top of the stage, letting the backdrop hang down.


Sketch your design in pencil on paper before doing any painting if you are uncertain about your ability to achieve the desired look. Ask someone to critique the drawing and offer suggestions, if you still have some doubts.

Things You'll Need

  • Fabric
  • Measuring tape
  • Scissors
  • Paint
  • Paint brushes
  • Rope
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