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How to Paint Stage Backdrops

Updated February 21, 2017

Stage backdrops are used in theatres for plays, musicals, ballets and many other types of shows. Images painted on backdrops provide the scenery for theatre productions and transform the stage to a fantasy world. Theatres usually have a few plain-coloured backgrounds in stock. However, often companies will want to create a backdrop that is unique to their show. Commissioning painted backdrops is expensive and most companies have tight budgets. Painting a backdrop is an inexpensive alternative to buying or renting. Use your imagination and transport the audience to a new world.

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  1. Lay the dust sheet on the floor in a clear area. Lay bogus paper, which is inexpensive, unbleached and absorbent, on top of the dust sheet until it is covered. Put the muslin backdrop on top of these two layers.

  2. Staple the muslin backdrop to the floor. Place extra-long staples in each corner and a few around the edges. Don't drive the staples all the way into the floor. You will want to be able to remove them easily later.

  3. To size and prime the backdrop in one step, use a mixture of watered-down white scene paint and a flame retardant. Thin the white scene paint to the consistency of skimmed milk. Wait for it to dry completely.

  4. Paint the backdrop with scene paint in your desired design. Scene paints come in a variety of colours and you can water them down without losing the quality. Do not use house paint for this process.

  5. Allow the backdrop to dry completely. Remove the staples from the muslin and it is ready to hang.

  6. Tip

    Dampen a sea sponge to blot up any drips. Use a cross-hatch pattern when painting the base coat. Paint from the background to the foreground.

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Things You'll Need

  • Muslin (non-flame retardant) backdrop
  • Dust sheet
  • Bogus paper
  • Staple gun
  • Extra-long staples
  • White scene paint
  • Flame retardant
  • Scene paint in your chosen colours
  • Paintbrushes
  • Paint trays

About the Author

Matt Scheer began writing professionally in 2005. His work has appeared in "The Daily Texan" and "The New York Tribune." Scheer holds a B.A. in English and a B.A. in history, both from the University of Texas. He is also a certified Yoga teacher and Web designer.

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