Through a lot of research… watching Sue Bryce’s DIY canvas backdrop video, watching YouTube tutorials, googling DIY canvas backdrop images and picking my auto body painter (a painter's a painter's a painter, right? But let's not mention the time he tried to paint my toenails) husband’s brain before concluding what colors to use, I started my DIY backdrop adventure.
I was a little overwhelmed on deciding what method to use and what colors to buy since I couldn’t find it spelled out for me step by step anywhere! And I really really wanted to use the colors Sue had which I loved and would lessen the decision making involved, but I needed to compliment the dresses my client would be wearing. So I picked a photo with golden hues as my guide.
Some tutorials I saw used a method where they sprayed down the canvas with water first but I thought "Sue didn’t, so I won’t." I then dug deep into my overloaded brain and remembered that I took a painting class or two. Walmart didn’t have the 9x12 canvas in store, so I ordered one online and had it shipped to my local store for free. But I did grab my roller brush and tray kit and a really big piece of plastic from the paint section to lay down on my husband’s shop floor for putting the canvas on while painting.
On to Lowe’s for paint! I knew that I wanted a golden center so I started with golden. But how to get the darker shades was what was troubling me. Focus! Breathe. Wait, I took painting classes… class! One semester…. and Oh yeah, I've painted a wall or two or three and matched the molding color! I started grabbing color cards for the vignette and held them up next to the golden I had chosen to see which shade would match well.
Going off of how Sue mixed her colors in her video, I got a gallon of flat white, and a quart each of the yellow and a dark brown. Don’t forget to get the free wooden stir sticks for mixing your colors. For the darkest outer vignette, I bought a tube of black from the artists acrylic paint section at Hobby Lobby.
I was a little scared to mix the colors, but I thought “just have fun!” So I poured some yellow into the white and mixed until I got what I was looking for. I had little strips of canvas that I tested it on annnnnnd... success!
I used painters tape to tape down the vertical edges of the canvas onto the plastic because I had seen a portrait somewhere that had a nice “frame” from the original canvas peeking through just an inch or two.
I rolled the golden on the middle and thought “this is going to be easy!” Then I grabbed the brown to add to the middle color until it was dark enough to my liking and rolled it on. Then I added the remainder of my brown and a little black for the outer edge.
But the transition from shade to shade was too harsh!
Honeyyyyyyyy! Poor husband always gets dragged into my I'm-determined-to-do-this-projects. “You need a sponge,” he said. So I remembered the sea sponges I had from college. I ran into the house and got them. Yaaaay another crisis solved! I grabbed the paint tray and went back to work. Note to self: sea sponges age and fall apart after how many years of non-use? Husband to the rescue again… he went into the house and found a newer large kitchen sponge and brought it to me and lovingly showed me how to maneuver the paint so that it would transition smoothly.
After 6 hours of working on my backdrop, I was happy with the results but my legs were screaming. I hung it up on my background stand the next morning to finish drying and made the bestie pose for an iphone snap. *Please excuse the soft vignetting at top right, it was from a cute but later-discovered-impractical-for-a-photographer phone cover I picked up at trade days.
What I learned from this experience: Paint peels/washes off the skin, but does not come out of shorts.
Buy a roller extension so you can stand up to paint and save yourself from days of pain from getting up and down up and down up and down from your hands and knees. Although the sponge work will still require major squats and crude Yoga poses. And an Oliphant really is worth saving up for.
Abygail was the first client I shot on my handmade background. It turned out lovely!
A special thanks to the hubs for all his assistance. He's the greatest guy but the worst subject to get to stand still for a photo!