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DPChallenge Forums >> Business of Photography >> Make Your Own Backdrops!
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03/13/2008 10:39:42 AM · #1
So..... I've tried to make my own backdrops before and they just didn't look very good.
Yesterday I was reading a forum posting on another photography site and discovered the right way to dye muslin and end up with a fabulous backdrop. Of course I had to try it myself.

Here is my new muslin 10' x 18' backdrop:
657599.jpg 657600.jpg

And here's how its done (copied from the instructions I read, thanks Holly):

Go to Walmart ( or a quilt store) and get the muslin they sell for backing quilts. It's about 10 feet wide and runs between $5-$10 a yard. So for less than $40 you could have a 10' x 20' muslin. Take it out in your yard and get it throughly wet - to rinse out any sizing. Then save up two or three gallon milk jugs. Rinse them out and put a package of Rit dye in each one. Fill them up to the brim with HOT water, boiling water is best. Lay the muslin out in the yard and bunch it up with your hands - just like you are crunching up paper - big pinching grasping motions. When you are done it should cover an area of about 1/3 or less of what it's full size is. Then take the jugs of Rit dye and randomly splash the different colors on the muslin in blotches, till the whole muslin is covered. Pull it out flat. If it's too dark immediately start hosing it down with a garden hose to dilute the color. If it's too light, splash on some more dye. Or put some dye in a spray bottle and spritz it here and there. If you need even darker colors than you can get from the dye - water down a little acrylic paint and put it in the spray bottles. If it's just right - leave it alone until it's dry. If you are concerned about the color running in the future put it in the wash machine on the rinse cycle with a full cup of salt. I've never done the salt rinse and I've never had a problem, but if it makes you feel safer go ahead. After you are all done dyeing, set the lawn sprinkler on the grass and let it run for a good long while to water down any remaining dye. I've never had it harm any grass. Even now - when our business is more established and I could afford to buy a background, I still often make my own. That way nobody ever has the same one as me and I can create color combinations to go with popular colors in my area.

Something I didn't say before. If you are using powdered dye, make absolutely sure the dye is completely dissolved before you start splashing it on the muslin. Otherwise the undissolved particles will leave dark pinpricks of color.


This technique worked perfectly. I'm going to make another one today! :D
Edit to add: For the one I made I used 3 shades of brown (tan, cocoa and dark brown).

Message edited by author 2008-03-13 10:40:20.
03/13/2008 10:48:57 AM · #2
thats great idnic, thanks for the info :)

-dave
03/13/2008 10:58:20 AM · #3
That looks really good...my kind of back drop ~ cheap and easy.

Message edited by author 2008-03-13 10:58:32.
03/13/2008 10:59:25 AM · #4
Wow! Great info! And seeing yours, how beautifully it came out - is proof that this works! And it works well. Niiiiiiiiice!
03/13/2008 11:12:58 AM · #5
Cindi can you make me a set of sheets for a queen bed like this??? I would love to have a fitted sheet like this? :)


03/13/2008 11:21:37 AM · #6
Originally posted by Dirt_Diver:

Cindi can you make me a set of sheets for a queen bed like this??? I would love to have a fitted sheet like this? :)


LOL That would be easy!

I'm trying to decide what colors I want to use today. I have one more large piece of muslin & wanna make something cool, but also very versitile.
03/13/2008 11:30:09 AM · #7
Did you do the "salt in the washing machine" thing?

It seems like a good way to rust out and shorten the life of an appliance.

03/13/2008 11:35:21 AM · #8
Originally posted by AperturePriority:

Did you do the "salt in the washing machine" thing?

It seems like a good way to rust out and shorten the life of an appliance.


No, I didn't bother. I agree, it doesn't sound very safe for the machine.
03/13/2008 02:30:09 PM · #9
Wahoooo! I just made another one using shades of blue. This is addictive! Its still drying now, I'll try to post a pic of it later. :D
03/13/2008 03:41:17 PM · #10
Originally posted by idnic:

Wahoooo! I just made another one using shades of blue. This is addictive! Its still drying now, I'll try to post a pic of it later. :D


LOL Im half tempted to offer to just try and buy a custom one from you since you are having so much fun and all and becoming quite the pro at it.

-dave
03/13/2008 04:03:56 PM · #11
There so much fun to make I'm tempted to sell them! First I think I'll fill the studio with all the colors I've been wanting! lol

Here is the blue one. I used royal blue all over, then denim blue around the outside for a natural vignette. :D

657678.jpg
03/13/2008 04:21:17 PM · #12
you think salt is worse than bleach?

Originally posted by AperturePriority:

Did you do the "salt in the washing machine" thing?

It seems like a good way to rust out and shorten the life of an appliance.

03/13/2008 04:32:06 PM · #13
Great idea and results. Thanks for posting.
03/13/2008 04:40:52 PM · #14
Originally posted by AperturePriority:

Did you do the "salt in the washing machine" thing?

It seems like a good way to rust out and shorten the life of an appliance.


Dishwashers use salt and don't rust out. Washing machines and dishwashers use stainless steel.
03/13/2008 05:26:34 PM · #15
for some really deep and super permanant dyes check these guys out.

bit more work than RIT, and might not suit the large scale fabric your using - but the quality and color retention is 10x better than RIT.

i used to make and sell tie dyed stuff and this is the stuff i used

http://www.bestdye.com/ ( aka grateful dyes )

ETA: a funny story about these dyes. our neightbors dog ( golden retreiver ) was afraid of thunder and used to sneak into our basement to 'hide out'. well for the curing part of the process that room was where i let the dye set. one day he broke in during a storm while i had shirts balled up and laid out on a blanket...... one side of him was 'tie dyed' for most of the rest of the summer. basically until his winter coat started coming in ;}

Message edited by author 2008-03-13 17:30:14.
03/13/2008 05:46:49 PM · #16
Originally posted by soup:

for some really deep and super permanant dyes check these guys out.

bit more work than RIT, and might not suit the large scale fabric your using - but the quality and color retention is 10x better than RIT.

i used to make and sell tie dyed stuff and this is the stuff i used

http://www.bestdye.com/ ( aka grateful dyes )

Sounds interesting, but there explanations about how to figure out how much die to use/purchase makes my eyes cross and glaze over. Might be partly to do with my being distracted, but Ouch. Give me a bloody chart!
03/13/2008 06:20:44 PM · #17
Cindi, would it be possible to do a tutorial on backdrops and include a time lapse of the scrunching and dying process? Or I'll just have to buy one from you.
03/13/2008 06:26:51 PM · #18
i made a grey/blueish one a couple years ago ..
used a large painters drop cloth 12x32 or some thing like that ...

i did it in a cement sink in the basement then ran it through the drier ,,,

boy was my wife pissed -- the die came off in the drier & stained the drum & gadgets for months ...
edit i wwhisk is coould spell

Message edited by author 2008-03-13 18:27:26.
03/13/2008 07:13:31 PM · #19
I love this blue one! It reminds me of watery clouds and looks very 3dish. Very nice tutorial, now I wish the rain wasn't coming tonight!

Originally posted by idnic:

There so much fun to make I'm tempted to sell them! First I think I'll fill the studio with all the colors I've been wanting! lol

Here is the blue one. I used royal blue all over, then denim blue around the outside for a natural vignette. :D

657678.jpg
03/13/2008 07:44:42 PM · #20
i used to do a few dozen shirts with around 3oz of dye powder.

trying to remember 15+yrs ago...

Originally posted by _eug:

Sounds interesting, but there explanations about how to figure out how much die to use/purchase makes my eyes cross and glaze over. Might be partly to do with my being distracted, but Ouch. Give me a bloody chart!


Message edited by author 2008-03-13 19:46:13.
03/19/2008 06:39:38 PM · #21
I made 2 more backdrops today.

The first one is a nice marbling of pink & orange. Very bright and fun.

The second is my favorite so far! It actually looks like wood grain. Same basic techniques as before, I just varied how I shmooshed the fabric and how I poured the colors on.

659997.jpg 659998.jpg

And this is Hanna. She came by today for headshots and I got to use my blue backdrop for the first time (though I think we'll end up using the ones that were on white.
659999.jpg
03/19/2008 06:52:46 PM · #22
Hmm! Have you tried just painting some too? There was this neat background at this studio I worked at that just had fun patches of color on it that look liked regular paint (though my boss said he paid 800 for it!). I couldn't believe it. I'm not that artistic but my boyfriend's a painter so eventually I'm gunna see what he can do for me. :D
03/19/2008 06:54:25 PM · #23
I tried painting some several years ago and they are now custom drop cloths for when I paint furniture or walls. lol


03/19/2008 06:56:34 PM · #24
That's so great Cindi - great stuff and thanks for sharing. It's basically tie-dying from the looks of things? Will definitely give it a go...

N

Message edited by author 2008-03-19 19:12:37.
03/19/2008 07:13:06 PM · #25
The cheapest way of course is to take the picture in the studio against a white or black wall and just create the background in photoshop.
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