Happy New Year!
2017… Here we go! Lots to talk about! Hope your holiday season was joyful. For me, it was just wonderful to spend time with both my children and my grand kids. I always thought there should be a word for your children when they are grown up other then “children”. Because they are not! Anyhow, the time between Christmas and New Years is a time I block off every year to just stop and chill. Unfortunately, this year, my 85 year old mom came down with a bacterial infection and ended up in the hospital for quite a lengthy stay. She came home yesterday with an extra body part… a pacemaker. So, we are giving her a lot of attention right now to help her get her strength back.
Right before the holidays I attempted to paint a new background for my studio. If I can back up a minute, let me explain what I mean… Over the years, I have purchased many backgrounds to use in my studio for portraits. There are companies out there that sell every kind of background under the sun. And yes, there are companies that sell backgrounds that in fact print backgrounds that look like you are “under the sun”! But for me, I always preferred to use backgrounds that are muted. There is an amazing company that makes the backgrounds that famous photographer Annie Leibovitz uses. The company is called Oliphant. Their backgrounds are around $1000…. yes.. that much. But, they are gorgeous.
So, after doing some research, I found out that there is a way I could replicate one of these great backgrounds. Give me a challenge and I am on! Now please understand that my background is in no way shape or form anywhere close to a great Olipahant background…. But, I am quite happy with the end results. These are I phone pictures so they actually don’t capture the richness of the black. It looks pretty grey in these photos.
Here is how I did it:
- Purchase a 9 x 12 canvas backdrop from Home Depot
- Purchase a rag roller spongey type roller, a 3 inch wide brush, 2 plastic sheet type covers for the floor to protect, a large roll of green frog tape.
- Paint… I had 3/4 gallon of left over flat black paint and 1/2 gallon of steel grey paint left over from painting a wall and a previous V-Flat.
- 1/2 cup Downy Fabric Softner
First thing I did was to hang the backdrop over my backdrop holder and steam the heck out of it. This is important to get all the wrinkles out because I believe if you want the paint to dry without obvious lines, a flat backdrop to start with is important.
My steamer is something I purchased long ago and have a love/hate relationship with. You can see how bad the wrinkles are after I pulled it out of the bag.
So, here I am steaming it and also getting a free facial. When I was done, the canvas was pretty damp. This was what I considered Day 1. It took me about an hour to steam the entire thing since it was 9 x 12 and I had to hang it over the backdrop holder.
Spread clear plastic on floor and tape that down everywhere. Then spread out the 9 x 12 canvas and pull snug and tape to plastic backdrop with green frog no stick tape.
The next step is what I came up with because I read and re-read a bunch of posts about painting a back drop. I decided that I wanted a lighter center spot in my backdrop. Also, I know that canvas soaks up paint. So, I took my black paint and added about 1/3 water to thin it. (At this point, I added about a 1/3 cup to the paint solution to keep the canvas soft.) I also did the same with the grey center paint. I started very slow and knew that the first coat was pretty much gonna look like crap. I applied the first coat of black paint and the backdrop was very spotty looking and wet. I decided to give it a day to completely dry.
Sorry for the sun glare, but you can see the center spot.
I arrived very early to start. I used a regular roller to do the center spot in grey. However, when I got to the edges of the black, I used my 3 inch wide brush to blend into the black. This was time consuming. Remember that the paint is thinned by water. Slow and steady. I applied another layer of black. Time spent here was about 2 hours. This second coat of black really covered it all pretty well. I left and came back about 3 hours later.
When I came back, the backdrop was dry! However, I noticed a few spots that could have used a bit more. So, I hit it again…. But this time, I watered the paint down a lot more. Then for the center spot, I hit that one again with a very watered down grey… again using the 3 inch brush to feather the edges into the black.
About 2 hours later all was dry. But here is where I decided to do something that I was scared to do because I remember Sue Bryce saying she added another step to one of her backgrounds and she should have quit while she was ahead. But the problem was that the black was too black and the grey was too grey. So, I took this rag roller and dipped it every so slightly into the black paint and when over the steel grey center very lightly. Then I washed the roller brush off and did the exact same thing with the grey paint. I rolled the grey paint over the black to create a very weak texture.
Above: Before adding texture with sponge roller. It looks much more grey than it really is.
Below is the final product. Sorry for the sun glare. I have skylights in the studio.
Here is a mom and daughter. The center spot is almost covered. They are about 3 feet away from the background. I am pretty happy with it.
Total cost without the paint was about $70. I had about 1/3 gallon of black left and almost nothing of the grey (I started with very little.)
In closing… I am pretty happy with it. It is a large backdrop. I wanted a 9 x 12 because I do photograph moms and daughters so I wanted something wider. I probably will do some smaller ones and get rid of my old backdrops that are so out of date.
Here’s to being more “artsy” in 2017!