DIY Canvas Photography Backdrop ($20.34)

in DIY Photography

DIY Background Canvas

I read a great blog entry, on the Strobist blog last month about making your own backdrop by dying a canvas drop cloth that you can pick up for under $10 at Home Depot.

Note: Don’t be scared of dying. This was my first time, and it didn’t hurt.
Though next time I will use gloves.

Since I had to grab silver spay paint and painters tape for update some old lamps that have been lying around the house I decided to grab a 6′ x 9′ drop cloth while I was there. I ran to the craft store in the plaza and bought 4 packets of black Rit dye, then it was off to the house to get to dying.

Dying a Canvas Background Steps

Step 1: Gather Supplies

Canvas Dying Products

  • 6′ x 9′ Canvas Drop Cloth be aware many drop cloths have large seams that will show after the dying process
  • 4 packets black RIT dye
  • 1 empty cranberry juice container (for dissolving the dye powder)
  • 1 cup of salt

Yea, about the one cup of salt, I’m winging it here…

Step 2: Pre-wash the canvas

This will remove any residue on the cloth and get the cloth wet as is instructed by the Rit directions. I used warm water and detergent.
Bottle Filled with Dissolved Dye
While the cloth was being pre-washed it was a good time to dissolve the dye and add the salt to the mix. I used an empty cranberry juice bottle – 8 cups of water (two per packet) was a good fit!

Step 3: Dye it up!

After the canvas was done with it’s first wash I set the washer to warm wash/cold rinse and started it up again. I dropped in the dye mix and let ‘er rip. As instructed by the Rit instructions I made sure to reset the agitate cycle before it got to the rinse/spin. After the machine went through it’s rinse cycle I pulled out the canvas and ran a piece of it under the tap in the sink to make sure it was running clear. It wasn’t so I ran it through another cold rinse cycle. After that it was to the dryer.

Step 4: All Done

I pulled out my canvas and it’s more of a warm/cool almost violet hinted gray. Maybe I’ll dye it again to see if I can get a deeper black. For now though this will be a great out-of-focus background to help make my subjects stand out better.

Total Cost: $20.34

  • $9.98 (6′ x 9′ Canvas)
  • $10.36 (Rit Dye 4 @ $2.59ea.)

Took less than 3 hours from start to finish!

Dyed Canvas Folded Dyed Canvas Hanging


Next time…

  • Yes, I will be using rubber gloves and checking for a seam in the drop cloth more closely.
  • I’m going to try dying a more earth brown tone as the yellow canvas will probably take that better than the black.

Woot for Plugs :)

Lesson as to why you should always give things on the internet a shot and post your results. Strobist Saturday Speed Links 11/17/2007 Cheapo, yes. Spin-offable, definitely!

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Photographer Italy November 18, 2007 at 3:51 am

Really nice trick.
Thanks to share we all of us!

John May 17, 2008 at 4:09 am

Great post on Muslin Backdrops. I really like the sporty attitude..the way you shared the whole process with us. Good luck.


Stephen James June 25, 2008 at 2:02 pm

Good tutorials on creating cheap backdrops.

KEL August 4, 2010 at 7:40 pm

Thanks for the info I did it myself and worked!! I will have to dye it again to make it darker also.

Sam September 10, 2010 at 2:08 pm

It used to be cheaper to make your own, but not anymore. I just bought one 10′x13′ black canvas from ebay for $25 include S/H. If you plan to do your own color or pattern canvas, it will be better to buy one already made.

rachel December 15, 2010 at 1:42 pm

Sam- do you know what it was called on Ebay? I cannot seem to find one. Thanks

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