A canvas backdrop is a piece of canvas fabric that hangs behind your subject in photographs. The canvas fabric is often painted in various colors and patterns, with artists' paints or screen printing techniques that give subjects an artistic feel when photographed.
Photographers typically use these backdrops for commercial photographs (such as portraits) or give rooms color when taking product photos. They're also great if you need to create a tangible backdrop for your business website!
However, canvas backdrops are not limited to just photography. They can be used in a variety of different industries such as retail stores and restaurants. These versatile pieces of fabric make it easy to turn any space into an inviting and cohesive environment! *Think of wallpaper*
The backdrop is typically hung on the wall or ceiling behind your subject so that you're able to take pictures of them in front of it.
If you're looking for a backdrop that'll get you closer to the 'painterly' look - this will get you there (though other materials will too).
Hand-painted canvas backdrops are made using canvas fabric and paint or dyes. The dyes used are often non-toxic and are meant to be permanent. It can take up to a week for the canvas backdrop's paint or dye job to fully dry. The canvas is usually stretched on a frame or mounted to the wall for easy access when working with it.
These backdrops are more expensive than printed canvas, but they're also of much higher quality. They give you a lot more room to be creative when painting your backdrop - whether that's using different colors, patterns, or canvas fabric.
You can create your own too! If you're looking for a unique canvas backdrop that's created using your own artistic skill set - this is the perfect option! You'll be able to create something truly one-of-a-kind with hand-painted canvas backgrounds and really stand out from other photographers.
It's the pinnacle of 'one-of-a-kind.' Meaning no one has the same backdrop as you. Even if you don't want to do it yourself, companies sell handpainted canvas backdrops that you can purchase.
Everything has its pros and cons - canvas isn't any different. Let's discuss the pros and cons.
F you're looking for texture or that 'painterly' look - well, look no further. Seeing as paintings of the old era were painted on canvas or other textured materials, it only supports the idea of needing canvas as a backdrop material.
While other materials such as microfiber or cotton muslin have texture - the canvas is unique, interesting, and supports old paintings.
The canvas is a natural light-absorbing material; it won't reflect light as much as paper or vinyl. This is a huge advantage for those balancing flash, the backdrop, and your subject and skin tones (which can be difficult with other very reflective materials).
Seeing as canvas weighs more than other materials like paper or vinyl - this will allow you to worry less about it being blown around (or blown over) on location or in a studio (if you're using fans in your photoshoot).
On the other hand, heavier can be a downside if you need to travel long distances. Some pros can be cons... unfortunately.
This depends entirely on the location and experience of the photographer.
The canvas is heavier and needs to be supported properly - this can be more difficult to set up than something like paper or microfiber. But again, this is universally true - it depends entirely on the photographer and their experience with it.
Well, with enough effort, you can get anything to tear or crease. But, if you're taking care of your backdrop, the canvas is much less likely to tear or crease compared to paper or vinyl.
With that being said, caves won't drape over objects as well as cotton or microfiber will. But you aren't getting a backdrop to drape it over things, so that isn't something you should be worried about (at least I'm hoping you aren't).
When you're looking to hang canvas as a photography backdrop, the canvas must be hung in an area with constant air circulation. In addition, the canvas usually needs to be stretched on a frame or mounted to the wall for easy access when working with it.
That being said, there are a few different ways to hang backdrops:
Regardless of what you choose - the canvas isn't as easy to set up as other materials such as paper or vinyl (unless you're using a frame). So make sure you plan accordingly and take your backdrop with you to your location, or be prepared for the effort it takes to set up canvas backdrops.
I have included a video below that goes into much better detail about correctly hanging a canvas (or paper) backdrop.
Canvas is a natural material, meaning it's not synthetic and doesn't have preservative properties (like vinyl/plastic/PVC). So when it is not in use, you have to store it away from harmful elements. To make it last, you need to keep it away from any moisture or dampness by storing it in a dry place.
You will want to avoid direct sunlight as it will make it fade over time.
You can store your backdrop in a large bin or container to keep them safe from the elements such as moisture and dust. This includes humidity. Coastal areas of the United States such as Florida, have very high humidity levels. You'll want to avoid these conditions at all costs.
If you need to clean the canvas - it is best to use a gentle soap and water or a light detergent with cold water. Avoid any solvents when cleaning canvas as this can damage the fabric over time. If your backdrop has dirt on them that will not come off by just washing it with soap and water, you can use a soft brush to scrub the canvas gently.
It's acceptable to cover the canvas in plastic to keep dust and other elements away from it (or you're leaving it hanging). But, again, this is only recommended in dry, non-humid environments.
Canvas does not react well when it is heated or cooled (to extremes). It's recommended to keep it in a temperature-controlled environment.
Canvas isn't vinyl. Not even close. You shouldn't be treating it as such. Avoid large areas of damp or 'wetness.' If you need to clean it by wiping it down - use something damp and blot it dry (avoid rubbing/abrasive movements as much as you can too).
This is something a lot of photographers don't think about. Let me explain.
Even those who know direct sunlight isn't good for canvas seem to miss the mark when indoors. Direct sunlight includes window light. So, if you're using your backdrop near a window and using natural light to light your subject... be aware of the sun. If it's hitting your backdrop directly... you have a problem.
This is very apparent for studios that shoot natural with the same canvas on a daily-to-semi-daily basis. Over time, your canvas will fade in the areas where the sun hits it regularly.
I know people who fold canvas. Honestly, it's not that big of a deal. I normally won't fold; I'll roll them up and store them rolled (not in a tube) with a rubber band. I'll then place them on a shelf in a dark room.
Now, if you decide to fold and store them in a bin - do yourself a favor and take them out from time to time and use them. If anything, hang them and allow them to breathe and release the tension where the folds are.
You don't want 6 months to go by and open your container and find that your canvas is going to take 3 days to remove the creases because you left them like that for too long.
I have included a simple graphic provided by Kate Backdrop (the best microfiber backdrop provider on the planet). It will give you a great idea of the size of backdrop you would need based on the amount and sizes of your subject.
Just remember, if you're on the fence about two sizes and aren't completely sure which one would be better... Go with the larger size. It's always better to go big than to have to be big enough.
I normally only recommend Amazon products when recommending online purchases. This is because they're usually affordable and safe purchases (can return within 30 days without question).
With that being said - Other than Kate Backdrop (which only sells microfiber backdrops) - I only recommend Savage. I do not trust the small companies that sell cheap products. So I, of course, would not recommend them to you.
While Savage products are expensive, their quality is top-notch and will last years if you take care of it.
Then you have Etsy. The only 'store' I recommend for canvas is GoldyWay. Katie Addo (the creator/designer/photographer) is fantastic at what she does and creates high-quality hand-painted backdrops.
Other than that - I can't recommend any other online retailer.
Your other option is to search locally. Start by searching for the canvas - if you can't find one... look for a local artist. I'm sure they would be more than happy to create backdrops for you!
We hope you've been able to take away some new knowledge about canvas backdrops for photography. Whether it's the material, size, or color that best suits your needs - we have everything covered in our blog post! Let us know how these tips helped you improve your skills by leaving a comment below! If you're still struggling or want even more information on this topic - then check out our pillar article What Makes a Good Photography Backdrop: The Ultimate Guide.
Until next time, keep shooting and creating!