Written By:
Jeff

The Complete Guide to Canvas Backdrops for Photography

Published On:
August 6, 2021
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The photography industry is one of the most competitive industries out there. As a result, it's hard to get noticed, and it's even harder to stand out from the crowd. 

Canvas backdrops are a great way for photographers to differentiate themselves from their competition! They're easy on your client's eyes, they look professional, and you can hang them in any space! If you've been struggling with how to make your images pop off the page online or want some advice about how best to use canvas backgrounds for photoshoots, then this blog post is perfect for you!

We'll teach you everything there is to know about using these trendy backdrops to help elevate your photography services and skills. From its benefits compared to other materials, all the way through hanging them safely on a wall/ceiling/stand - we've got you covered. By following our tips below, you'll have a much better understanding of canvas backdrops and how you can improve your photography with them!

What Is A Canvas Backdrop?

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

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.

What Are The Benefits Of Using Canvas Versus Other Materials?

Everything has its pros and cons - canvas isn't any different. Let's discuss the pros and cons.

Texture

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.

Natural Light-Absorbing Material

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).

Canvas Is Heavier

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.

Canvas Can Be Harder To Setup

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.

Cavas Doesn't Tear Or Crease

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).

How To Hang Your Own Backdrop (Canvas)

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:

  • Hanging canvas by hooks/hangers - Using canvas hangers and hooks, you can either clip them onto the underside of your frame (assuming you're using a frame) or pin them into place using clothespins. This is the option that takes up the least amount of space in your studio.
  • Hanging canvas from wire - You can use thick wire and clothespins to hang canvas. This is the option that takes up the most amount of space in your studio, but it provides more stability for 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.

Best Way To Care For And Store A Canvas 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.

Cleaning Your Backdrop

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.

Common mistakes to avoid when using a canvas backdrop for photography

Storing in a hot or cold environment

Canvas does not react well when it is heated or cooled (to extremes). It's recommended to keep it in a temperature-controlled environment.

Getting it wet

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).

Direct sunlight for extended periods of time

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.

Leaving it folded for too long

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.

How To Choose The Right Size For Your Needs

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.

Where Can I Find Good, Affordable Canvas Backdrops

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!

That About Wraps It Up!

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!

Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

What is canvas backdrop?

It's a 'background' (backdrop) usually made for photography. It's made of canvas material that can be purchased, colored or handpainted by yourself or someone else. The appeal of this material for photographers is the texture and 'painterly' effect that the texture itself gives the photo.

How do you make a canvas backdrop?

It's simple and difficult at the same time. You can purchase a roll or precut size of canvas and start painting or dying it! Simple, right? Well, if you're looking to get creative with the canvas's design/color, that will take a bit of time to get good at. But in theory, creating a canvas backdrop is no different than painting on canvas (other than scale and detail).

What fabric can be used for backdrop?

Anything you can think of, honestly. Nothing is holding you back from using anything. We're talking cotton, canvas, jean, silk, spandex, nylon.... the list goes on!

How are backdrops used?

Backdrops are used by placing them behind your subject and taking a photo. The final result depends entirely on how you light the subject compared to the background and the different techniques used to do such. There are many different looks to images shot with a backdrop just from changing and shaping the light that hits the things you see in the frame.

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