Muslin is a cotton fabric of plain weave. It's made in a variety of densities/weights. It was first developed in the early 17th century in Iraq (where it gets its name from).
Muslin backdrops are backgrounds created from a plain weave made of cotton. A lot of muslin images are captured using very bright and high contrast lights. The muslin material tends to absorb light to give photos a natural and low-contrast look.
They're a popular choice because it won't create the harsh shadows that other materials do. This material can be used in any setting, whether you want to use it outdoors or indoors with artificial light sources. It also comes in many different colors and patterns so finding something for your specific needs should not be difficult! You can paint and create your own as well!
A muslin backdrop is a timeless, classic, and natural choice for your photography. As it absorbs more light than it reflects, muslin backdrops are popular for photographers looking to create a mood or sense of intimacy. Muslin is also very easy to look after and take care of, which means you can use it again and again without worrying about quality deterioration.
Now, you wouldn't want to use it in the rain or very damp conditions - but with as lightweight and durable muslin is, you'll be glad to know that muslin can be used indoors or outdoors and in any lighting situation.
This includes the background of a portrait session as well as creating an entire scene.
Unlike materials like microfiber, paper, and vinyl... muslin absorbs both paint and light - giving a unique look to your pictures. You can purchase them painted, or you can paint them yourself. You'll be left with a semi-matte finish.
Hand-painted backdrops offer so much character and timelessness compared to other 'normal' backdrops.
While muslin is not as durable and can often be more expensive than vinyl backdrops, muslin backdrops provide a natural look appealing to many people. Muslin is also easier to move around on stage and handlers. This makes muslin a contender for anyone looking for an easy-to-move backdrop.
A muslin backdrop can also effectively be lit by many different types of light fixtures such as battery lights, halogen lights or LED lights. Vinyl cannot be lit as easily in comparison because of its reflectiveness. Muslin has the advantage of being able to dimly glow with any type of light.
In conclusion - vinyl is much more durable, but muslin gives a better overall result.
For one - if the backdrop gets too soiled or dirty, throw it in the washing machine. Cold water only, and delicate setting if your washer has it. Air dry only.
If you put it in the wash - it's essential to take it out as soon as it is done. The longer it sits in the wash - the harder it's going to be to get the wrinkles out.
To get wrinkles out - you can either steam it while it's hanging or iron on low. If you choose to iron - place another piece of cloth between the iron and the backdrop. This will ensure you don't over iron or scorch the backdrop (or fade the dye/paint because it gets too hot).
You can store the backdrop in a few ways.
I have included a picture representing the average size of backdrops depending on your subject and how many of them you have. If you have any further questions regarding size, you can leave them in the comments below this article!
To hang it, you will need to measure the distance from the floor to the top of the backdrop. Then, measure out that amount on both sides and hammer in two hooks per side.
To hang it - place the muslin over one shoulder and then attach it to the hooks with two safety pins on either side. The muslin should not droop outside of these lines for an even look. Make sure there are a few inches of fabric draping over each side for adjusting later if needed.
You can always purchase a solid backdrop stand where you can either pin the backdrop onto the crossbar or send the bar through the loop (if your backdrop has it). Either way, it makes for a pretty easy setup compared to hooks - just not as permanent.
You have three great options here.
We hope this article has helped you understand the pros and cons of muslin backdrops and how to care for and use them properly.
If you haven't already, head over to our pillar article, What Makes a Good Photography Backdrop: The Ultimate Guide, while will further help those looking for backdrops but aren't too sure which one they should get. It has information on the top 10 backdrop materials as well as different themed backgrounds.
If you have any questions at all - please leave them below in the comments!
Until next time, be safe and keep creating!