Posted May 1, 2014 by Gavin Hoey in Articles

Building a DIY studio background

For a long time I’ve fancied the idea of adding a grungy textured background to my studio but due to the limited space available I’ve stuck to using a white vinyl and black fabric backdrops. Now these have worked really well for me over the years but there comes a time when you want to break free and recently I got a great excuse to do just that.

I’m currently in the middle of filming a mini-series of videos for Adorama TV all about shooting portraits in a small studio, something I know a lot about. You’ve probably seen my log cabin studio in various videos before so in order for this series to look and feel different I bit the bullet and built my dream textured backgroundKings-of-Sussex-5

The Plan
I’m a reluctant DIY guy, so if you’re looking for plans, specifications and a fool proof guide to building a background this ISN’T it. After clearing out my old background and removing anything breakable from the area I went online and ordered a bunch of stud work timber, two 2400mmx1200mmx12mm sheets of MDF and three 2400mmx800mmx18mm T&G chipboard sheets for the floor. I ordered them from a well known DIY store chain, paid a whopping £25 for next day delivery and got them four days later… but that’s another story.


The Build
The idea was to make the background 8 feet (2.4 meters) square but my studio roof height made that impossible, so the frame work “evolved” to fit my needs. One thing I know all too well is log cabins move, even heavy duty ones like mine. So my background is almost free floating rather than permanently attached to the wall.

The MDF panels needed the corners cut too (wearing a mask to avoid inhaling the dust) and screwed to the frame.  I then primed the MDF with a coat of PVA glue and water mixed together and left it to dry overnight.

The Texture
The texture I was going for was a grainy concrete feel. Choosing what material to use was tough. I had no idea of what might work best but I knew it would need to stick to vertical surfaces and be flexible enough to withstand a few knocks without cracking too much or bits falling off.

I settled on a flexible tile adhesive from Dunlop. It did everything I needed and best of all it was pretty cheap.  All I had to do was slap it on the MDF and try not to get it too smooth or too rough, not as easy as you might think. Too smooth and the effect would be lost, too rough and it could do some damage to a model or their clothes.


Finishing Touches
Once dry the last job was to give it a coat or two of Matt Grey paint which was randomly added to with a lighter colour for a mottled effect. The mid grey colour is perfect in a small studio as I can add or restrict light to make it appear black or white. I can even add gels to my lights for a splash of funky colour if required.

All in the cost was around £100 for materials and about three days’ work.

In Use
The end results is perfect for my needs. With hindsight I’m not sure MDF was a great choice of wood but it’s working for me.

Here’s a few photos of the background in use!




Gavin Hoey