DIY Canvas Background Instructions

I wanted a small canvas background to use for portraits, but I didn't want to spend a fortune for a pre-made one.  Plus DYI experiments are always fun.  So I called my trusty photographer friend Meg Watcher and we dove in with both feet.

- 50" wide, primed canvas from the local art store.  We went with 2 yards each, but next time I'm going to go a bit longer by a foot or so.

- 2 Quarts of flat latex paint. The trick here is to go for one lighter and one darker to give your canvas some contrast other than the white and one paint color. Obviously gray or near gray is the way most people go, but there's nothing to say against pushing it cooler or warmer.

- Paint rollers/pan/plastic to keep stuff clean.
- Sandpaper
- Time.


Step One
Use the roller to paint the canvas with color #1.  I went with the lighter color first, but I think either would do.  Don't do a good job and cover the canvas well.  The point is to make a distressed, old looking, random background. Then go do something else for a few hours while that dries.

Step Two
Next paint over with the second paint.  Obviously with a different pattern of coverage. You should se some of the first color, as well as a little of the blank canvas coming through from underneath.  When you're through let this dry overnight.  It's got to be really dry for the next step.

Step Three
Take some sandpaper, I went with a 150 grade, and lightly sand over the now dried paint to 'wear' the surface a bit. You're trying to make it grittier and to remove some of the shine that even flat pain will have. This stage, like the others really, is to taste.  Everyone will be looking for a different effect here.  

I stopped here, but it was only my first try.  We've got plenty of paint, so I think I'm going to get some more canvas and try again.  Part of me wants to put more paint on this one.  Basically use it as my starting point and go back to step 1. I'm not entirely sure it would work and I kinda like the way it ended up, so I think I'll just try on a new one and leave this one alone.

Oh and Step Four
But a 4' long 1" dowel and staple it to one end of the canvas.  This keeps it hanging flat and well as giving you something to wrap it up around without bending and messing it up.

The results can be seen in some of the portraits I've been doing lately.  I think this one of George is pretty indicative. All in we spent about $50.  Could be less if you've got paint lying around. Again, this is experiment #1, but might be a fun project for some of you.