Creating DIY Photography Backdrops

Learn how to craft professional-quality backdrops from scratch.

In this class, Visual Education Creative Director Tim Gaudion shows you how to make your own DIY photography backdrops similar to those you’ll have seen throughout our food photography classes.

This step-by-step tutorial is ideal for photographers wanting to add an element of unique creativity to their shots as it shows you how to get creative results and outlines important considerations when choosing a background.

In this class:

  • How to create a DIY photography background
  • Creating/selecting a background for photography
  • Tools for creating a wooden backdrop for photography

What you’ll need:

  • Untreated wooden planks
  • Drill and screws
  • Blowtorch
  • Wood dye
  • Paint
  • Wax crayons
  • Acrylic paint
  • Water

Backgrounds and backdrops are an important part of any image (whether you’re photographing food or fashion) and having the skills to create your own backgrounds opens a whole new world of possibility. Using simple tools and equipment, Tim guides you through the process, from start to finish, showing you how to create your own board, accentuate texture, add colour and enhance depth.

Step 1

Decide on what background you’d like to create.

DIY photography backdrop example

An example of a previous DIY backdrop for photography.

Step 2

Create a board.

DIY wooden board

Joining boards together.

Step 3

Age the wood.

DIY photography backdrop example

Ageing the wood uses a couple of techniques.

Step 4

Apply a base colour.

Painting DIY backdrop

Applying a base coat of paint.

Step 5

Apply final colour effects.

Painting photography backdrops.

Using different colours to add depth.

You can also create your own canvas backdrops for photography – Tim shows you how to do that in Making a Canvas Backdrop.

Questions? Please post them in the comments section below.


  1. Hi Karl/Tim

    This was very helpful with creating wooden backgrounds. I was wondering what thickness of board are you using?



    1. Hi Shaun, Tim is away on holiday at the moment but having used the boards that he has made many times, I would say that they are about 1cm thick.

  2. Hi Tim,
    double sided wooden panel which you showed at the beginning of the video, its one side is textured and the other side is smooth, how did you do that , you burned both side ? whats the difference to make smooth or textured?
    thank you

    1. Hi, The more you burn the wood and use the wire brush the more texture you will create and also if you work with the grain this will accentuate the grain. You can also add the chalk based paint to then fill back in the texture like I have done with the grey paint. You can also sand the board with sandpaper to get it back smoother. This can be really effective and leave areas of texture to suit the look you are trying to get. Thanks, Tim

  3. Hi Karl,
    what’s your ideal size of base and background for food photography ? (wooden)

    Hi Tim,
    Can i learn the size of square board which you made in this video and
    the one which you showed at the first of video, double sided board (one side is smooth other side is textured)

    thank you

    1. Hi, some are happy with about 1m x 1m but I find this not versatile enough especially if shooting from a low angle where you want the ‘horizon’ to be out of focus. I personally would go with as big as you have space for. The long boards Tim is making in this video are a good size for me but I will have to check the measurements and come back to you.

  4. Hey Tim, after burning, how light can you get the wood using the wire brush? It the method in the video used for darker looks or can you actually get it pretty light by using the wire brush a bit more? Also, can you achieve a similar yet lighter look (thinking lighter oak color with darker burns for contrast) by torching it less? Thanks!

    1. Hi The wood tends to be a bit darker after burning but if you keep working at it with a wire brush it will get lighter. You can also wash it over with thinned-down opaque light-coloured paint and then work back into it afterward with a wire brush. Thanks Tim

  5. A pleasant good day to Tim and Karl,

    A store owner here in the Caribbean offered to do a ONE PASS of their blow torch for free on the wooden planks that I put together.
    My question is… can I get a similar result if I add some of the waxy crayon colours and watered down acrylic paints before they use the blow torch on the board ?

    Thanks again for these informative videos.

    1. Hi Kgiffard,

      Adding the wax crayon and the watered-down acrylic paint before doing any burning will not work.

      The initial burning of wood creates the worn aged look to the wood. When the blow torch is passed over the wood the first time the softer wood between the grain burns more than the grain. Next, you will see in the video I pass the wire brush over the surface to remove some of the burnt surface and leave the texture of the grain.

      The initial first pass of the blow torch takes the longest so getting this done for you will speed up the process. The blow touch I used is just a cheap one purchase from a hardware store for about $10 so you could get one just for doing the finishing touches to your boards.

      After the wire brushing, you could then add the wax crayon and the watered-down acrylic paint layers, and if you don’t have a way to blow torch the wood after the initial ONE PASS you could just rub the paint and crayons layers into the wood wire brush and scourer and keep building up layers of paint and wax crayon until you get the desired effect. The wax crayons will resist the acrylic paint creating interesting effects even without melting it with a blow torch.

      Hope this helps

  6. Gary Stasiuk

    If you were trying to achieve a honey brown wood finish affect that looks very aged. How would you take that burnt, wire brushed wood (so it looks that worn) but then give it a real light warm feel. I have done loads of wood working in the past, which offered the possibility of using some exotic woods in my images.. padauk (orange-reddish) for example. I’ve also used beach wood planks and logs (red cedar and hemlock) and planed them down and gotten some interesting props and surfaces. But I’m looking for something similar to an aged european oak (a little harder to find in my part of the world), which might have been used in a door or wine barrel… something with that kind of look.

    1. Hi Gary, The burning and wire brushing as you mentioned gives the aged worn look to the wood. The burning process darkens the wood. This can be lightened by removing more of the charred surface with a wirebrush. You can also use a lighter opaque wood stain or paint to lighten the wood and rub this back to allow the texture and some of the wood colors to show through and build up layers until you get the color/effect you require. The burning accentuates the grain and leaves this raised so it is easy to rub one color through to the under colors and create some great results while keeping the wood grain effect. I would experiment with offcuts first to see what works best.

      1. Gary Stasiuk

        Thanks Tim.
        I’m looking for some old wood (for free) that has some nice grain and then I will give this another try. I appreciate the response.

  7. Hi Karl/Tim,

    Thanks for showing us the tips on how to make these boards, it really helped!

    Can I ask what type of wood are these wood planks please? I have been doing some boards myself on and off for the past year, and always used pine as this is what is available at my hardware store. But the planks are too “clean” and no matter how much I burn it and use the techniques Tim demonstrated, the textures of the wood doesn’t show through.

    Any tips as well on how to avoid the wood “curling” please? If I burn it too much, the wood “curls” and then it’s not easy to use as a flat surface.


    1. Hi Maxine,

      The timber used is softwood (pine) rough sawn timber, that’s not been planed to make it smooth – it is normally the cheapest wood, most diy and wood supply shops sell this you could also try looking in the garden section as a lot of fencing timber is rough and not planed. You could also use the wood from pallets but these take a bit longer to first take apart.


      1. Hi Tim, thank you for your reply and for the tip! The ones I usually use are the cheapest ones but I think they definitely planed it to make it smooth. Great I will try to find some fencing timber and/or wood pallets. Any advice on how to stop it from curling though? But I guess I will try the other types of wood first, as these may not need as much burning to get the textures, which will not make the planks curl.

  8. Neri

    Thanks Tim, nice video.

    Also an option: You can sand down after every coating which will emphasis the grain in the wood.

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