• Holly

My, Not So Shiny Faux Wooden Backdrop DIY + Behind the Scenes

EDIT: Since covid-19, I've limited what I shoot at my home studio setup. The area I usually use has become my daughter's new school and it's in my home, so I think that complicates things with covid. I've limited the space strictly to people I know, or clients I've gotten to know. I'm sorry for the inconvenience!

I've wanted a wooden backdrop and floor for a very long time now. What I've been using instead are really cute vinyl backdrops that resemble grungy wooden floors and walls, but I find myself doing a lot of extra editing when I use them. There are ALWAYS wrinkles, no matter what I do (yes, I put a hard surface under my backdrops, since I have carpet).

But, there are a few problems I run into with real wooden backdrops because of where I shoot. First, I need something that's easy to set up and break down because I have what I call a home studio setup. Sometimes, it's a believable studio, but most of the time, it's my dining room! You see, I shoot a lot more outdoor sessions than I do indoor sessions, but when I do shoot indoor a handful of times a year, I need some kind of studio space to use. Anyways, what I wanted to use were wooden planks, but I knew there would be a lot of sanding involved and I didn't want ANY sign of splinters. I also wanted something thin. Since I wasn't planning to attach the planks to a horizontal piece in the back, to make breaking down easy, I was afraid the separate pieces of wood put together on the floor would pinch my clients, if they sat directly on it.

Enter laminate flooring. The kind you can lock together, if that makes any sense. My husband and I put flooring similar to this in our old house and it was pretty easy to put together, so I knew that part would be fairly easy to do each time I set up. One problem with the laminate flooring was the SHINE!!! I knew I needed to make it work because the thickness was perfect and I knew they would lock together, without permanently keeping them togehter.

I ended up buying 4 boxes of the cheapest laminate flooring that Home Depot sold. 2 of the boxes were in a light shade, called Ember Oak, by TrafficMaster. The other 2 boxes were of the darker shade, called Hand Scraped Saratoga Hickory, also by TrafficMaster. The boxes were under $20 each and covered about 24 SqFt. each. Also, they were only 30 lbs a box! I knew I could handle 30 lbs, since I carried my 60 lb dog up and down the stairs, for months before she passed away. The reason I bought the 2 colors were to create the same look as my grungy wood vinyl backdrops, plus I wanted light colored planks to do a white washed floor as well.

Other things I purchased/used:

•Rustoleum Flat Black oil based paint. I bought oil based because I thought if I did enough sanding, then rubbed on the tougher, oil based paint, I could create the grungy look, while taking away the shine. It worked, but, I still ended up needing lacquer to seal it.

•Minwax Clear Aerosol spray lacquer, in clear satin. I wanted a true flat lacquer, but I would've had to wait for shipping lol. I ended up finding this spray lacquer on the Lowes site and the first review I saw, mentioned it's more of a matte than a satin, so I went with it! This spray lacquer is also oil based.

•Flat white craft paint for the separate floordrop (if floordrop is even a word....)

•Wood glue (optional)


•Old towels

•Rubber gloves

•Vinegar and water, or something else to clean a sanded surface with

•Tiny paint brush (optional)

Oh, I am not affiliated with Home Depot, Lowes, or any product I mentioned.

This is what it looked like put together, before I sanded and rubbed black paint over it. It's a cell phone shot, with window light only, so the shine isn't as bad as it was with artificial lighting:

DIY Laminate Wooden Backdrop With Reduced Shine | Holly Butler Photography

~Side note: Because of the height of my backdrop bars, the backdrop portion of this DIY needed to be longer than the 50" planks. My husband cut 4 planks in half, then I put them together, 4 planks wide x 2 planks high per section (2 sections). I had to attach each section together in the back though... boo! This means the backdrop portion of this DIY isn't easily set up and broken down like I wanted it to be, but I got over it. 2 sections are better than 1 large and awkward piece for my 5'2" butt to carry around lol. You can see that it's 2 pieces in the image above because of the light line down the middle. Oh and it's himpossible to put planks together while being upright too, just as an FYI.

On the back of each section, there are 5 half planks attached horizontally and spaced evenly (I don't know why I don't have a picture). On each section, 2 of the horizontal planks are attached with screws, drilled in from the front and the other 3 are attached with glue. I used wood glue because I didn't have anymore Loctite left... I use that stuff for everything! I didn't *need* the glued pieces for support, since the planks lock together. I only attached the glued pieces because when I store these flat, I want them to stay flat and I don't want them to bow in places. I am still able to stack both pieces on my garage loft, right outside of my kitchen, without much trouble. In case you're wondering, the floor planks are not permanently attached in any way. They are locked together with the grooves, but they can easily be taken apart.~

Back to what I did:

First I sanded with 80 grit sandpaper, because that's what I had on hand. I didn't sand as much as I should have on the backdrop portion because nobody will be sitting on that part, but I sanded more on the floordrop (the backdrop part is what's pictured below).

DIY Wooden Backdrops

After sanding, I cleaned the surface with vinegar, water and an old towel, then rubbed the flat black paint on the planks, with the same old towel.

Laminate Wooden Backdrops

How to make a wooden backdrop

After painting, then sanding again, but lightly, to reveal wood grain, I cleaned the surface with vinegar water again, then enhanced the grooves with black paint and a small brush.

DIY Dark Wooden Backdrop

Here is the final look of the wooden backdrop, before the floor part was finished, so you can see the difference.

DIY Faux Wooden Backdrop With Reduced Shine | Holly Butler Photography

After I painted the floor, then sanded it again, my bubble was burst when I accidentally scratched the black paint off with my wooden crate! I was able to wipe the dried paint clean, so I *thought* I could stop at this point, BUT I didn't test to see if the paint would SCRATCH off. That's when I went up to Lowes to get the lacquer pictured below, which was VERY easy to use, by the way. I sprayed it in our garage, with my face, nose and mouth covered. I sprayed 2 light coats on all 3 finished surfaces and it's not too shiny at all!! Yay honest reviewers!!!

By the way, this clear spray is oil based. The reason I went with an oil based lacquer is because I used oil based paint for the dark wood planks. When refinishing our cabinets, I learned some basic rules for using oil based paint and polyurethane/lacquer:

•You can use oil based paint, followed by an oil based lacquer, but you *shouldn't* use oil based paint, followed by water based lacquer, or there's more of a chance it'll chip.

•You can use water based paint (like my craft paint for the white washed wood), followed by either oil based lacquer, OR water based lacquer. So, it was fine to use the oil based lacquer, over the craft paint.

•Oil based poly/lacquer will most likely yellow, so I'm crossing my fingers that it won't yellow my white washed wood.

DIY Laminate Wooden Backdrop With Reduced Shine | Holly Butler Photography

The shine was minimal after I finished. I tried to find shine in this shot lol.

DIY Laminate Wooden Backdrop With Reduced Shine | Holly Butler Photography

The backdrop is secured with a backdrop bar. The backdrop bar's brackets are drilled into wall studs.

DIY Laminate Wooden Backdrop With Reduced Shine | Holly Butler Photography

DIY Laminate Wooden Backdrop With Reduced Shine | Holly Butler Photography

I used my fade brush on the next 2 images... shameless plug, it can be found in my Etsy shop, for my Photoshop users. :)

DIY Laminate Wooden Backdrop With Reduced Shine | Holly Butler Photography

DIY Laminate Wooden Backdrop With Reduced Shine | Holly Butler Photography

I almost forgot to take any pictures of the white washed wood floordrop! I did everything the same as the darker wood, except I added water to the paint (1:1), then rinsed my towel and wiped over the wet paint before it dried, to reveal wood grain.

Also pictured is my vinyl white washed wood backdrop from SwankyPrints, for the background below. I really like it paired with my new white washed wooden floor!

DIY Laminate Wooden Backdrop With Reduced Shine | Holly Butler Photography

Here's a tiny peek of my studio setup. There's window light to the left of the dark wood, plus soft boxes on either side and a round reflector for good measure. When I use these backdrops for clients, I will tape the front edges of the wood with duct tape, so there isn't any tripping over the edge. I will also lock the dark wooden floor with the whitewashed wooden floor. :)

DIY Laminate Wooden Backdrop With Reduced Shine | Holly Butler Photography

In the end, I used all 4 boxes of wooden planks (but, I needed extra for lengthening the backdrop and I made an extra floor). I had 3 planks leftover and I refinished 2 of them, to have the extras on hand for any reason. I only used 1 can of lacquer, with some leftover. I had a tiny, 4 oz can of black paint and used almost all of that, but I hardly used any of the white craft paint, since I mixed that with water.

That's it! I hope this DIY was helpful for you!

Thanks for looking!!


Related Posts

On location portrait photographer, based in Poquoson, Va