Muslin Photography Background




This is my first instructable but not my first DIY project. This project had the website in mind and strives to help develop it into a vibrent online community. This backdrop is simmilar to those sold online for a couple hundred dollers! But guess what? for arround 20 bucks and about an hours time I've made one myself, and now I'll show YOU how!

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Step 1: Parts List

1. 9X9 feet of muslin fabric.
2. RIT dye and salt
3. 18 Gallon Plastic "tote"
4. Twine to tye up fabric
5. Pot to boil water

Step 2: Wash the Fabric and Prepare Dye Mix

Pre wash by hand the muslin fabric. I did this in the shower with a little detergent. Basicly, just swish it arround in soapy water and rinse out untill its not bubbly.

Step 3: Prepare the Dye

The box of RIT has all the instructions. The hotter the water the better this dye will absorb. Disolve RIT and salt in pot with water.

Step 4: Bunch Up Fabric--this Is Where It Happens!

This is where you get to be creative! the pattern you make in this step is what will influance the overall look of your backdrop. What you must do is take that damp, clean pice of fabric, lay it on a large waterproof surfice. flat, and crunch handfulls of the matirial towards the center. Then, once its in a ball, take cheap twine (got mine at the dollar strore) and randomly wrap arround the fabric ball. dont get too crazy at this point with the tightness of the string. you're trying to keep your design together, not bucle it up or make the ball too dense to absorb the dye.

Step 5: DyeBath

Fill your 18 gallon plastic bin a little under half-way with as hot of water as you can get out of the tap and make sure you're doing this in a place that will survive getting dye spaters arround. No matter how carefull you are, there will be some contamination of the surrounding area.

Carefully pour in your dye mixture. I actually put some more water in the mix then the instructiuons so that the hot boiling water would bring up the temp of the bath overall. REMEMBER with RIT, hotter is better (within reason).

Keep the fabric down in the bath with a stick. I used a pice of PCV pipe. The max absorbtion time seems to be a half hour according to the RIT box. I fliped the fabric ball, which was realativly flat on the oposing sides, every 5 min or so, for a half hour.

Step 6: Cut the Cord

Whatever color it is on the outside is the color the darkest part will be. This is the fun part, when you'll un-doo all the tyes and see how it ended up. If you think the parts restricted from dye are "too white", after untying dunk the whole thing in the dye again for a min to overdye the fabric. Keep in mind, if you overdye, the variations in the color will not be as obvious.
Dry the backdrop flat, you'll notice it will be a couple shades lighter when its dry. You dont really have to rinse it out unless you want, since it will just be hanging up anyway, and probbly wouldnt need to be washed. You'll also notice this nice crumpled texture that makes it a great backdrop!
This project had photography in mind, but this could be used as decoration in a room as well!

Step 7: USE IT !!

After it was dry I took 4 binder clips and clamped them evenly acrooss the top of the fabric. I 'm going to put little white hook-screws in the wall to hook through the holes in the binder clips but for the photo below I just used clear package tape to hang by the clips (be carefull when removing tape, the paint may come with it!).

This is somthing you can do *really* easy takedowns and setups with and you can use any wall in your house and there is no need for a "blank wall". This is in front of my closet.

When its not up, leave it balled up in a corner somware so you dont loose all the cool wrinkely texture.

I hope you ernjoyed reading this and it helps you out. Now make your own!



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    37 Discussions


    8 years ago on Step 7

    I stumbled across your DIY photography website as I was searching for cheap backgrounds. I am an ameteur photographer and enjoy taking our family photos as a hobby. I also enjoy DIY projects so was excited to give the backdrop a try. I followed your instructions and the first one I made was more or less trial and error. (I ended up spray painting over it later to create a marbled effect). The second one I did in cocoa brown and dark brown turned out much better. Thanks so much for the great tutorial and for sharing your talented ideas and creativity!


    sorry I should have said that the piece of cotton drop cloth I dyed was 12 feet by 16 feet and I dyed it in the bathtub, only using the hot water from the tap :)

    4 replies

    I got my rit dye in the grocery store. They don't have as many colors as Walmart or a craft store, but they usually carry 3 or 4 basic colors. Here in the us they keep them in the laundry section, with fabric softener, stain remover, stuff like that


    10 years ago on Introduction

    I've just purchased a king-size white sheet from the thrift store ($1) and plan on doing this... will post results when finished. Granted, it won't be as large as a commercial backdrop, but it'll fit in just fine in my stair landing where I do a lot of setups. Thanks for the step-by-step tut.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    I ended up using a bedsheet because Walmart didn't have enough muslin fabric left on the bolt. I decided to grab a light blue King size flat sheet (108" x 102"). I figured that if I got the light blue sheet it would ensure that the over all colour was the darker blue that I wanted. Plus I didn't have to redunk the sheet after taking off the twine as the colours weren't too contrasting.

    My photos are bad for showing, but my husband is the photographer and he was away, (this is a surprise for him) and our stand is put away at the moment. Check it out here: <a href="">GreigBery</a>

    But here it is. I know some people were curious how it would work on a bed sheet. I'm going to try the muslin next when they have more in stock.

    Thanks so much for the tutorial!

    1 reply

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Well that's nice. Checked out your instructions on your blog too. I'm so happy this has ended up helping so many people. When I originally wrote this a few years ago I was blown away there was no instructions online for something so simple and practical. I hope your husband enjoys the great results you got!


    12 years ago on Step 7

    Wow, Thats pretty cool, I was thinking about doing somthing similar, but I have had the guts. I think you convinced me. I went to college for Photography and they were always thinking of "inovative" cheaper ways to do things. We used a PVC Pipe and drilled holes 1/2 way through about an inch from the ends. We then put this over two stand. This mad a nice middle support Piece for a background. We got a smaller diameter pole, but thicker plastic so it wouldnt sag to bad. Good job man!

    2 replies

    Reply 11 years ago on Step 7

    I once made an entire convention backdrop out of PVC and cheap dropcloth. You can put the whole thing together using the PVC pipe, t-fittings and/or elbow joints available in the plumbing section (like and erector set). No glue, easy to break down (all my sections were 4 feet so as to fit in the car). Admittedly, you have to get creative with the base, but it's somewhat cheap and quick to set-up and breakdown.


    Reply 12 years ago on Step 7

    You shold write instructions and post them. I want to make what you're talking about.


    Turned out great! I bought 'drop cloth' made from 100% cotton as where I live I am very limited in choice. The first one I did I bunched up as the instructions say. Worked great. BUT, I used Rit dye cocoa brown color and it turned out way too red. So, I took the color out and redyed it Pearl Grey and it is wonderful. The second one I made I didn't bother with the bunching up... I just threw it on the floor and then gathered it up in my arms and put a string around it to hold it. Either way makes a very good pattern!!


    11 years ago on Step 7

    This is exactly what I was looking for. The binder clips are a great idea! What color dye did you use on the one in the photo?


    There's bunches of ways to do this....probably best way I found without commercial dyes...wet material with water with ice cream salt.....rinse then put dry dye on it...sorta scatterred may use many different colors if you want....roll the material or just wad it up...put it in a plastic bag and add some water...not too much....then flip it over every so ofter....I like to let this go on for a few days....when I think it's ripe i put more water in the bag...let it swish around a little while the hang it to drip should get a pretty good dominant pattern from the dyes you put in first...they should basicall blend as you flip the material and then hopefully there's enough dye in the final mix to subdue all the white....


    12 years ago

    Nice one, I tried it today but it dint turn out to good. I think I made my bunch thingies too small and to tight. The dye I used was like cactus or something I will try again when I get my hands on some more dye. I think I will use blue this time and make a new one, this time bigger bunch. Maybe I will try and dip the cactus one in the blue as well just to make it darker.

    3 replies

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Bunch that one up again (Maybe not so small and tight), and use it in the blue dye! That would look awesome.


    Reply 12 years ago

    That looks fine man! May not have been what you had planed but it looks good. You do have alot of white space and that probbly is from being too tight in that area, or the dye didnt get hot enough, or it wasn't soaked long enough to really take. But this will work as a backdrop. The idea is just to get that varying tone. IF you want to even it out dip it for a very short time in the other color. On mine, the diffrence between the picture on the grass and the closeup is I diped the whole thing in the left over dye for a few seconds giving it less contrast between light and dark.


    Reply 12 years ago

    2nd try. Works like a charm, will try som portraits later and see how it goes. cheers