Create Unique Photo Backdrops For Your Story | With Canvas and Paint | Jennie Whitaker | Skillshare

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Create Unique Photo Backdrops For Your Story | With Canvas and Paint

teacher avatar Jennie Whitaker, Surface Design Studio

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Class Project


    • 3.

      Why Create Your Own Backdrop


    • 4.

      Planning Your Backdrop


    • 5.

      Supply List


    • 6.

      Simple Backdrop


    • 7.

      Textured Backdrop


    • 8.

      Stenciled Backdrop


    • 9.

      Stamped Backdrop


    • 10.

      Seasonal Backdrops


    • 11.



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About This Class

Are you looking for fun new ideas for your photo styling?

In this class, I will walk you through several methods that I use to create unique and versatile custom photo backdrops to help you elevate your photos and tell your story.  I want you to have fun in the process! 

A great backdrop will give your photos consistency and personality!

This class is designed for all levels.  My goal is to help anyone who is looking for new ideas or methods for fun, unique, painted backdrops to use for products, flatlays and story telling through photography.  Ideas and techniques taught in the class can easily translate to related projects and larger backdrop applications.

Meet Your Teacher

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Jennie Whitaker

Surface Design Studio


I'm Jennie, and Toboggan Avenue is my art and surface design studio!

I create relaxed, joyful art and patterns to add to your personal story, and I love to help others find and share their own creative story as well.  

You can learn more about Toboggan Avenue on my website, and I would love it if you found me on Instagram so we can get to know each other there!  


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Level: All Levels

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1. Welcome: Hello and welcome to this Skillshare class on creating Canvas backdrops. I'm Jenny Whitaker and artist and surface designer designing fabric, wallpaper and products for my surface design studio, toboggan avenue. For years I have been creating my own backdrops with a variety of materials. I draw on my background in interior design to create these backdrops for various uses, like photo styling, studio photos and more. For this class, no prior experience is necessary to begin. I'll be sharing with you my favorite tips and tricks so that you can make your own unique Canvas spectrum. This class is designed as a fun opportunity for you to step away from the tech side of life for a moment. You know, after you finish watching this class, have fun in the creative process and end up with a usable result that we gave your photos, a cohesive and elevated look, and share your personality at the same time. These tips can be used for a multitude of backdrops, Not just branding, personal photos, family photos, even art for the walls of your home. Like this are a few of the ideas that come to mind. My hope is that you'll walk away from this class with new ideas and possibilities beyond those that I share here. Let's begin. 2. Class Project: For your class project, you'll create a simple backdrop. Or you can use and combine all of these techniques or few of them and go all in. Choose one of the styles explained in the later lessons, or combine the methods and create your own. I will cover a list of materials needed in a later lesson, so watch that first. And then to begin your class project, please share photo of the supplies you have collected for your own backdrop. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions or if you're looking for ideas that are specific to your brand or your story. Once you've finished, come back here and share a photo of your finished backdrop, either styled or as is, so that I can see what you're working on and follow along. In the next lesson, I'll be covering a few reasons why I prefer to make my own backdrops rather than just buying already made backdrops to use for my photos. I'll see you there. 3. Why Create Your Own Backdrop: Why create your own photo backdrops, okay, So you have the ideas, you have the products, but do your photos still lack the cohesiveness and personality you desire? Or maybe you're looking to elevate your photos and the visuals for your brand. Designing your own photo backdrop is a great way to elevate your photos and add your personality at the same time. You can purchase done for you backdrops. And there's certainly a time and a place for that. But I love creating my own photo backdrops because of the endless options and the ability to customize it and make it a backdrop that really stands out. My goal is to give you several ideas that I have used myself and to inspire you to dream up your own options. Either using these or combining them, or branching out on your own and creating a backdrop that is perfect for your needs. I'll see you in the next lesson. 4. Planning Your Backdrop: In this lesson, we will cover a few things to consider when planning your backdrop. First is the size. You want to consider, what it is that you're planning to photograph and how much space you will need around it to properly tell your story. For example, think about if it's a small or a large product that you're sharing and how much whitespace you want to share around it. Second is the theme, style and mood. Think about your branding or the story you want to tell. Consider whether you want your photos to appear simple or nate, moody, seasonal. Also consider if the majority of your products are white or light colored, you may want to go with a darker backdrop. The majority of my products have pattern or color involved, so I prefer to keep my background fairly simple with a lot of white. You also want to consider the story you want your photos to tell. Maybe you want them to depict a new and modern scene or something more rustic or vintage and collected. All of these are things to consider as you're planning and designing your backdrop. There are many ways to design a backdrop so that you have a useful result that can be used over and over. There are so many possibilities with backdrops that you create yourself. So have fun with it and incorporate your personality in as well. In the next lesson, I will be giving an overview of the supplies that I use throughout the following lessons. I'll see you there. 5. Supply List: In this lesson, I will cover a list of tools and supplies needed for all of the later lessons. Keep in mind that not everyone will use every supply for every style of backdrop. So this will be an overview. You can always come back to this lesson and reference the suppliers and tips mentioned here. After you select the style of backdrop you wish to create. First you'll want Canvas or other fabric. My favorite is to purchase a drop cloth from the hardware store. You can buy the size you need for the backdrop you are making, or a large one and cut it down into several smaller Canvases. This is what I usually do. I do recommend a medium to heavyweight canvas or fabric and something that's not patterned. If you decide to use a different source for your fabric, gathered paints and supplies, I find the easiest way is defined paint samples that match your branding or store colors and have the small samples mixed at the hardware store for you. Otherwise, you can certainly buy craft acrylics in your preferred colors or mix your own. Gather your paints and supplies, supplies to paint. You'll need brushes. Nothing fancy is needed here. In fact, I usually go with inexpensive pressures because I don't love to clean them. Side-note. If your paintbrush happens to dry with paint on it, you can always use it as a prompt for your photos. Two of my favorite tools are an old credit card and a paint scraper is the credit card when I need something with some flexibility as I'm spreading paint. Palette knives are another useful option. For this dense of backdrop. I'll be using plastic coated freezer paper and scissors or an exacto knife to create my own stencil and an iron to adhere it to the canvas. And exacto knife is handy for more intricate designs. You'll want a stamp or an object to use as a stamp for the stamped backdrop. A ruler or T square is useful as well. I happened to have several t squares on hand from my drafting days. Painter's tape, a pencil, and a Sharpie are also useful. And you will want a second drop cloths to protect your working surface. Okay, it's time to get started. I will see you in the next lesson. 6. Simple Backdrop: For this first backdrop, we will be signing a simple one to two color backdrop. Now you can certainly use your canvas as is, and I like to do this, but it wouldn't be much of a class if I just told you to use plain Canvas. First thing to do is decide on a layout. The way I'm going to do this is to play around with some paint samples and scissors until I find something that I like. So for this design, I want the majority of MySpace to be white with triangular section, with a brand accent color. So I'll use a straight edge to draw a line. So I have my line drawn here. I'm going to paint the background white. And then I'm going to come back later and add the accent color. Now that the tape is down and the paint is dry. And then paint this section up here in the accent color. Paint away from the edge to help avoid any, hopefully any paint linking under. If it does, I'll just go back and touch up. Alright, and I will let that dry. Now that paint is dry, we can pull the tape off. And the next lesson we will create a textured backdrop. This one might be my favorite. I'll see you there. 7. Textured Backdrop: In this lesson, we will cover making a painted textural backdrop. For this lesson, you'll need canvas, paint, a brush, or a credit card pen scraper, or a palette knife, and a drop cloths to protect your working surface. First you will select the colors you want to use and lay out your Canvas. I like to approach this style, a backdrop almost as if I was painting an abstract painting. But keep in mind that I want this center area to be fairly open and white so that whatever I am displaying my product, I can stand out there because I want the majority of my backdrop to be white so that my product stand out. I'm going to focus on covering the main center area first with white paint and then work out from there. If it happens that the majority of your products are white or lighter in color, you may prefer to do dark backdrops so that they stand out better. Okay, this is the part where we just get to have fun. I like to paint wet on wet, so my white backdrop is still wet. And I'm gonna come back in and add gray. Keeping it around the outside here just time where I would use the old credit card because I love the texture. And you can see since the backdrop is still wet, the white is still wet. It's going to blend it a bit. And I'm going to keep the center pretty much clear of any colors. Keeping it all to the outside. I'm going to come back in here and put little white over the top. Say don't like the amount of gray added in there. And once it dries, if I still don't like it, I'll come back in with a little more white paint. After. In the next lesson, we'll create a backdrop using a stencil you design yourself. I'll see you there. 8. Stenciled Backdrop: In this lesson, we will cover making a backdrop using a stencil you will create yourself. For this lesson. You'll need canvas, paint, freezer, paper, an iron paintbrush, scissors or an X-Acto knife, and a drop cloth to protect your surface. You could, of course, free hand paint your design onto your canvas backdrop. But I like to use a stencil because I can plan it out ahead of time, trace it, or dry it, and then play around with placement before I actually start working. So I've sketched out an idea here in my notebook. And then I've taken it over here to my freezer paper, plastic coated on this side, matte finish on this side. And I'm going to finalize the drawing and then cut it out. And there we have our final stanza can clean up any corners. Okay, now that I have this tensile cut out, I'm going to decide on placement. So this is what I like with a stencil. I can move it around and visualize. Now put that stencil in place. I have my stencil in place down in the corner of my Canvas. Have a small ironing board underneath. And I'm going to use a piece of white cotton and iron that freezer paper. Shiny side of the freezer paper is down against the Canvas. And I'm not gonna spend too much time here, so I don't want to burn the canvas or the paper. But I want to make sure all the corners are secure so that when I paint it doesn't see under. Check all of the corners here. Let's spend a little more time. Alright. So for this backdrop, I'm leaving the background, the natural canvas color, mainly because the freezer paper is not going to adhere to it if I had already painted the surface, hearing my stencil directly to the Canvas, leaving that natural and I'll be adding color here. And as I'm painting, I'm going to start from the edge and paint inward. Find that usually will prevent any paint from leaking under the surface. It's a little bit hard with a smaller area like this. More here. Now the paint is dry. We can remove the stencil. Now, I tend to like a little bit of a rough textured finish, but if any of these edges bother you, you certainly can go back in and touch them up with a small paint brush. Wanted to show you the second example where I took the cut part of the stem cell, ironed it down, and I'll paint over this to create a second backdrop using a stencil. You'll see I did a combination. I did some textured painting in the background of this one. I find it helpful to get the stencil started using exacto knife. We have painted background and the silhouette of the leaf in Canvas. In the next lesson, we'll create a printed or a stamped backdrop. I'll see you there. 9. Stamped Backdrop: In this lesson, we will cover making a printed backdrop. For this lesson, you will need canvas, paint, a brush, drop cloths to protect your surface, and an object to use as a stamp. Now this could be a block of wood for a rectangular stamp. Something round or potato stamp cut into any shape. I'll be using a potato stamp cut into a simple leaf shape. And that will begin stamping directly onto my backdrop. You can either sketch out your design beforehand or just free handed. Because I do a lot of botanical art. And I want to keep this sort of natural feeling back in and add another layer. I'm going to worry about dropped paint. I'll add just a few more leaves to finish it off. And now it's time to style. In the next lesson, we will create a seasonal backdrop. I'll see you there. 10. Seasonal Backdrops: In this lesson, we will cover making a seasonal backdrop using the methods and supplies mentioned in previous lessons. I've created several examples. One using a stencil backdrop when using a stamped backdrop, and one using a painted backdrop with metallic paints added. Here I'm creating a textural background, lettering on some blue paint over a white backdrop. Adding a bit more texture and layering in some gold paint. So I can use this for a winter backdrop. And it's time to style. For this example, I use a stencil backdrop. First, I created a snowflake shaped stencil using freezer paper, and I earned it to my Canvas. Then I painted over the sensible with a dark paint, making sure to cover the whole surface. And once I had finished, I went back and added some gold metallic paint just to add interest. Once the paint is dry, I removed the stencils and it's time to style. This is perfect to use as a backdrop for lighter colored objects. For this method, I've used the stamp method and a heart-shaped potato stamp to create a fun, holiday themed backdrop. In the next lesson, we'll recap what we've learned so far and talk about other ways to use the tips and tricks that I've shared here. 11. Conclusion: Backdrops don't have to be complicated. Have fun with it. I've shared several of my favorite techniques, but there's no end to the possibilities that you can use to create a unique backdrop that tells your personal story. Well, a few additional ideas you might try. Our food photography backdrops, family photos, art for your walls, or even backdrops for video calls. With any of these, you can always restart, start over with a new method or paint over it and begin again. If it's one that you love, the great thing about Canvas is that you can roll it up and store it to be used over and over. Remember to share a photo of your finished product or the supplies you've collected in the project section. And feel free to reach out if you want ideas that are specific to your story. And thank you so much for being here. I wish you well.