The MacGyver Backdrop

So, today I decided to put my little project to the test.

My lovely sister and her daughter Makayla offered to help test my handmade backdrop, whom I lovingly call MacGyver.

MacGyver was made using a painter’s canvas drop sheet (a wallrunner, so not too huge and unwieldy) and special Dulux Design Suede paint in a colour called Pompeii Ash (which seems a tad on the nose).


pompeii ash


Design Suede is one of those “texture paints” that are designed for interior walls and can give the effect of suede, or there are also types that mimic the effect of stone, or pearl. In some of the samples I’d seen, it kind of gave the same effect as some of the hand-painted backdrops I’d seen used.

Following the instructions, I went over the canvas with one coat with a paint pad (like a roller but better), left it to dry, then came back the next day and did a second coat using a special brush and using random crisscross strokes. Then I left that to dry. So all up with drying time it took about three days to finish.




Because this was purely for experimentation, I thought it would be totally fine to go ahead and masking tape MacGyver to the brickwall at the back of the house. Which didn’t work more often than it did.

But, wonder of wonders, it didn’t look to bad in the end!






Now if you’re thinking that Pompeii Ash doesn’t look very “ash-y” you’d be right – the good thing about having such a neutral colour was that in editing it could take on any appearance I wanted it to. In this instance, because of my sister’s hair and colouring, I ended up boosting the blues/purples to compliment the red of her hair. Making sure to keep an eye on the white of her shirt (to keep things as realistic as possible) I could play around by bleaching out some of the yellow and cooling the look of the photos overall. By boosting the contrast and levels and using dodge and burn selectively, I could darken the background and give it a much edgier feel than when it was simply grey.

I was so surprised with how well it worked out. At the start I was so gung-ho, but after I got the materials I honestly wasn’t sure if it would work. But I think it did! And the best part is, Design Suede comes in lots of other colours to try! And it was CHEAP. Way cheaper than having to outlay on a framework and a proper hand-painted backdrop, which I am reluctant to do until I have completely mastered portrait lighting and shooting. But here’s to experimenting!


  1. Meg,
    I love this idea! and I am so stealing it! Best form of flattery so I’m told! *grin* Now what color do I want to get for my first backdrop??? The same, or maybe a nice cream or pearl….. so many colors to choose from…..
    Thanks for sharing your wonderful “MacGyver Backdrop” with us… (that was one of my favorite shows growing up, just so you know) and it turned out wonderfully!!

    Keep shooting!!

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