How to Guide: Making a DIY Food Photography Backdrop

I promised a tutorial on how to make your own DIY photography backdrop, so here it is!

Now I'm definitely no expert, but I've always loved getting a bit free with the paintbrush and adding that extra layer of creativity to my shots.  I think many of us food photographers are aware of how fundamental the role of the backdrop is in our image - it can totally make or break it!  So this can be a really fun way of elevating your shoot, whilst enabling you to have even more control of the outcome when it comes to communicating your vision.  I started making my own photography backdrops during my good old university years back in 2009 when, aside from prop houses, it felt like there were so little resources for food photography around.  But long gone are the days spent trawling the Internet and diving into skips (yes, really) searching for something that could resemble a backdrop - today we are spoilt for choice!  Now I use a mixture of hand painted wooden boards (bespoke commissions or rental), vinyl or canvas roll ups, linen, kitchen tiles, and wood from reclamation yards.  But whilst I love taking advantage of all the fabulous photography backdrops and surfaces available today, I still find that nothing can quite beat that satisfying feeling of crafting every element of my image from start to finish, knowing I'm creating something totally unique.  I always find the final result of these shots to be the most rewarding - a bit adding another layer to your own artwork!

In this step-by-step guide I’ll start with the simple but effective textured and painted wooden board, but you can go on to experiment with all kinds of materials - my latest creation was with plaster (see pink backdrop below).

You can find all the materials in a DIY store like B&Q or Homebase (or you can cheat like me and steal them from your dad’s van).

You will need:

60 x 90cm plywood board, at least 12mm thick to avoid bending (or use MDF for a smooth rather than textured surface• Matt emulsn

  • 2 or 3 paint sample pots (generally a few shades of 1 colour works best - I use Valspar Interior Matt.  You can get your paints mixed in store and I find this very excing)
  • 1 large paibrush
  • Fillg knife
  • Sponges, i.e. washing-up sponge/ natural sea sponge/ anything that creates a good textured pattern - gecreative!
  • Clear matt finish protective finish spray for wood


1.  If you are messy like me, make sure you put newspaper down first underneath your board.  Start by using a filling knife to scrape emulsion over the surface of the board to create lots of texture.

2.  Once the emulsion is dry, paint one coat of emulsion over the top so the board is all white and prepped for the colour.

3.  Add some coloured paint from each pot to the middle of the surface and use your sponges to dab across the board.  This is where you can let go of all your perfectionist tendencies (I wish).  Don’t spend too long or overmix, to ensure you keep a variation in shade and contrast.

4.  Once the paint is dry, finish your backdrop by sealing the surface with the clear matt finish protective top coat (best done outside!) and leave to dry.

TIP:  I love utilising the whole board by going double-sided - just make sure you pair two colours that you wouldn’t want to use together for a surface and background in the same shot.  Grab some props and test the backdrop first by shooting with it - remember the camera will see it differently.  If it’s not working for you, or if you want to update an old design, just add 1 or 2 coats of white and repaint!

Do you have any tips or tricks you’d like to share?  Let me know in the comments below, and don’t forget to tag me in your creations @


- I'd love to see!

Elise Humphrey - food photographer - rhubarb hot cross bun and butter pudding on a painted yellow backdrop
Elise Humphrey - food photographer - bowls of mango passion fruit and lime rice pudding on a painted green backdrop
Elise Humphrey - food photographer - loaf of sourdough bread on a wooden chopping board with a pink plaster background
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