Take your photography to another level with this DIY Food Photography Background – with texture, color and character for under $20!
NOTE: This is an image heavy post!
One of my favorite things about being a food blogger, besides the hours spent styling each photo, arranging and re-arranging everything on the board a million times, is the fact that I can paint my own boards. There’s something about playing with paint that’s just so satisfying, to see the splashes and drizzles, strokes and dabs amount to something much more than just a mess.
You can buy food photography props online and they’re all immensely gorgeous, but they’re also priced quite high. So I prefer to make my own. With a few supplies sourced from the nearest hardware store, it’s only a matter of a rather inspired Sunday afternoon.
I painted this blue one a couple of weeks ago and I am obsessed with it. Although, I have a feeling that I’ve been over-using it lately. I tend to do that – favor the newest toy!
Of course, I have no art background, so most of the time I have no clue what I’m doing, But this time, I asked my husband to take pictures of what I was doing, so that me and others could replicate it. Hope it helps! And here’s Vol.1 of the DIY Food Photography Background series.
I love the jagged look of the surface, like I’d taken a knife to it and went-a-slashing!
And this is how it looks from the side – it’s the bottom board, not the vertical one standing at the back.
Here’s how you can make it yourself!
You will need:
- 1 Plywood sheet – I buy the larger sheets measuring 48″x 24″, it gives me more surface to style the food on. If that seems too large, you can cut it in half to form two boards 24″x 24″. If it’s not sanded and smooth when you buy, you will need sandpaper to smooth down the surfaces. Thickness doesn’t matter, but I get the thinnest of the lot (5mm). Easier to store and lighter to carry.
- Paints – Paint type: Sample. Check your local hardware store to see if they sell paint in sample sizes (8 fl.oz / 237 ml). Home Depot sells samples for about $3.48 and they will last you several projects. Sheen: Matte. Always get matte paints for photography boards, otherwise you’ll see light bounce from the board itself, and it messes with shadows and colors. Colors used: Valspar Dutch licorice, BEHR Imperial Gray, BEHR Ultra Pure White.
- Paint brush – I use a 1″ chip brush, and it’s lasted me for about 9 projects, still going strong! Just remember to wash your brushes well and oil them a little to keep the brushes light and supple. Sound like too much work? Throw it out and replace after a couple of projects.
- Disposable plate – To use as a makeshift paint palette. I recycled a small Styrofoam plate I bought some herbs in.
- Drop Cloths – This can just be rags, newspapers or these plastic sheets that will ideally protect your work surface. (8 fl.oz / 237 ml)Working with paint, you can get carried away, and unless you don’t mind a little paint dripping or splashing here and there, cover up a large area with drop cloths. I worked on my carpeted apartment floor, and my security deposit was at stake!
- Sponge – You can either buy sea sponges or I just cut up the sponge part from a kitchen scrub. Niftier, but single use only. Don’t use generic plastic sponges, get ones with varying sized holes.
- Matte Varnish – To protect the paint, so you can spill food on the board without damaging or staining it.
- A few books or magazines – No matter how careful you are, some paint can drip over the sides, and if the board it sitting directly on the drop cloth, the paint runs under and stains the other side. To prevent this, place a few magazines or books, at the bottom of the boards to slightly elevate it from the drop cloth. This way, the underside is protected from accidental smearing.
- Gloves – Although the paint washes off with a little warm soapy water, I still prefer wearing gloves to make clean-up that much easier! Besides, rinsing paint from under my nails isn’t really the best part of my day!
Step 1: Paint the base.
Paint the board blue, a single coat is sufficient. Dilute the paint in a little water to make it more smoother to paint with.
Step 2: Paint alternating swatches of white and gray.
Since we’re trying to build up texture, keep the sample paint at full strength. Do not dilute.
Step 3: Smudge the swatches with blue and gray.
Wear disposable gloves. This part can get super messy! Wet the sponge and squeeze most of the excess. Pour a few spoons of blue and gray paint on your paint palette tray. Dip the sponge (keep separate sections of the sponge for each color) in paint and dab lightly and quickly on the board.
Alternate between the gray and blue, making sure you merge the two colors here and there to make it cohesive.
Step 4: Dribble blue paint.
Dip your paint brush directly in the blue paint jar, and drizzle on top of the board from a height. Let the paint pool in spots, and criss-cross the lines. This is the fun part. Run with it!
Step 5: Smudge the paint.
Wait for about a minute for the dribbled paint to start drying, but while it’s still wet, use the sponge and dab on the dribbles, smudging the blue outside the drizzled lines. You should still see the line hold up in a raised pattern (see below). Test on one line before working on the rest. And work quickly before the drizzles dry up completely.
I usually start drizzling on one end of the board and move my way down to the rest. By the time I’m done drizzling the board, the end I began with would have dried enough to begin smudging. Go from there and work your way down.
Note: While you’re smudging your way down the board, should you want the layers of paint beneath to peak through, dip the sponge in water to clean it a bit. Squeeze it dry, and dab on the wet paint to ‘lift’ the paint off, and this will reveal the bottom layer, creating a gradient of color on the board.
Repeat any of the above techniques, if desired, till the board looks to your satisfaction.
Step 6: Protect.
Once the board is completely dry (I leave mine overnight), spray or brush a matte varnish in an even layer to protect your photography board from food spills.