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How to Paint Muslin Backdrops

Things You'll Need:

  • 9-foot-square theatrical muslin sheet
  • Muslin theater flat
  • Gel medium
  • Latex acrylic house paints
  • Acrylic paints
  • Spray paints
  • Paint tarps
  • Paint pan
  • Paint roller with long handle
  • Paint brushes
  • Sponges
  • Rags
  • Stamps

Whether you are making a backdrop for a theatrical performance or for a photographer's studio, muslin fabric is one of the best and cheapest materials to use. Muslin-covered flats or large, 9-foot-square muslin sheets are available at theatrical supply houses and are very easy to paint. Because of the size of the backdrop sheets and flats, you will need a place with lots of room and where you are not worried about getting things dirty. Painting muslin backdrops is a messy project. A garage floor or even a lawn are good options.

Painting a Muslin Backdrop Sheet

Lay out a tarp to protect the floor from the paint that will bleed through the tarp. Lay out the muslin backdrop sheet on the tarp.

Mix your paint with gel medium. Two parts paint to one part gel medium is a good combination to allow the paint to stick to the muslin and still achieve flexibility. You can experiment to get the best combination for you.

Roll the base paint on the muslin backdrop sheet thinly using the paint roller with a long handle. Allow the paint to dry.

Mix smaller amounts of gel medium to more paints to add detail and mood to your muslin backdrop sheet, or experiment with acrylics, latex house paints and spray paint.

Apply paint with sponges, rags, brushes and stamps for varying effects. Pounce, rub, wrinkle and pat to create patterns on your muslin backdrop sheet.

Painting a Muslin Theater Flat Backdrop

Lay out a paint tarp to protect the floor and place the muslin flat backdrop on it.

Paint a base coat of latex acrylic house paint on the flat and allow it to dry. As the paint dries, the muslin will tighten and become quite firm. Repeat with another coat. Allow it to dry. The more coats you add the more seasoned the muslin flat backdrop will become.

Paint the muslin flat backdrop like a painter's canvas. Create scenery with whatever paint you have available.

Paint over the muslin theater flat backdrop in the same way to change the scenery for another performance.They can be used over and over again. Muslin flat backdrops are easy to store and are very lightweight.


Wood glue can be substituted for the gel medium.

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