View Full Version : Flexible theater backdrops

Prashun Patel
01-29-2018, 10:27 AM
I have a school project that requires painting theater backdrops on curtains that can be strung across a rod (on rings), shower curtain style.

I'm not sure what material to use for the screen. My fear with muslin is that it will tighten and firm up with paint, thus causing cracking when the scenes are collapsed.

Any thoughts on techniques or the right paint or the right material to use?

Thanks in advance.

Mel Fulks
01-29-2018, 10:47 AM
I would use cotton duck from a fabric store and acrylic paint. Using a commercial drop cloth might save you from having to do some sewing. I think the duck is usually 54 inches wide.

Jamie Buxton
01-29-2018, 10:52 AM
A thick paint layer will be less flexible, and might crack. Can you spray and airbrush the scene?
I do have work clothes with paint on them which has survived many wash cycles, so that's encouraging.

Karl Andersson
01-29-2018, 3:26 PM
about 20 years ago I made several theatrical backdrops 57 feet wide. I used muslin from a theatrical supply shop because I could get it in seamless lengths and they had a running pocket 'hem' sewn in the top for a support pole. At that time, they were pretty inexpensive. I painted the scenery with the cheapest latex interior house paint I could find at Home Depot, thinned 10% with water so it would soak in and not build on the surface. They were only used 2-3 times each, though, so I don't know how they would stand up to a full theater season - but they didn't crack when folded and stuffed into the bed of my pickup when I delivered and hung them. The scenes were hand-painted with brushes and rollers on a floor over plastic dropcloths, then when tacky we lifted the tops about 6 feet and left them overnight so they would dry without sticking to the plastic. I think as long as the paint is "in" the fabric, it won't flake off - and if it cracks, the fabric will be the same color anyways. On mine, most of the fabric texture still showed, so it wasn't like a textured oil painting.
good luck,

Myk Rian
01-30-2018, 9:29 PM
Painters drop cloths. We use them for our stage productions. We sew several of them together, which can be a job if someone isn't using a GOOD sewing machine. Our stage is 64' wide and 30' tall, so it does require several cloths. YMMV.
Latex paint is all you need, but airbrush will keep the weight down.

Caution. If you paint the drop on a floor, put plastic under it. I'll give you one guess as to why.

Chuck Saunders
01-31-2018, 8:36 AM
Muslin will work just fine. I worked in the theatre and that is all we used. They will handle curtain rods, traveler track and folding and unfolding many times. You are not (should not) laying down a heavy coat like sealing a house. The paint is more pigment less binder because it is the color you want not the protection. Thin your paint and you will be fine. There will be some stiffness but not that bad.

Prashun Patel
01-31-2018, 8:49 AM
Really great feedback. Thank you. The muslin arrived today. Appreciate your experiences.

Myk Rian
01-31-2018, 10:27 AM
Good luck. Post a pic when finished.