Light Box and Backdrops

Landsknechts show off their mortar in the rolling hills of Italy.

Light Box and Backdrops: Backstage Pass

So I got a new small light box, which so far has been totally worth the $19 I paid for it. It came with  black and white "craft foam" back drops, but I wanted to see if I could build out more for my worlds. having made several backdrops for my other shots, I thought I'd give it a shot.
lightbox exterior. You can see the LED strip and boundary edges

I took another piece of craft foam and hit it with the paint. The trick to making these types of backdrops is fast and loose.  I paint down the sky first then bring the terrain up to match, using the same colors of paint I use for my bases and gaming mats. Then, like basing, I added course pumice gel with paint mixed for some texture on the foreground, and dry brushed it with cadmium yellow after it dried. 

Backdrop Materials- what works?

This is something I keep experimenting with, and am finding different results based upon the needs and requirements. Here's a few thoughts.

Support stand not included...

All paint here is done like watercolors.

Paper:  Paper, especially a quality paper like Rives BFK  comes in large sizes ( 30x 40 inches)  and costs under $10 per sheet. It's thick quality rag paper made to be rolled up and painted upon. I use this to make my larger backdrops that can be taken to conventions, and is great as the "hold it up" for any game shots.

Canvas:  Only slightly more expensive, canvas is also designed to be painted upon. This is what I use for my game mats, so the idea just translates to canvas very easily. Canvas can be rolled, folded, stuffed, etc and is very travel friendly. It is less stiff than paper, so needs to be supported when taking the shot. The nice part about canvas is that you can let it "roll down to make a smooth transition from sky to ground. Kind of the whole set up instead of just a backdrop.
Wasteland terrain backdrop that matches my game mat.
Canvas impromptu photoshoot.
  I actually like that you can see the texture of the canvas in some of the close up shots. It gives it a neat look.; not realistic, but painterly.

Foam:  Craft foam is cheap ($1 per sheet)  comes in a bajillion colors and is super easy to cut. I've found that it takes paint very well, although check the texture. I've gotten a slightly porous foam which is great for painting, and a smooth foam which is more resistant- or at least can leave brush strokes more readily.
Foam sheet textured and painted for the light box
Like the canvas it bends easily and can be transported. This is what I am currently using for my new light box. The limiting issue with craft foam is size, which standardizes in 12" x 18". Great for the single figure, but can be a challenge shooting units.

 Right- that's all for now. I am actually in the process of making more backdrops, including some "stage sets" to go with them. more soon.

In the mean time, I'd love to know what you do for backdrops, or have any suggestions on what more you'd like to see.



  1. Replies
    1. Say the word, herr Baron- I've three on the painting table right now

  2. Quite like this new backdrop, and agree that the use of backdrops can really elevate the picture. (helped of course by you being a much better painter than I)

    I made a little background for my Inq28 figures, and had some intentions to make a bigger one more suitable to handling whole gangs of figures, but never got around to it.

    1. LGP- Oh that's cool- love the alien tag on the wall. I've not gone full urban yet, but am working on a city piece for Mordheim/ historical.

    2. An urban piece would be great, either as a painting, or a "2.5d" hard surface board like the one I made.

  3. Outstanding photos...and superb first vignette!


    1. thanks Phil- that mortar is from my old warhammer days.