Cheapo Styling Tricks: Color Backgrounds

One of my favorite tricks is to use a simple foam-core board as a background. Set just far enough away from the subject, it will appear as a nice clean wall and cut out any clutter that is in the room (and in my studio, that can be quite a bit). Even better, several years ago I found these great poster-sized paint samples by Yolo at Seattle’s Ecohaus that have a bit of double sided tape on the back… perfect for attaching to a 2×3 sheet of foam board. Not only do they have a beautiful selection of colors, but the samples have texture to them, so they really look like a wall surface. And, they are only $5.99 each.

I’ve had a set of these for the past 4 years and used them extensively. A simple switch of a background color can make a huge difference in the feel of a shot.


My old sheets were starting to look a bit ratty, so I made a trip down to Ecohaus earlier this week and picked up 9 “new walls” for the studio… which all store away in the tiniest space between my cabinets. I’m in love with some of the new colors they are offering.


They work equally well beneath your subject.

Wallpaper would work great for this too! In fact, I’m particularly intrigued by the Madison & Grow papers. The samples are only $5, but I’m not sure how big they are.

PS: Something bizarro happened last time I upgraded WordPress and it deleted all of my categories… it’s going to take a little while, but I should have things recategorized in the next couple of weeks. And, I’ll be posting a new challenge for Flickr at the beginning of February.

  • creezy

    I’m using a conventional stretcher without canvas and do have a high potential beeing worlds craziest gift wrap paper-collector. ,-) It’s easy to cramp the paper (shouldn’t shine) on the stretcher with brackets.

  • Maria

    Great tips. I just found your blog, love it!

  • fresh365

    Such a great idea- thank you for the tips!

  • Simone (junglefrog)

    That is such a brilliant tip! I sooo need to get me some of those!

  • Jamie

    this is a GREAT idea! wonder if they would ship to the East Coast? I’ll have to hunt around my local craft stores. thanks for the trick :)

  • Artist

    It’s always amazing how much colors can change the mood of a picture. As being synesthete I live a life in colors. Synesthesia means that I see colors when I see words and numbers.I transform this in paintings of names and birthdays.

  • Ron Goldman

    Thanks for the info on these. Guess I need to head to the Portland store and look around. My backgrounds are in bad shape and due for replacement soon!


  • Fernando

    Great tip, thank you! Sometimes I use the backside of and old canvas for background, such warm textures that you can paint. Antique dealers are a bit astonished when I examine the back of the pictures, perhaps they consider it offensive :-)

  • Fernando

    PS: Obviously, I mean an old and shoddy picture :-)

  • Michael @

    What a timely tip for me! I’m headed over to Ecohaus tommorow to return some floor samples, will definitely score some of these.

  • The Culinary Chase

    Great idea!

  • Cristina of TeenieCakes

    Thank you for a great post and ideas! Really enjoy your blog.

  • Ed Schenk@ Detroit Eats

    Thanks for the posts. Photography and styling is one are I still struggle with on my blog.

  • Broderick

    Great ideas!! Thanks so much for the great tips, I think I’ll have to try out some of those yolo samples

  • donna good

    thanks for your tips. much appreciated! and great blog…

  • Minh

    That is clever!! Ugh I wish I had enough room in my house, and my windows don’t face the right way for that kind of sun light.

    I guess I could use my studio light.

    But this post is the best advice in a long time haha.

  • David

    Great idea using wallpaper.

  • kitchenbeard

    Great tip as always. Suggestions for storage? I’d imagine things like this get beaten up easily.

  • Megan @ FeastingonArt

    Oh my – what a fab idea!! I am going to set this up asap!! Thanks for the tip!

  • Stephanie – Wasabimon

    Thanks for this! I’m going to peek around and see if I can find these locally.

    And ack, WordPress fail. This is why I’m always afraid to upgrade…

  • Jenny

    That is such a great idea and so simple! Last weekend I went to the hardware store and got the foam board and some paint samples. I hope I’ll find the time for some test shots this week.

  • Erin

    I just spent a bunch of time looking at endless posts and links from your site. I wanted to thank you for sharing all of your wisdom. It is much appreciated by this enthusiastic newbie.
    Thank you.

  • Zahra

    Great tips!

    I think Im going to hit up Michaels and get some paper!

    Its amazing how different colors can set such different moods!

    I love your blog btw! I can so see myself going through older posts for the next hour 😉

  • kaleidescaper

    I love it! Thanks for sharing this simple but amazing tip!

  • DGrub

    It is so amazing how subtle color changes the entire picture. very helpful hint indeed. A related post is at . I would love to hear your comments on the post.

  • Marisa

    This is such a simple yet GREAT idea. Noted.

  • coolspider77


    I love how you used for background color, the color paper is very difficult to find where I live, can you give me the address to buy this materials online?. And one last question ….. What’s Material you use for white background ?(Under white flowers vase).

    Thank you so much n have a wonderful day . . .

  • jen

    brilliant. on my shopping list now, i also need a new foam board. i hate how they get ratty and dirty. i guess it’s expected when you’re working with food!

  • shabs

    Oh….thank u so much for taking ur time to post…how much i loved thsi post cant be expressed…..bought some wall paper samples for free and I am just loving it.

  • shabs

    Oh….thank u so much for taking ur time to post this article…how much i loved this post cant be expressed…..bought some wall paper samples for free and I am just loving it…..i loved the way u shoot the pictur eof how u lay stuffs for taking picture, it gives more clearer idea….BTW, i just wish if u had subsription option in ur site.

  • Cathy @ lolfoodie

    I just found your blog, and love love love the food styling/prop/photography posts! I did some searching around for these poster samples online and found that they are available at Home Depot as well, for those of you like me who don’t live near an ecohaus!

  • L’Amour

    The shots look great – nice side by side!!