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Painting a backdrop on a bedsheet

  • 1.  Painting a backdrop on a bedsheet

    Posted 06-28-2019 10:30
    Hello!

    I am producing a summer musical on a very tight budget.  We are planning on a full stage backdrop that we will paint.

    I'd like to use bedsheets as material to save money.  I wondered if anyone had any experience doing this?  Pros or cons?  Things to be aware of?  TIA.

    (Our stage is very small, so the backdrop would need only 3 king size flat sheets to cover it.  We probably could get away with only 2 sheets actually.  It is a stage in the basement of a church, so the heigh of the stage is approximately 8 feet, and the width is about 15 feet wide.)

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    Stacey Shanahan
    Program Director
    Theater Plus
    Marshfield MA
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  • 2.  RE: Painting a backdrop on a bedsheet

    Posted 06-28-2019 10:47
    As long as you make it look like it belongs in the world you're trying to create it should be fine.  I've seen things like this done before.  Be smart about how you piece it together and paint it (stylistically).

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    Joel King
    Woodstock GA
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  • 3.  RE: Painting a backdrop on a bedsheet

    Posted 06-28-2019 11:02
    Have you used paint on a bedsheet successfully?  That's what I'm curious about.  I'm really confident in the design we have.  I am hoping that I don't have to spend money on muslin, and can use cheap bedsheets instead.  I'm just not sure if they will hold the paint well enough.

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    Stacey Shanahan
    Program Director
    Theater Plus
    Marshfield MA
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  • 4.  RE: Painting a backdrop on a bedsheet

    Posted 06-28-2019 12:32

    I have not done this before, but I would encourage you to make a test segment, perhaps on a sheet from the thrift store?

    Most successful backdrops have been "sized" or prepped before painting. A glue and water mixture brushed on and thoroughly dried before the base coat of paint. This makes the fabric behave in a more homogeneous manner, and keeps the paint from bleeding through the fabric.

    Just a thought.

    ~Dave



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    David Simpson
    Performing Arts Center Manager
    East China Schools
    East China MI
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  • 5.  RE: Painting a backdrop on a bedsheet

    Posted 06-28-2019 14:07
    Depending on the bedsheet material, it should hold the paint okay. Some bedsheets are actually made of muslin, so it's basically the same material. However, the biggest problem you're going to have is shrinkage. There is a fair amount of material online about how to paint a theatre backdrop, including stretching it, sizing it, and applying a flame retardant. Just google "painting a theatre backdrop" and you'll find lots of info.

    You may also want to check the price on scenic muslin. it may not be more expensive than three bedsheets.

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    George F. Ledo
    Set designer
    www.setdesignandtech.wordpress.com
    www.georgefledo.net
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  • 6.  RE: Painting a backdrop on a bedsheet

    Posted 06-28-2019 19:47
    Hi Stacey,

    I successfully painted bedsheets for use as backdrops once long ago in a small, outdoor/traveling show. It does work on a cotton sheet that has been pre-washed and sized.
    I once found muslin that was 120" long for a low price per yard at a regular fabric store, which netted me more coverage with fewer seams for less than new cheap sheets.  But if you're getting bedsheets at the re-sale charity shops, the price may be unbeatable. Just look for a high percent of cotton (100%, ideally).  good luck!

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    Meg O'Connor
    oconnormainstage.com
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  • 7.  RE: Painting a backdrop on a bedsheet

    Posted 07-01-2019 18:13
    I did this once, too!! It was with some Boces Students and where we had to work was in a wall in a hallway on cement block. As I recall, we put some of that thin plastic up first and used 2" masking tape to tape each one to the wall. we did linework first. Drew in charcoal or chalk first, then dark lines in paint. (I chose images that had loose brushwork, like the oriental images...) then after that dried we put on color washes. We did not prep the surface in any way, so it did soak in, but it didn't matter. If you have some space you can put your images on acetate and project them on the surface to draw from. the students were thrilled by the result!

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    [Rachel] [Keebler]
    [Director, Owner]
    [Cobalt Studios]
    [White Lake] [NY]
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  • 8.  RE: Painting a backdrop on a bedsheet

    Posted 06-29-2019 11:15
    We have had great success doing something very similar with canvas drop cloths. I would actually recommend them over bed sheets because they are sturdier and won't move as much when you hang them. Also the paint won't bleed thru as much as they would on a sheet. Also drop cloths are only about $15-20 each and are larger than sheets so you get more area for your money. We have done this twice with great success

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    Lisa Singleterry
    Drama Director
    Gresham OR
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  • 9.  RE: Painting a backdrop on a bedsheet

    Posted 06-30-2019 20:18
    I have painted on muslin and sheets. Muslin is better and about the same price or cheaper than sheets. You can find it at fabric stores. Paint on smooth cement and tape the material down to the ground on all edges. Tape it down very well. There will be shrinkage, but the tape will help hold size and shape. Sheets will bleed color more than muslin and should be taped and given a primer coat to help avoid the bleed situation.


    Break a leg and may all your theatre seats be filled




  • 10.  RE: Painting a backdrop on a bedsheet

    Posted 07-02-2019 13:08
    Yes to muslin!  We took over a driveway out back of our theatre to paint the backdrop for Brigadoon years ago.  We laid down inexpensive plastic drop cloths, then laid the muslin over them, putting concrete blocks along the edges.  Ours was 15' by 40'.  I hope yours is smaller.

    We used really diluted scenic paint sprayed on with regular garden sprayers that you pump up.  Really fast.  Lots of fun.  Don't let the price of scenic paint keep you from buying it.  By the time you dilute it, the cost isn't significant.  We bought primary colors and mixed the colors we needed.  Spraying allows you to layer on colors, rather than having huge blocks of one color.

    I strongly advise against using latex paint.  First, the stuff is heavy!  Second, it isn't as pretty. And last, if you succumb to the notion of using latex left from someone's home painting job, you will gum up your sprayers in a nanosecond.

    Have fun!



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    C. J. Breland
    Asheville High School
    Asheville NC
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  • 11.  RE: Painting a backdrop on a bedsheet

    Posted 07-01-2019 14:20
    We found that it bled too much.  Primmer 1st.  We ended up using a drop cloth from Home Depot.

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    Scott Bier
    Whittier, CA

    "Your fear of looking stupid is holding you back."
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  • 12.  RE: Painting a backdrop on a bedsheet

    Posted 07-03-2019 14:18
    Stacey -

    You would be well served to purchase muslin.  Since your drop is relatively small (roughly 8' x 15')  you can purchase the raw material from a scenic supplier. Heavy Natural 108" wide muslin is $7.95 a yard from BMI Supply.  A single piece will save you time and the Heavyweight muslin is easy to work with.  Here is a link to that page https://shop.bmisupply.com/ProductDetail/0101HWNT108_Nfr-Heavy-Natural-108-Muslin--Cut-Yardage

    Good Luck with your drop.

    Don

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    Don Keith
    Set Designer | Partner
    The KEILIN Group | KL two
    300 north pottstown pike, suite 140
    exton, PA 19341
    o: 610.873.2506
    www.keilingroup.com
    www.kltwo.com
    don@keilingroup.com
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  • 13.  RE: Painting a backdrop on a bedsheet

    Posted 07-05-2019 11:04
    Our local Joann's Fabric had muslin that was double-folded on the bolt, easily 8' wide when I opened it up.  It was fairly lightweight, but would definitely work if you go with the spraying method of painting.

    I order large quantities of muslin from Rose Brand, but the cutting cost for short lengths is pretty large.  I have the app with Joann's coupons, which can offer substantial savings on just one piece of fabric.

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    C. J. Breland
    Asheville High School
    Asheville NC
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