How-To: Faux Marble Backdrop/Surface
Updated: Jun 17
Part of the fun and challenge of food and product photography is making everything look really pretty. It is nice to be able to style things appropriately for the brand or item that you are photographing, depending on the message or feeling you (or the brand) are attempting to portray in your images. Having a really large assortment of backdrops and surfaces to choose from can get expensive really quickly...that's why I have made a lot of my own. One of my favorites is one that looks like a white/grey "Carrara" marble countertop. It is a classic look that lends itself to a light and bright image that can go well with virtually any subject you happen to be featuring.
Making this board will take a little bit of craftiness/diy spirit. But have no fear, I believe anyone can achieve a piece that they will be proud of and able to use for their backdrop and surface inventory. It is important to remember that we are creating the 'illusion' of marble. The board is not the focal point of our photos, it is there to help make the subject look it's best!
White/Grey Faux Marble Background
· 24”x36” whiteboard/chalkboard. These boards are available at both Lowes and Home Depot. The cost at Lowes was $6. The best features of this board are that you can make a surface on each side, so you really get two for one, and they are very sturdy, but at the same time, light and portable! I have to strongly recommend against using foam core, as when you paint on foam core, the moisture will cause it to warp and bend, making it unusable.
· Glazing liquid. This isn’t a must, however it does extend the working time/increases the drying time of your base coat significantly, giving you more time to work with blending.
· Acrylic craft paints: White, light grey, medium to dark grey, plus a small bowl of water
· A paint brush for application and blending of the paints
· A feather or a string to apply the “veining” that occurs in natural marble
· Matte finishing/protecting spray
· Paint the surface of the board with a coat of white paint. You won’t need a huge amount as this is just a light coat. Use the recommendations on the container if using glaze. It’s around a 3 to 4/1 ratio, glaze to paint. Rinse your brush well when finished and dry off as much as you can.
· In the bowl of water, add a little bit of grey paint and swish it around to mix it together. I use about a 1 or 2 /1 ratio, water to paint. It will be very loose and watery. Dip the paintbrush very lightly in the watercolor and proceed to lightly brush the diluted color onto the board in random diagonal/large triangular patterns. (Be sure to not completely saturate your brush – it’s almost more of a dry-brush technique). Where these areas overlap will be where the veins of the marble will form, mimicking the patterns of natural marble.
· Using your brush, continue to blend the paint so that it is “cloud like” and soft looking. Keep in mind, you do not have to cover the entire board, as natural marble is varied and imperfect. Also, try to keep your brush on the dryer side by wiping it on paper towels occasionally. You can always add color/intensity, but it’s hard to take it away.
· Step back and take a look to see where you think you may want or need to add some paint and continue to blend. Don’t worry if you mess up or don’t like what an area looks like – it is, after all, just paint! Just wait for that to dry and go over it with some more paint and blend it out.
· Once you get it the way you want, it is time to apply the veining. A little goes a long way with this. I like to use some white and the darkest grey for the veins. I put a little water in a small bowl to vary the intensity of the paint that is applied with the feather. Dampen the feather (or string) and drag through the paint. It is a good idea to practice this step on some cardboard and get an idea of what works for you.
· With a light touch, drag the feather across the surface along the lines where you blended the grey and white, twisting and turning the feather to vary the way it moves and deposits the paint. With your brush, lightly blend some of the lines a bit to vary the intensity. When you look at real marble, notice that the veining is defined in some places and much softer in others.
· When you are pleased with how it looks, allow it to dry completely (remember if you used a glazing liquid with your paint for the base coat, it will take longer to dry completely) and spray with a matte finish protective spray. Two to three light coats are better than one heavy coat.
· Remember that marble is a natural product and no two pieces look the same. Also, keep in mind you are creating the illusion of marble and will not be the focal point of the image – just a “supporting character” in your story. Linens and placement of the subject in your frame can camouflage any flaws or imperfections you feel detract from your board.
*** Keep in mind this board, when complete, is not moisture proof – I suggest being careful not to use wet or staining substances on it.
The first video is a time-lapse of me going through the process of making a faux marble board. I hope it gives you a good overview of my process and just how "non-perfect" the whole process is. Don't be intimidated! Just jump right in and go for it!
This video is a quick overview of a few of the points that I talked about in the time-lapse video. I hope this is helpful as well.
Good luck and please contact me if you have any questions at all! I'm happy to help!
Here are a couple of color variations, just to give you an idea that you can go with any color combo that you would like to have in your inventory!
And finally, here are a couple photos of the boards in use. One has a bright and airy feeling and one has a much more rich, moody vibe to it.