Using different backgrounds can make your photography stand out. In my 5 Ways to Improve Your Editorial Photography post, I mention using paint to create textured backgrounds. In this guide, we'll talk about what colours work well together and how to create textured backgrounds.
Let's Talk Colour
Colour theory is very important in understanding how colours interact with one another. Placing two colours against one another can either brighten or lower its intensity.
In my drawing class, we placed coloured paper on neutral backgrounds. The point of the exercise was to understand the interaction of colour. When we placed a blue square on a white background versus black, the blue square the looked brighter. When placed the same colour on a grey background compared to black, the blue looked duller on the grey. This exercise was an eye-opening and made me appreciate colour interaction.
Neutrals are your black, whites and greys. These tones are without saturated colour. Neutral colours can still have an undertone which is a lack of its saturated colour. A dulled down version of a blue would be considered a neutral.
How do we use neutral colours on a background? Well, using various tones and shades of a neutral on a wall can create texture and interest depending on the application. You can paint a wall with vertical stripes varying the tone of the neutral colour or apply it in small random strokes. Using these types of techniques can create interesting backdrops for your photography. We get into techniques later in this post.
A Punch of Colour
A punch of colour works well in tandem with neutral colours. Pick a neutral colour and pair it with a bright saturated colour, such as a red to make a wall stand out. Using a bright bold colour can add dynamic interest to the wall and can draw attention to a certain area. The trick here is to use the saturated colour sparingly. As you apply small amounts of the colour, step back from time to time to see how your creation is coming along. You can always add more paint later.
To understand the next few sections, we have to understand the colour wheel. Complementary colours are what the name implies, colours that complement one another. These complementary colours are directly opposite of the colour wheel.
For example, pick a colour you like, let's say blue. The complementary colour of blue on the colour wheel would be orange. Complementary colours are great to work with because they are pretty much guaranteed to work well together!
Split complementary colours are like complementary colours, but they add a third colour to the mix. To find your split complementary colour, pick a colour you like and look at the colour that is directly opposite of the colour wheel. The colours on the left and right of that opposite colour are your split complementary colours. If we picked green, the split complementary colours would be orange and purple.
Analogous colours are three colours next to each other on the colour wheel. For example, if we pick orange, then the other shades of orange in the colour wheel are analogous colours. We could also choose colours on the other side of the orange. This would mean red and purple are analogous colours to orange.
Triadic colours are three colours evenly spaced in the colour wheel. If you use saturated colours for this scheme, you can overwhelm a space depending on the technique. You could use less saturated colours with a punch of one colour to create visual interest on the wall.
Yes, it gets more complicated. Tetradic colours are four colours that are evenly spaced on the colour wheel. To find your colour scheme, envision a square or rectangle. Each end of the square or rectangle is your colours. Adding more colours in the mix can overwhelm a wall. You can use a Jackson Pollock technique to splatter colour paint on a black wall. This creates a very fun but grungy look to your photography studio.
Putting it All Together: Techniques
The Jackson Pollock
Be prepared to get messy with this technique. Plastic drop sheets are a must before you start working. Use what you have in your arsenal to create interesting splatter for your wall. To create smaller concentrated splatter, go close to the wall and use a smaller brush. Throwing paint will create bigger splatter. Experiment with distance and speed of throwing to create various sizes of splatter. The trick here is to have fun. The more you have fun the more interesting the splatter pattern.
This technique is quite simple and less messy for sure. Use various paint brush sizes and directions for strokes to create a dynamic background. Experiment with either neutrals or colours to create interesting patterns. Don't be afraid to layer on the paint and create thicker paint areas on the wall. This will create added texture to the wall.
Painter's tape is your friend. Start by laying out your stripes on the wall with the tape. Choose which areas will get a certain colour and start painting away. Allow the paint to dry for several hours before peeling the tape away. The video below gives you a step-by-step guide on how to create stripes on your walls.
Experiment with Texture and Techniques
Here is a simple video of other tools and techniques you can use to try various texture on your wall.
Well, there you have it. My how-to on wall painting techniques for your photography studio. Hope you found that helpful.
What techniques or tools have you tried? Comment below.