DIY Food Photography Background for Instagram

A few months back, I got a tutorial from Jeremy and Adrian on food photography for Instagram. If you’re not following @foodgays, go do it right now. I’ll wait.

These guys are at the top of their game, and they have the social proof (50K followers) to prove it.

DIY Food Photography Background

They use various coloured backgrounds for their shots, some are lighter and some are darker, depending on the colour of the food and the mood they want to create.

I decided I would make some for myself, and as fate would have it, at that time I happened to be hanging out on Granville Island while my son took classes at Arts Umbrella.

While wandering around Railspur Alley one day, I noticed a box marked “FREE” out back of the Arts Club’s Theatre shop. Sticking out of that box were rectangular pieces of plywood of exactly the right size for a photography background. Score!

A quick trip to the dollar store and to Michaels (or Opus if you’re on Granville Island, anyway), and less than $20 later, you’ve got a couple of gorgeous backgrounds to showcase your #FoodPorn.


Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. Plywood, at least 2″x 3″
  2. Acrylic paints in various colours (for the lighter board, I used a sample of an interior paint that cost $5, and for the darker board, I used the blue and purple (acrylic, from Opus) from a previous project I had, and then bought a black acrylic paint from Michaels for $1.19).
  3. Sandpaper in various grits (you want a rougher grit (60) for the beginning and a finer grit (100) for finishing) $2.50
  4. Paintbrushes (I bought the disposable ones from the dollar store) $1.25

Total cost to me: $4.94!

How to do it:


Begin by sanding the plywood down on all edges. This is not just for esthetic reasons, but also so that you don’t get splinters. Nothing ruins a photography session like splinters! Start with the rougher grit sandpaper and go over all the edges thoroughly. Then do a good sand on the surface of the plywood as well, to get rid of any imperfections or paint or whatever might be on there. The boards I selected had some paint on them, I sanded some of it down, but I left most of it there, because I think it adds an interesting, dimensional element.



Wipe down the entire board with a damp cloth. This is to get rid of all the dust you just created from sanding it. Allow it to dry

Now you can begin to paint. The idea is to create several layers that all need to be slightly transparent, so if your paint has good coverage, you may want to thin it down a little with some water.

For the light board, I used two coats of the interior wall paint.


For the dark board, I started out with a coat of my lightest colour, the purple. Then I layered a coat of the dark blue over that, and finally, a coat of the black, allowing them to dry thoroughly in between coats.


Once everything is completely dry, you want to take your fine grit sandpaper and run it over the boards in random places, sanding down to the wood. The idea is to create a distressed look, that looks like paint is worn off in different places. You really want to create something that has interest and texture, and not something that looks like it’s freshly painted.

You could seal the whole thing with a coat of shellac if you wanted to. This would make the surface more “wipeable” in case you spill food on it. I chose not to do that, mostly because many shellacs are shiny, and I don’t want my background to glare.

That’s it!

If you try this DIY, please tweet or Instagram it and tag me in the photo @rebeccacoleman, because I’d love to see!

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