ShowTex is a worldwide leader in inventing, manufacturing and installing innovative flame retardant fabrics, tracks and motion control systems for achieving the creative vision of theatre, event and entertainment professionals.
It seems like something very basic. Black event drapes. But there’s quite a lot to say about functional black curtains to hide ballroom or exhibition centre walls, to make dressing room partitions or to mask your stage lighting and performers. Here are some tips and tricks every event professional should know when it comes to black event drapes and backdrops.
Although it sounds like kicking in an open door, quite some event organizers around the world still don't consider flame-retardant fabrics a priority. Often it is the venue that does not insist on documentation, the end user who is pushing down the price or maybe the local fire marshals do not check smaller scale one-off events in your location. But as an event professional, it is your responsibility to ensure the safety of your guests.
Whenever you are covering the walls with fabrics, make sure they are flame retardant with proper certification. In case something happens, which unfortunately still does far too often, the responsibilities are clear and no finger will be pointed in your direction for not having made the right decision.
Read all about flame retardant standards in our blog post.
The advantage of using drapes in fullness (pleated) is that all imperfections are hidden. The pleats will not only hide any wrinkles or creases, but also the seam lines of the fabric and the overlap.
It is very hard to achieve a perfectly flat wall when hanging drapes without pleats off of a bar or truss, no matter how perfect the drape is made. Certainly when using rental drapes which can have some wrinkles and creases in them already. On top of that, you will have a visible overlap and seam lines when hanging drapes flat as rental drapes have standard sizes.
Make sure to be aware of the look and feel when specifying flat drapes. If the drapes are backstage and functional, it might not matter too much as black drapes are quite forgiving. When your audience is a few metres away, it might also not be that disturbing. However, when choosing colours like red or white, these imperfections will be clearly visible and could be noticed by the end user.
If you really would like to have a perfectly flat black wall, have a look at our special tensioning systems such as Studio Weights or AV Drop, made specifically to tighten black fabrics. The result will be perfect with no visible creases or wrinkles in your black backdrop.
Whenever you decide to hang your drapes on a truss, please allow for the installation team to install them on the ground and hoist the truss into position after the drapes are tied. This will save you a lot of time and therefore money.
You never have enough black fabric on a big job, so allow for a 50cm overlap on each drape and calculate 5 to 10% spare drapes to be sure!
There are a few characteristics a good-quality black event drape needs to have. As mentioned above, it needs to be FR but it should also be opaque to mask stage lights and have limited transparency. When there are guests on both sides of the curtain, they should not be able to see each other. Therefore, the material needs some weight. 300 grams/sqm is considered the minimum for event drapes, but ShowTex can offer much heavier materials.
The fabric should also be matt, not shiny. Shiny material bounces off the light and makes drapes more visible. This is the exact opposite of what we are trying to achieve when masking off areas.
The colour should be as close to true black as possible. As we want a neutral drape, it cannot be grey or even blue-ish as this will draw the attention away from the elements we want to focus on.
Wool serge is considered to be a good rental drape fabric. The advantage of wool serge is that it is matt black and it has a certain weight to it, making the drape hang nice and flat. Keep in mind that this material is rather fluffy and thus can spread small hair particles. It also picks up dirt quite easily.
Pay attention to the total weight of a wool serge drape when it is more than 6 metres high, especially when used in fullness. Also note that the fabric is about 150cm wide, so decent size drapes will surely have a certain amount of seams.
ShowTex also offers rental drapes in black Molton. This is a cost-effective material that is relatively lightweight, making it easier to install, especially when drapes are very tall.
Even though Molton is lightweight, the fabric is relatively opaque and masks light very well. The material is 300cm wide, double the width of wool serge, which makes for fewer seams, shorter lead times and lower confection costs.
Are you looking for a lush and rich feel? Then you should consider ShowTex velvet drapes. Both Wool Serge and Molton are natural materials but it is also possible to opt for drapes made from cost-effective synthetic velvet. They are inherently flame retardant (IFR), meaning they will stay FR even if the drape becomes wet or after it is cleaned. Synthetic velvet has an excellent durability and a much longer lifespan than Molton or Wool Serge.
When using velvet, you instantly add a rich and luxurious feel to your event. Because of the weight of the velvet, the drape will hang beautifully and the thickness of the material enhances the acoustic characteristics of the drape.
As ShowTex never stops innovating, we came up with the unique 2-meter wide synthetic velvet Velours Delta. As the widest velvets available today (most are only 140cm wide), they are especially invented for rental curtains. This means the material is very crease-resistant and even after multiple events, they will still look brand new.
Besides the fabric-tensioning systems we discussed earlier, ShowTex offers the flexible EasyDrape system. This unique drape system allows event professionals to set up temporary fabric walls, up to 5 metres high, very fast.
The fabric can be attached with hook and loop fastener to the drape support for easy setup and disassembly. The height of the stands can be adjusted to perfectly fit the venue and curtains can be installed on one or both sides. EasyDrape is mainly designed for fabrics in fullness, so should you want to install a flat fabric wall, it’s better to look at our Studio Weights or AV Drop systems.
Installing black event drapes will have an acoustic effect on the venue. The sound reverberation will improve significantly, meaning you will have better speech intelligibility and less echo, especially in big public venues. This will make sure the venue feels more intimate and inviting for the guests.
You could even use black draping as a room divider and reduce the sound transmission between the different parts of a venue. The result will be significantly better when using wool serge or velvet drapes in heavy pleating (up to 200%).
When acoustic insulation is required, consider placing Acoustic Baffles between your event drapes to significantly reduce the sound transmission. You could even consider having different functions in a single event space!
Choosing event drapes will significantly reduce the carbon footprint of your event, when compared to other types of decoration such as woodwork or printing. Rental curtains have probably already served in previous events and will continue to live a long life even after your event is finished.
Wool serge is fully recyclable, cradle-to-cradle, so the material will not just go to waste. When manufacturing the material, we already take the end of life of the fabric into consideration. ShowTex is constantly working on environmentally sustainable systems where drapes and used fabric are reused long after the event is finished. Old event drapes are shredded and their remains are used in fillings, for instance for acoustic products such as our Acoustic Baffle.