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How to choose a stage and event backdrop

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Event backdrop example

Deciding on the best stage or event backdrop can be quite overwhelming. There are a lot of different fabrics and finishes available that determine the overall look and feel of the backdrop curtain, but evidently the technical specs of the backdrop material and its sound and light masking properties matter as well.

Let's take a look at all the options we have when it comes to choosing the perfect backdrop:

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What is a backdrop?

The word backdrop refers to a large plain, printed or painted curtain hanging at the back of a stage or set. Originally used as a scenic element for theatres, backdrops now appear in all kinds of settings ranging from performances on stage to events, conferences, trade shows and more. Backdrop curtains are typically made from flame-retardant materials and sewn without fullness. They add depth to a stage and can turn a plain background into a lively scene when needed.

Ben Howard's theatre tour is a great example of a structured concert backdrop.

Why are backdrops used?

A standard theatrical backdrop can set the perfect tone when painted or printed with custom artwork, but it can just as well be plain black to create a full black box or infinity curtain on stage. Set designers use these flame-retardant backdrop drapes to simulate a very specific setting or mood.

Traditionally, canvas backdrops were painted with photographic scenes to create the illusion of another reality on stage. Some of these classic hand-painted backdrops are very well preserved and in mint condition. Take a look at this unique collection of hand-painted backdrops.

But it's not all about theatres. Event backdrops can now be branded with logos, custom designs and corporate identity details by means of large-format digital printing techniques.

They can be used to inform your audience, create a certain mood, draw attention to what's important or even mark off spaces to guide visitors in the right direction.

How to use backdrop curtains?

When deciding on what type of flame-retardant material to use for your next stage, event or studio backdrop, it is important to first determine where and how the drape will be used.

Plain black or colour?

A pleated black event backdrop

A pleated black event backdrop

If your goal is to create a background without any distracting elements, you need a light-absorbing black backdrop curtain to mimic the idea of infinity and hide all irrelevant items. Black backgrounds seem rather basic, but there is quite a lot to say about a functional black drape. Learn all there is to know about black masking drapes in our blog post black event drapes for professionals.

If your backdrop is intended to stand out and make a visual statement, then opt for one of the colourful cyclorama fabrics or print/paint your drape to match a specific PMS/RAL colour. You can even create a totally unique piece of branding by printing your stage or event backdrop with your custom-made artwork.

Indoor or outdoor?

There's a wide range of traditional backdrop fabrics available for indoor use only. These cotton, polyester or mixed fibre curtains are flame-retardant to international standards and will certainly stand the test of time when used indoors.

Outdoor backdrops, on the other hand, are typically made from polyester or PVC to be able to withstand moist without shrinking nor losing their flame retardancy. Festival stages or other open-air events might also require mesh backdrops to ensure wind permeability. Take a look at the overview of all outdoor backdrop materials.

Fixed or touring?

When taking a backdrop on tour, it must meet very different demands than those of backdrops for one-time use or for fixed installations. The ShowTex collection includes these kinds of backdrop fabrics that are foldable, crease-free, easy to transport and durable enough for touring (view our touring backdrops). There are even some wrinkle-free printed backdrops available that can be folded without damaging the print!

SeAmless or stitched?

When you’re planning on backlighting your scenic backdrop, it is better to opt for a wide and seamless material.

Frontlit backdrops, on the other hand, can benefit from the more economical seamed alternative.

It all depends on the final size of the stage backdrop, but there are quite some extra-wide backdrop materials available.

Backdrop light effects?

Textiles and lights are a match made in heaven. By opting for a backdrop fabric that beautifully reflects or spreads light evenly, you can create the most stunning effects on stage.

Some fabric backdrops can even be used as a genuine projection screen and serve as a perfect surface for video mapping.

Backdrop movement?

A moving object will always grab the audience’s attention. Bringing your backdrop in motion is thus a great way to add an element of surprise to a stage or event.

Use the Kabuki drop to suddenly make your backdrop curtain fall down, attach it to a roll-up to make it disappear completely or combine the backdrop with an innovative reveal system for the most amazing unveilings around.

Find out more about backdrop motion systems.

Types of stage and event backdrops

Standard fabric backdrops

A classic backdrop is made of extra-wide muslin, canvas or cotton and will work wonders as a cyclorama backdrop in studios and on stage. These materials provide a reliable surface for even light distribution and are perfect for creating a sky cyclorama, chromakey backdrops or for projecting images and lighting effects.

View our collection of muslin, canvas and cyclorama cloths

Painted backdrops

A painted backdrop behind The Jacksons, Netherlands © Claude Vanheye

Painted backdrop - Photo © Claude Vanheye

Theatrical stage backdrops and special scenery drapes can be hand-painted by a scenic artist with striking images and unique textures. Compared to printed fabrics, these painted backdrops are often heavier due to the thicker muslin or canvas base material, but they are blessed with an unrivalled charm that instantly adds visual interest to a piece.

Talk to us about the possibilities and our collection of paintable muslin backdrops.

Printed backdrops

Those looking for a picture-perfect and durable drape with crisp and detailed artwork should consider a digitally printed backdrop.

With the most modern of large-format printing techniques, your stage or event backdrop can be printed seamlessly up to 5 metres wide.

Make your choice from an extensive collection of polyester and PVC materials, indoor and outdoor fabrics or eco-friendly solutions, all with their own characteristics. On top of that, all ShowTex print fabrics are fire-rated according to the European standards.

Eager to get started? Find out more about printed backdrops.

3D backdrops or structured backdrops

From crushed silks and elegant string curtains to decorative gossamer, flexible moulding cloth and traditionally embossed velvets. Using textured fabrics, it's easy to create dazzling 3D backdrops.

These structured backdrop curtains add depth to a set and capture light beautifully, resulting in the most amazing backgrounds for stages and events.

Get to know the collection of textured backdrop materials.

Laser-cut backdrops

Laser-cut backdrops add depth, texture and character to your set.

This truly unique design method is used to cut out any design, pattern or shape with millimetre precision from almost any type of backdrop fabric. Choose laser-cut for a fully personalised stage backdrop, to dress your event or as a unique background for your studio. ShowTex can cut many different materials of virtually any length and up to 5 metres wide. Find out more about laser-cut fabrics.

LED backdrops

LED curtain for My Name is Michael, Netherlands & Belgium

LED curtain for © My Name is Michael

Sometimes a plain black backdrop is too ordinary and a custom-printed, painted or laser-cut drape too flashy. That's when stylish LED backdrops will do the trick.

Using ShowLED Classic star drops, you can create a realistic night sky and add sparkling constellations to any performance or event. You can even add a splash of colour using the dynamic ShowLED Chameleon LED backdrops or transform your background drape in a low-resolution video screen with the fully animated ShowLED Animation video curtain.

Projection screens

Front, rear and twin projection screens can just as well be used as a powerful stage backdrop for theatres and events.

ShowTex does not only produce the world’s largest PVC projection screens, but it also offers an ever-growing selection of alternative fabric projection surfaces that can fit any creative backdrop concept.

Want to learn more? View all our PVC projection backdrops or our fabric projection backdrops.

Check out our animated star backdrops!

How to hang a backdrop

Before deciding on the best system to hang your backdrop, it is important to know if it should be a temporary, touring or fixed solution.

AV Drop

This freestanding and modular backdrop system allows you to hang sleek stage backdrops and create temporary fabric walls in no time.

The modular system can easily be adjusted to any backdrop set up by combining the desired frames, fabric skins and screens.

As AV Drop is mainly designed for flat backdrops, it’s better to take a look at the EasyDrape pipe and drape solution should you want to install a backdrop in fullness.

Curtain rails

Permanent and more heavy-duty backdrops require a different kind of suspension.

There's a curtain track or complete rail system available for every weight of backdrop drape.

ShowTex also offers the latest technology in curtain motion systems for theatres and events, making it easy for you to get the backdrop moving. Find out about the different backdrop suspension options.

The ShowTex collection

Do you have an idea in mind for your next event or stage production?

Get in touch with us to discuss the possibilities or browse our full product range to see what we have to offer.

If you need more inspiration we invite you to view some of our projects.