DIY Faux Wood Photo Surface

DIY faux wood surface in brown and turquois. Made from foam board and acrulic paint for under $5.I’m going a little bit bonkers right now.

Just a little.

Clipping, editing, and arranging so many photos has me kind of jumping out of my skin.

I don’t do process photos.

This is why:


I don’t have any disposable patience. My kids get the entire allotment.

You know I paint?

I can paint realism.

I just don’t.

Because when I do I feel like my cells are trying to crawl out of my pores.

I get all itchy and antsy and want to scream.

I don’t have the patience for minutiae.

Aaaaand so it is with these process photos.

Have I ever mentioned I am also a procrastinator?

Mmmm. Yessss I am. . . . .

That’s why this post should have been up about 4 days ago, but it’s up today instead.

Because last Thursday, when I had intended to start working on it, I started reading The Kitchen House instead.

No regrets.

Sniff, sniff, tear.

That book goes on the most-loved list.

I finished it on Saturday, but then we had a date night, and drinks, and thus a cocktail induced mind-fog on Sunday, and a family dinner shindig, so no such thing as blog progress on Sunday.

Then, well, once again – big surprise – germs seem to love our house, so we’re dealing with a bout of sickness again.

Buuuut. Here I am. Today. Finally.

The faux wood surface.DIY faux wood surface

For under $5.

It’s all yours, Baby.

Oh! and let me tell you – this is version #1 – I have another one to show you – but I just.


do it right now.

Give me some time to recover, then I’ll show you version #2.

So the faux blue wood surface –

Here’s how you do it:

Faux wood surface - step 1,

Getch yesself some foam board – I found Elmer’s brand in packs of 3 at Michael’s. (16″x20″x3/16″)

DIY faux wood surface - measure

Measure and mark incriments 4″ apart, and pencil in your lines. This is how we begin creating the illusion of 4″ boards.

DIY faux wood surface - score

Holding your straight edge ruler firmly to the board, line the dull side of a butter knife up with your pencil lines and use the ruler as a guide as you “score” the surface of the foam. Don’t press all the way through the board, only break the top surface.

Find a small, strong, square box - I used a large jewelry box. Press along your scored lines to create a beveled edge.

Find a small, strong, square box – I used a large jewelry box. Press along your scored lines to create a beveled edge.

DIY faux wood surface 5

This is what you should have. A white surface with beveled lines, 4″ apart.

DIY faux wood surface 6

Use various objects – bowls, cups, wooden dowels, toothpicks, etc. to press into and onto the surface to create bumps, lines, and knicks.

DIY faux wood surface 7

Paint the first layer of color. You can use any kind of cheap-ish acrylic paint here – like the $.99 bottles at the craft store. Choose colors that resemble wood – dark or light, stained or raw. I chose dark brownish red tones. A rough-bristle brush works well here – to give the illusion of wood grain, but don’t sweat it if you don’t have it. Any brush will suffice.

Brown undertone layer completed.

Here is your brown udertone layer. Let dry completely. This may take up to an hour. Make sure none of the paint is tacky, and if it feels cool to the touch, it’s still not dry.

Choose colors for your second layer. I chose blue-ish turquoise colors. The amount of paint shown here was too much. Scale it back a little when you do it.

Choose colors for your second layer. I chose blue-ish turquoise colors. The amount of paint shown here was too much. Scale it back a little when you do it.

DIY faux wood surface 10

I had too much paint on this layer. Don’t wipe! Just lay a paper towel over areas with too much paint, gently press, then peel away to remove the extra paint. If you look closely, you can see the pattern from my paper towels. This could be an interesting texture to leave if you like. After you remove the excess paint, brush again to smooth it out.

DIY faux wood surface 11

I like me a little gold shimmer, and I happened to have it around. Now’s the time to do it. Just add a little, and gently brush to blend it in.

Weather your wood while the paint is still damp. Here, I used a wooden skewer and pressed it in by rubbing it with a plastic cup. This left a visual line, but also a slight indent.

Weather your “wood” while the paint is still damp. Here, I used a wooden skewer and pressed it in by rubbing it with a plastic cup. This left a visual line, but also a slight indent.

DIY faux wood surface 12

I used the tip of my gold paint dispenser to remove some paint by dragging it along the wet surface. This exposes the brown-ish underlayer.

And here you have your completed faux wood surface. *

And here you have your completed faux wood surface. *

Zucchini Pizza Salad; zucchini, mozzarella, olives, pepperoni, salami, homemade vinaigrette, sourdough croutons, olives, red bell pepper

Isn’t it pretty?? The perfect backdrop for this Zucchini Pizza Salad. . . and much more!

*Ok – so one of my special notes – from the second to last picture – if you want to expose more of your underlayer, wait until your second layer is completely dry. You may want to give it a couple hours to be sure. Then, you can take some fine sandpaper and brush it, ever so lightly, until you reveal portions of the layer underneath. When you are done sanding, take your board outside and blow off the dry paint dust, then take a very slightly dampened paper towel and wipe the powdery residue off your board.

These boards, upon drying, do warp a litte bit. They will bow slightly. I am experimenting with storing them with something large and flat on top of them to see if that helps with the distortion. However – they still work well as backdrops. You can’t see the bowing of the foam in your photos.

Voila, photo-shooting foodie friends. Here is your budget solution for creative and cheap backdrops!

33 thoughts on “DIY Faux Wood Photo Surface

  1. This is amazing! It turned out so beautifully and looks great in the pictures. I made a wooden backdrop a few months ago with scrap wood, but it is so heavy and takes up a lot of space. I’m definitely going to have to try making one in another color with this tutorial. Thanks so much for sharing!

    • I know, right? I don’t have room to store big heavy pieces of wood, AND they’re hard to find for any kind of reasonable price. This project was so quick and easy – nothing wrong with a little instant gratification!

  2. Um, this is so very clever! When I saw the preview, I could have sworn it was real wood–I don’t know why I ever bother with that still. Well done my friend.

  3. Pingback: Faux Wood Photo Backdrop DIY Tutorial | Things To Do Yourself - DIY

  4. Bowing is usually a result of painting only one side of a flat surface. The paint contracts as it dries and if the paint is “stronger” than the surface it’s on, you get a warp or bow as it pulls inward. The simplest solution for painting foam core is to paint the same number of coats on each side. Bonus: you can have the same effect with two different colors. I think this would look lovely with an old-barn tone of red, or a yellow. Happy painting!

    • Erin – thank you SO much for this tip!! I’m totally going to put it to use. And yes, painting the other side gives us double the options!! I think I wouldn’t do “boards” though – I’d worry that the scoring would bust right through to the other side, but there are so many things that can be done with just a smooth surface. Mmmmm. . . . the wheels are turning. Thanks again!!

  5. This is so cool! I’ve never thought of something like this. I’ve been wanting to make some backdrops though, so I might have to try it. And I feel your pain. Making step-by-step instructions really stinks sometimes (well, most of the time). But you did a really good job. I wonder about using bead-board cut into panels for the background instead of foam board…do they have bead-board that is wide strips rather than skinny that would work? I can’t remember.

  6. You know, I went on the search for bead board before I came up with this. I only found really long narrow strips, and I don’t have a way to cut it or to attach them together to make a nice wide surface. . . . This was the brain child borne of that conundrum!

  7. I found my way here from Muddy Boot Dreams. Love this idea. During the nice weather I use my deck as a backdrop for photos but over the winter, especially this really long and cold one we have been having, that doesn’t work. Great idea, thanks so much for sharing it.

  8. Hi Sara,
    First of all, thank you! This is an amazing idea!
    I had been looking for some wood surfaces for my blog and stumbled upon this post of yours. Sheer Brilliance!! and Erin’s suggestion of painting the rear side, Brilliance again!
    I finished making this about 2 weeks ago and was waiting for a couple of posts before I could tell you if they would photograph well. I have posted 3 recipes using these boards as background and they are stunning (I am still learning photography but they are stunning for me:P)
    I can email you the pictures or you can visit my blog. I cannot thank you enough! You are the best!

    • Wow! I’m so glad they worked well for you. I can’t wait to see them. I’ll pop over to check them out in a little bit!

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