How to make Sue Bryce style foam core boards

If you have ever wondered if the Sue Bryce style “v-flats” or foam core backdrops are worth making, I can say Yes, Yes, 100 times Yes.

A few warnings – those insulation boards are bigger than they look. They’re super cheap and you can find them in the building section of any Lowes or Home Depot.  Make sure to get a flatbed cart before you pick them off the wall.  They’re super light, but REALLY awkward to carry down the aisles.

In CA, they were less than $11 each.  I bought three – 2 to paint double sided (one dark and one light) and one as a reflector.

They come with a peel off layer on both sides and honestly, that’s the hardest part of the whole process.  (After you pay a friend with a truck to meet you in the parking lot to follow you home because they didn’t fit in even the mini-van).  My daughter loved the peeling so I gave her the job.  Side note: sometimes it comes off in a long, glorious piece and other times it comes off in tiny shreds.  Patience, grasshoppah, I promise the end result is worth it.

 Exhibit A – the peeling of the foil

Once you get the foil off, don’t be silly like me and try to paint them leaning on something.  Just lay them flat and roll away.  I did that for the second coat and it was a difference of a 10 minute job and a 30 minute job.

Paint Colors – Sue uses a couple different ones, but since I wanted a couple of all purpose colors to start with  – I decided to go with Valspar Interior Flat in Empire 6003-2B.  It’s a dark sagey-brown that reads pretty cool in camera.  I like it.  I will probably go darker with my next round of boards.  Once I find that perfectly lit studio space in which to store these and they’re not leaning up in my front entry way.

The back will be painted a pale, cool blue – same Valspar Flat in Dewdrop 4006-7A.  I bought 1 qt of each color, but with 2 solid coats, I needed to get a second.  So go with 2 qts of each color and you’ll have some left over.

The paint gal thought that I should go with a low mat roller so that it didn’t leave marks, but honestly, I think it would have been better with a higher mat (thicker fuzzies) to get into the little holes that the styrofoam naturally has.  By the way, if you are sqeamish about sounds, get over it quick – you’re going to hear that weird styro scrape over and over again.  Think chalkboard, but plastic-y.

It took 2 solid coats of the paint to cover.  I was really impressed with the Valspar.  Don’t try to save a few bucks and go with a lower quality paint – you’ll end up needing more and spending more time and honestly, the price for these finished is so great for what they can do – go ahead and splurge a little on the paint.

Make sure you get a couple roller heads and disposable trays.  And rubber/latex gloves.

Exhibit B – ahhh, that’s such a fun sound…sticky paint doing it’s business

This next step may have actually been avoidable with a different roller head, but since the paint color was dark, I wanted to save my sanity in post processing of finding tiny, white dots on the backdrop.  So I grabbed a little art brush from my 4 year and pushed extra paint in any obvious holes.

A bit time consuming, but better to spend the time on the front end than on the back.


And that’s it.  Once the first coat dried (and it was pretty fast), I did a second coat and called it a day.  The nice thing about using interior paint is that it’s not stinky as it’s drying.  We live in a windy part of the desert, so instead of painting over stuck on dust and twigs, I let them dry inside.

That’s it.  They’re super simple and I can’t wait to use them!!

Let me know what paint colors you used if you’ve done these.  I’m curious for my next round. Comment with brand and color please.

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