Shuttergrub: How to Paint Faux Finishes for Food Photography Backgrounds

July 16, 2018

When people think of taking good food pictures, two things are usually considered, the food itself and the plate. While both are important, there’s one other thing people always overlook—the backgrounds and surfaces. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that the background and surface are more important than the plate because like the sky looming over a landscape, it’s the biggest factor in defining the overall mood of the photo.

Most of the time, I get my surfaces from junk shops and random dirty streets to look for termite-ravaged wood because it tends to have the most character. But sometimes, it’s also fun to make your own. Here’s a simple tutorial to get you started.

What you’ll be doing today is that dirty blue background behind those eggs. This is cheap, easy and definitely doable for your personal food photography projects.

Here’s a list of materials:

  1. Acrylic paint
  2. Foam board
  3. Chopsticks
  4. Paint mixing bucket
  5. Scrap papers


  1. Mix your paint: For this finish we’ll be stacking thin layers of paint so some parts may look lighter than the others. When mixing your paint, remember to test it out on a scrap paper every now and then to make sure you’re getting the color you want. I prefer to use acrylic paint because it is easier to mix and sticks well on most surfaces. You can also get acrylic in small tubes or jars unlike water based latex paint that only sells by the gallon.
  2. Practice painting with the chopsticks on a scrap paper: You will be painting with the 1-inch end of the chopsticks. Dip the chopsticks on the paint bucket, hold it horizontally on the scrap paper and scatter the paint in a vertical upward-downward motion. You are supposed to be creating a pattern similar to the one on the scratch paper above(lower left picture). Make sure to use disposable wooden chopsticks as it adds more texture to the paint strokes.
  3. Paint on the Foam Board: Once you’ve got the hang of the painting technique, start on the actual foam board. Feel free to repaint areas where the paint has dried to get a darker finish.

All photos were taken using a Samsung Galaxy Note 2, a smartphone with a stunning camera. Globe gave me a unit, so as a thank you, I’m demanding you to get it from them! Also, add me up on Twitter and Instagram for updates! If you want to learn food photography, I’m teaching over at 50 feasts.

Shuttergrub is Mylene Chung’s weekly food photography and prop styling column in Here, you’ll find food photography and prop styling tips, inspirations and other cool, related stuff. See you around!

Mylene Chung Mylene Chung

Mylene Chung is a food photographer and prop stylist for and PhotoKitchen. She’s worked with companies like Resorts World Manila, Reader’s Digest Asia, Manila Peninsula and has been featured in several publications and tv shows. Over the course of her career, she has already gained a whopping 20 pounds, which she has been desperately trying to lose. For more updates from her, you can add her up on instagram @mylenechung.

13 comments in this post SHOW

13 responses to “Shuttergrub: How to Paint Faux Finishes for Food Photography Backgrounds”

  1. Woow! LIKE!! Been doing this a couple of times, but usually end up getting lucky to be able to produce a good one. this would really help me a lot! thanks mye!

  2. Terry says:

    Nice mye, you should consider a career change, you’ll have a wider pool and you’ll be more specialized to boot

  3. Oh lovely! More ideas for surfaces! Thanks for this, Mye! 😀

  4. Leah says:

    omaygad this is amazing. :3

  5. Anne says:

    I thought this was going to be a tutorial on how to create layers in PSD, but this is pretty cool and original.

  6. […] can do you one better. Not only will I tell you where Mylene finds her backgrounds, I’ll let her teach you how to make your […]

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