Recently I completed a set of studio headshots against a plain, black background. Afterward in the editing stage, I decided I wanted my subjects to definitely pop more.

After kicking myself for not utilizing more lights or a more engaging backdrop, I decided to create my own traditional-style backdrop in Photoshop that would help my clients stand out, and also give the photos more visual interest overall.

I was surprised at how easy it was. In fact, Photoshop provides a very powerful tool that makes this possible, and surprisingly easy.

Knowing how to do this is handy in a number of situations. Let’s go over the steps of how you can create your own traditional style backdrop in Photoshop.

Creating your own backdrop in Photoshop

1. In Photoshop, create a new document

Or, if you already have an existing file you would like to add your backdrop to, create a new layer that sits on top of your existing layers. Name this new layer “Backdrop.”

2. Select the background and foreground colors you want your backdrop to be

This will determine the colors your backdrop will have within it. For this post, I set my foreground color to a dark gray, and my background color to black. It doesn’t matter which order you set them in.

3. The main step: Go to Filter > Render > Clouds

Once you do this, you now have a cloud-like texture that also makes a great photography backdrop.


4. For added dramatic lighting effect (optional)

Go to Filter > Render > Lighting Effects and select the Point Light option. Set the intensity slider as desired.


If you would like the applied light to be a different color, select the small color box, and choose your color from the color picker. For this example, I chose a shade of blue, but you can choose whatever color you want.


When you’re done, press Return. And there you have it. A traditional, mottled-patterned background.


And if you want an even more dramatic effect, you can take this same layer through the process again. As before, you can go to Filter > Render > Lighting Effects, and go through the same steps.

Here is what the reprocessed backdrop looks like:


From there, it’s a matter of creating a Layer Mask on your Backdrop Layer and then masking a portion of it out, so that only your subject shows through.

For example, let’s look at a before and after of a super quick shot of a bowl of fruit I took in my living room:

Additional tips

Here are a few options for varying the appearance of your newly created backdrop:

  • If you want the mottled appearance to be less detailed, you can use the Free Transform tool (Option + T) to stretch it out larger across your image. Of course, do this within reason.
  • Another way to change the color of your background is to add a Hue Adjustment Layer to your Backdrop Layer. This will give you further control in adjusting or changing the hue of your backdrop layer.
  • If you want to save yourself a few steps in the future, save your background as its own file so that you can use it again in the future.

With about five minutes of work, I was able to create a custom background. For the occasional photo this is quite feasible. However, I generally wouldn’t recommend this technique if you have a large number of photo’s to edit, as 10 minutes can add up very, very quickly.

Still, this can be a handy skill to have in your arsenal when you need it!