Event Photo Backdrop


Every year for the last three years I have helped at an event for this organization that I support, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Greater Chicago. They put on Chicago’s largest mental health walk, NAMIWalks Chicago. [Short PSA- 1 in 4 Americans struggle with mental illness. If you need support groups, education, or other resources around mental illness, you can find your local NAMI affiliate here: http://tinyurl.com/z3vgq%5D If you’d like to contribute to my team, let me know!

This year, I decided I wanted to do something to help build up the team spirit before people start the walk. I decided to create a backdrop for people to take pictures in front of before the walk begins (or after they finish), using the NAMI of Greater Chicago logo. Something like celebs get their pictures taken in front of at red carpet events, like this:


But you know, on a limited budget and DIY. Cause that’s how I roll.

Things you will need:

A white flat sheet (I think queen size)

Cardboard for your stencil of the logo

Butcher paper or extra cardboard

Painters tape

Spray paint of your choosing- I used 2 colors Montana Black brand

A big outside area that a little stray spray paint won’t damage

Heavy odds and ends from around your house to keep the sheet in place while you’re working

Grommets (or keep reading for alternate ideas for how to hang this up) and a hammer

Exacto knife/razor blade

I actually had some assistance- someone else made this stencil, because he has made one before for rally protest signs that have the NAMI-GC logo on it. He happily created one for me:


Courtesy of one of the patient staff members. I actually used the painter’s tape on some of the skinniest pieces to strengthen it a little bit.

So I don’t really have any instructions on that. See how I made the Mockingjay shirt a few posts down for how I’ve made stencils in the past.

Once your stencil is ready, you should roll out some of that butcher paper (or more cardboard) and test out your spray paint(s) on it. If your spray paint is new, you definitely want to shake it well and test it for a few good sprays. The blue one I used was sort of still changing colors when I did my first two stencils. This is also a chance to test out how you’ve secured the stencil- if areas look “smudged” then you probably don’t have it firmly anchored down enough.


I have a roll of drawing/butcher paper from Ikea that worked well for this.

Lay out your sheet on a flat surface. Smooth it out, and weight the corners down (look- my kettlebells being better used than they have been in over 2 months!)


Double duty exercise equipment. Welcome to my back patio.

You should probably put some kind of cardboard or something under the area you’re stenciling. I had plans to do this, and forgot- but just happened to be lucky that the sheet was thick enough and it didn’t bleed through onto my back patio where I’m sure my landlord would have been super pleased about the new decor.

Stenciled backdrop

I’m a pretty good eye-baller, but if you’re not, you might want to mark the intervals at which you want the stencil placed ahead of time.

Make sure to give it a few seconds before laying your stencil down again- the excess border you added to keep overspray off the sheet, might stick to and/or smear the stencil space you just did. It was also pretty windy at times, so I used the spray can color not currently in use to keep my excess border from flapping in the wind.

To make sure my stencil was held down firmly, I actually used a skewer stick to press down the areas that appeared “smudgy” on previous attempts. If you don’t have skewers, you could also unfold a wire hanger and use that.


Skewer sticks are cheap and disposable, so I wasn’t worried about getting spray paint on it.


Oh hi! Thanks to the hubs for handling creative photography for this project.

Now I came to a dilemma. What was the best way to hang this? Originally I was just going to sew a casing across the top like your simple curtain. But I realized that might not end well if there wasn’t any space for air to escape when it got windy. After agonizing for awhile, and not wanting to sew a million buttonholes (mostly because I don’t really know how yet, and my sewing space is currently covered in other craft materials) I decided to just spend some money for grommets.

What the hell is a grommet, you ask? Well, 3 out of 4 staff at Home Depot (and all of my coworkers apparently), had no clue what I was talking about, so you’re not alone. Grommets are little metal rings:


THIS is a grommet. Now do you know what I’m talking about? You’ve probably seen them on belts or tarps at some point.

I didn’t take pictures of the grommeting process because I was in a rush to finish this. However, you buy a small kit that includes a small piece of wood (to hammer on top of), a metal cylinder, and a few other things. The kit has (semi-confusing) instructions on the back. Essentially, you cut (or hammer) a small hole in the fabric using the straight, small cylinder they gave you as a guide. Then you put one part of the grommet on either side of the fabric, and using the bigger cylinder with a tapered end (provided in the kit), you hammer the larger cylinder through the grommets, rotating 1/4 turn every time. This bends the lip on one half of the grommet and voila! It looks finished, like this.


We hung it up in a vendor tent- unfortunately, it wasn’t laying totally flat because as I predicted, it was pretty windy…


It still turned out pretty cute though.

I think if they want to use it again next year, I’ll need to brainstorm a better way to hang it up. A flat, solid surface (that wind isn’t trying to travel through) would have made it look a lot sharper. Maybe they’ll be able to think of some other uses though.


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