Polyboards & V-Flats FAQ

October 26, 2016 DIY

One of the questions I am asked the most is how do I make my v-flats and polyboards for my backdrops. I have been using v-flats and polyboards as my backdrops in my studio for 26 years. I love them because they photograph beautifully, they are lightweight, and they are inexpensive to make.

V-flats and polyboards are two separate things. Polyboards are made of polystyrene and they need to be painted if you want to use them as Backdrops as they are white, if you just want to use them as reflectors then the white is perfect (BEST reflector money can buy) and v-flats are made of foam core and come in black and white.

After my first CreativeLIVE, I was asked so many questions about how to make the polyboards that Tiffany Angeles made this great video for me showing exactly what to buy and how to build them

If you want a vintage look to your polyboards, you can use Anaglypta wallpaper on your boards. You can purchase different textures and pain them different colors. I show you how I do it here

The questions about v-flats and polyboards keep coming in daily, so I put together an FAQ for you.

  • Where do I buy polyboards? You can buy the polyboards at any large hardware store like Home Depot or Lowe’s in the insulation department.
  • Which polyboards should I buy? You can buy the white/silver or the purple (at Home Depot) or blue (at Lowes). They will all work just fine. The white/silver have film that you can peel off or paint over. If you peel it off, it has a bumpy texture to it. The purple/blue polyboards do not have the bumpy texture that they white/silver boards have and you will not need to peel anything off. You can paint right over the black print on them.
  • What size should I buy? The size you need is 4×8 feet and I recommend 2 inches thick.
  • What color should I paint my polyboards? I like to use a grey-green, a muted beige-gold, and a light powder blue. The names of the colors differ depending on the brand of paint you choose and where you are in the world. In the past, I have used a color called Sadyhook for the grey-green, Peanut Shell for the beige-gold, and Dresden Blue for the powder blue. I have also used a rose pink and black-green that photograph beautifully. There are so many paint colors and you can really use any colors that you like. These are just the colors I prefer. You can even apply wallpaper or wrapping paper to polyboards to create gorgeous patterned backdrops or to add some texture. The options really are endless.
  • What type of paint should I use? The brand of paint you choose really doesn’t matter as long as it is interior paint in flat or the least amount of sheen you can find.
  • Can I paint the silver side of the polyboard? Peel the silver off first, then paint.
  • What should I use to actually paint the polyboards? You can use a roller brush to paint them. Any kind will do.
  • Doesn’t the paint rub off on the person’s clothing if they lean on it? No. It is interior paint just like on your walls.
  • Why is the paint chipping on my polyboard? You may need to repaint your polyboards from time to time. Polystyrene does dent and crumble if there it is moved around and used a lot.
  • How do I make the polyboards stand up if I don’t want to attach permanent feet to them? You could set up your taped v-flats first and lean your polyboards onto the v-flats. Another option is to put a few velcro strips on each polyboard to stick them together and be able to take them apart. You could also simply gaffer tape the back side at the top each time you use the polyboards. Another way to hold them together is to buy a corner bracket from a hardware store that will fit over the polyboards in the corner where they meet together.
  • My local hardware store only carries ½ inch polyboards and they aren’t strong enough to stand up on their own. What do I do?Your best bet is to adhere two pieces together to make one. So you will need to buy 4 boards. You could try using glue, but it might not stick so I would use gaffer tape to tape them together at the top and bottom.
  • Where do I buy v-flats? V-flats are made of 2 sheets of 4×8 feet foam board that is ⅜ inch thick. Some local camera stores have them and sometimes art stores carry them. I have even heard of people finding them at craft stores like Michael’s or at an Engineering Equipment & Supplies store. If you need to order them online, Uline carries them. Foamboards.com is an Aussie company that has them, as well. You can buy the polyboards at any large hardware store like Home Depot or Lowe’s in the insulation department.
  • How do I tape the foam core sheets together to make the v-flat? There is both white and black gaffer tape that you can buy for each side and you must to leave about an inch of space between them when you tape them together so that they can be flipped to use either the black or the white side. I talk about taping v-flats in the Vogue shoot video here: ​Vogue Portrait Photoshoot
  • Where do I buy gaffer tape? You can buy it from an online camera supply store, on Amazon, or at your local camera store.
  • I taped my v-flats and they only fold one way. What do I do? You will need to remove the tape and retape them leaving an inch or so between the boards to allow room for them to fold all the way around.
  • Can I paint v-flats? You can, but they will warp a bit after painting one side. It is not strong enough to hold paint on both side. It’s basically like painting thick paper.
  • How do I transport v-flats if I don’t want to hire a truck? Ted Wilson shared this on the IBWS facebook page and it was written by Bern Caughey who was the lighting director for Herb Ritts. #1: Buy the foamcore that is about a 3/8″ thick & black on one side, while the other is white. #2: Lay the board flat on the floor with the white side up. Measure the length of the board to confirm the length of the board, since they can vary & are not always exactly 8′. Divide this length of the foamcore in thirds & mark it on the board with a pencil on both sides. At this point measure from one end only. Using a straight edge as least 4′ long, draw a pencil line across the width of the board. This line will be a guide for the cut. This will be the only cut on the white side of the board. #3: Next your going to deeply score the face of the board with a razor bladed knife. Be careful & take appropriate precautions with this blade! The idea of scoring is not to cut all the way through to the other side. Don’t worry if you do, since you can patch it with 2″ tape. Try not to cut all the way thru because the board will fold little better without tape. As it wears you may need to tape it together anyways & if it will be subjected to wind, you may want to reinforce with tape ahead of time. #4: Flip the board over & hold it up along the cut. You might need to apply slight pressure. The board should fold flat against itself. #5: After you’ve done this, unfold it & move to the other end. #6: Repeat the steps #2, #3 & #4 on this other end of the foamcore. This time your scoring the black side of black side of the board. #7: The board should fold in thirds now, with each end folding in a different direction, due to them being scored on opposite sides. Folded it will be about 32″x48″x1″. While folded it will also be black on one side & white on the other.
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