The Pros and Cons of Muslin Backdrops

Before purchasing a backdrop, it’s important to research the different fabric options so you can determine which one is right for you. A number of different fabrics are often used as backdrops, including muslin, which is a medium-weight woven cotton fabric. Here are the pros and cons of muslins backdrops:

Pro: Durability

Perhaps the biggest advantage of a muslin backdrop is its durability. Muslin is a reusable fabric that can easily withstand normal wear and tear, so your backdrop will look as good as new after multiple uses. Unlike other fabrics, it will not tear if someone accidentally steps on it while working on set. There’s also no way to scuff the surface of muslin, so there’s no need to panic if someone accidentally runs into the backdrop.

Pro: Easy to Store and Transport

Fabrics often become damaged or unusable if they are not stored or transported carefully, but that’s not the case with muslin. There’s no need to carefully store muslin in between uses–simply stuff it into a bag when you’re done with it. Folding it neatly will create creases in muslin that must be removed before use, so it’s actually better to keep it stuffed in a bag so you can prevent creases.

Pro: Appearance

Many photographers and stage designers prefer muslin backdrops over other fabrics because of the way it looks. Muslin holds onto dyes better than other fabrics, so the colors are more vivid and saturated. It can also be colored to create an “old master” style backdrop, which features lighter colors in the center of the backdrop surrounded by darker colors on the edges. Although many backdrops are solid colored, muslin often comes in a variety of fun and creative patterns.

There are countless options to choose from when it comes to muslin backdrops. There are many different ways to add color, richness, and texture to a muslin backdrop, which is why so many creative professionals are drawn to this fabric.

Pro: Non-Reflective Surface

Muslin is also a non-reflective fabric. The flash of a camera or the shine of the spotlight will not reflect off of a muslin backdrop and distract from the models or actors on set.

Pro: The Price

A high quality backdrop does not come cheap. But, muslin is inexpensive compared to other popular backdrop options, including canvas. Some people think that muslin is priced too high, however it’s important to remember that this is a low maintenance and durable fabric that will last for years, so it’s a wise investment.

Pro: Thickness of the Fabric

Muslin is not extremely thick, but it is thick enough to block light from shining through it. This is another reason why so many photographers and stage designers love working with muslin. Because it blocks light, photographers can use the flash on their cameras without worrying about capturing whatever is sitting behind the backdrop. Stage designers can shine spotlights brightly onto actors without worrying about whether or not the silhouettes of objects behind the backdrop will become visible. This is a common problem with other fabrics, which is why this gives muslin such a huge advantage over its competitors.

Pro: Easy to Handle

Muslin is thick enough to block out light, but its thickness does not add a great deal of weight to this fabric. Most creative professionals find that muslin is very easy to handle and transport because it is so lightweight. This fabric is so light that it can be hung from many different types of support, which makes setting up a photo shoot in an unconventional or outdoor location much easier. There’s no need to bring in professional equipment to support the backdrop as long as you can improvise with something that is available on set.

Pro: Draped or Hung

Muslin was widely used to create dresses in the past because it is so easy to drape. This quality also makes it perfect for photo shoots and stages. Muslin backdrops can be draped over objects on set to hide props that the photographer or director does not want the audience to see.

Con: Used Frequently

Creative professionals recognize the many benefits that muslin has to offer, which is why this fabric is frequently used as a backdrop on professional photo shoots and on stage. The fact that muslin is so popular makes it unappealing to some creative professionals. If you want a unique-looking backdrop that will turn heads, muslin is probably not the best choice because many people in the industry use it on a regular basis.

Con: Absorbent Material

Muslin is an absorbent material, so if someone accidentally spills something onto the backdrop, it will absorb quickly and could stain. But fortunately, muslin is a machine washable fabric. If something spills on the fabric and absorbs before you can clean it up, simply toss the muslin into a washing machine to reverse the damage.

Con: Wrinkled Texture

As previously mentioned, it is possible to create deep creases and wrinkles in muslin fabric if it is not stored correctly. No one wants to see wrinkles on their backdrop, which is why this is one of the main disadvantages of using this fabric. The wrinkles can be removed using a handheld steamer, but this takes time that many creative professionals do not have while on set.

It’s clear that the pros of muslin backdrops greatly outweigh the several disadvantages of this fabric. If you’re interested in purchasing muslin backdrops, contact Chicago Canvas & Supply. We are your leading source for backdrops, textiles, theatre fabrics, tarps, drop cloths, and more. We are happy to send free material samples to our clients. To place a request for samples, contact us today by calling 1-866-389-2218 or emailing

What is Muslin Fabric?

When it comes to fabric faves, one of our most popular theater fabrics is muslin. What is muslin fabric, you ask? Here’s everything you need to know about the fabric we absolutely love.

5 Basics of Muslin Fabric

What is Muslin Fabric? - Customer Photo: Grey Muslin Curtains for Car Dealership

Customer Photo: Grey Muslin Curtains for Car Dealership

If you want to learn more about muslin fabric, here are the five need-to-know basics:

  • What is Muslin Fabric?
  • What are the different types of muslin fabric?
  • what’s muslin used for?
  • How do you care for muslin fabric?
  • What’s the history of muslin fabric?

What is Muslin Fabric?

Muslin is a long-beloved cotton fabric. It has what’s called a “plain weave”, which means it’s made from a crisscross pattern. Muslin is durable and versatile, so it’s used across professional and commercial industries, and even at home.


What is Muslin Fabric? - Customer Photo: Natural Muslin Spray Painting

Customer Photo: Natural Muslin Spray Painting

What Are the Different Types of Muslin Fabrics?

Muslin can range in color, finish, size and weight.

What Do You Use Muslin For?

With its light weight and cotton material, muslin is an ideal fabric across many applications. It’s commonly used in theater (for set design—cycloramas, stage flats, backgrounds and props) and photography (as photography backdrops).

Here are a couple more uses for muslin fabric:

  • Home décor
    • Divider and accent curtains
    • Draped ceiling and walls
    • Window treatments
      What is Muslin fabric? - Customer photo - muslin backdrop

      Customer Photo: Muslin Backdrop

    • Floral treatment
    • Wall coverings
    • Backdrops
  • DIY/craft projects
    • Painted backdrops
    • Aisles runners
    • Quilt backing
    • Bandana
    • Pillows
    • Sheets
    • Teabags
  • Cooking
    • Wrap veggies to remove moisture
    • Squeeze lemons
    • Make cheese
    • Beauty
    • Exfoliate/wash face and lips
    What is Muslin Fabric? - Customer Photo: Natural Muslin

    Customer Photo: Natural Muslin

    >>Shop our huge selection of muslin fabrics at great prices!<<

    Muslin Fabric Care

    Muslin can be washed at home with cold water and mild detergent and can be hung/laid flat to dry or tumble dried in the dryer on low. Muslin fabric does wrinkle. WikiHow has a great article on How to Get Wrinkles Out of Muslin Backdrops.

    History of Muslin Fabric

    It originated in (what’s today known as) Bangladesh during the 9th century. The word “muslin” is said to be derived from “Mosul”, as in, Mosul, Iraq. Muslin was a prized fabric in the ancient Mughal Empire.

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Meet GG, one of the beloved founders of Chicago Canvas & Supply. Although she’s no longer with us, her vast knowledge of industry terminology lives on in this textile dictionary! Each month, we’ll pull from GG’s personal collection of terms—don’t miss out by subscribing to our blog over on the right-hand side of this webpage.

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How to Choose Your Portrait Background

When we think of good photographs, we usually defer to the lighting, shadows, the emotion it evokes, and so on. But the background of your photo is what pulls everything together, with the ability to enhance or detract from some of your photos best qualities. To find out which fabrics to consider for portrait backgrounds, keep reading.

What to Consider Before Choosing a Photography Backdrop

The background of your portrait or studio photo helps draw attention to the subject. That being said, a backdrop can really make or break a photo. When it comes to choosing the best portrait background for your shoot, here are a few things to consider:

  • Fabric size and weight: Something that’s too heavy or bulky isn’t ideal. What’s going to be easy to carry around?
  • Location: Your fabric size and weight must accommodate your location. Will you be inside or outside? How much room will you have? Will it be windy? Will there be humidity? All of this may have an effect on your fabric.
  • Your subject: Are you shooting a person, or an object? Product photography requires clean backgrounds. You can get more creative with texture if your subject is a person. When shooting people, your background works to add emotion and context to what you’re trying to convey.
  • Color and texture: Remember to emphasize, not draw attention away from, the subject. Your fabric’s color and texture will help create the look and feel you want for your photo shoot.
  • Lighting: Your lighting technique will vary between dark and light backgrounds. Understand your fabric’s light reflecting qualities beforehand!
  • Budget: Are you looking for a short-term fix or a long-term reusable solution?


Muslin Backdrop

Muslin is a finely-woven cotton fabric with multiple uses. Used heavily within photography and set design, muslin is a favorite among creatives for its versatility, light weight and flat, “clothy” effect and feel. The durability of the fabric helps too (it won’t rip like vinyl or paper).  Muslin can be hung as a solid backdrop, or easily draped over chairs or other items.

 Why Muslin?

  • Non-reflective cotton absorbs light
  • Light weight; portable and compact
  • Durable and reusable
  • Washable; can be steamed and ironed
  • Versatile; different styles and colors
  • Less expensive than canvas

Canvas Backdrop

Some photographers want a heavier background, in which case canvas would be a good choice. Canvas backdrops provide a high-quality look for clients. However, if your project has tight budget or weight/portability restrictions, we would recommend muslin, vinyl or paper instead.

Why Canvas?

  • Professional look
  • Compact
  • Durable and reusable
  • Doesn’t wrinkle like muslin
  • Versatile; different styles and colors

Two Backdrops for the Price of One

Tips on Creating a Stage Flat

Stage and set design is an art form. Whether it’s for a professional Broadway show, or your local high school production, it’s the job of the set design team to find a way to transport you from the stage to another land. The tricky part is creating scenery that captures your imagination and can also be moved easily and quickly—this is where stage flats (or theatre flat) comes into play. Read more

Comparing Fabrics for Theater Curtains

Guide to Selecting the Ideal Fabric Type for your Theater Curtains

Let me set the stage for you. Big production coming up and your job is to buy the fabric to make theater curtains. You are clicking from site to site, trying to figure out which fabric is going to be best-suited.  So many choices! There is also a budget to stay within. Isn’t it also always the case that these were needed yesterday?  Ya’ know… just to keep it interesting.  Let us save you some time with a simple chart comparing theater fabrics so the next time you are in need of fabrics for your stage curtains, you will know exactly what to order.

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