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.
What is a Flat in theater?
A theatre flat is a tool used in stage design to create depth and add visual interest. They consist of flat pieces of painted scenery, and thus are also referred to as “flats”. Flats are positioned on stage as backgrounds or buildings.
There are two primary types of stage flats:
(also called “TV” flats) are rigidly constructed from luan or plywood. Using wall jacks, Hollywood flats can stand freely from the ground or anchored directly to a portable base. Construction of a Hollywood flat is simpler than a Broadway flat.
(also called “theatre”, “standard” and “stage” flats) are constructed from muslin or stretched canvas applied to a thin wooden frame. Broadway flats are lighter than Hollywood flats and can be suspended from a fly tower.
The beauty of using stage flats in your production is that they can be re-purposed for multiple uses simply by replacing your fabric.
Creating a Stage Flat
To create a stage flat, you’ll need:
- Muslin or Canvas fabric
- Pine lumber for frame
- 1×2-inch (20 by 45 mm), 1×3-inch (20 by 65 mm) or 1×4-inch (20 by 90 mm)
- Luan plywood
- 1/4-inch (6 mm) or 1/8-inch (3 mm)
- Miter saw
- Staple gun
- Carpenters glue
Step 1: Build the frame of your flat.
Step 2: Attach your fabric.
Step 3: Paint your scene over the fabric.
Fabrics for Theatre Flats
The best and most common fabrics for stage flats are muslin and canvas.
- Muslin is the most popular fabric for scenery flats, due to its light weight and soft texture. It’s finely woven, affordable, and offered in versatile styles:
- Canvas, while a little firmer and heavier than muslin, is also a great option for your flat because it can be easily stretched over frames and acts as a good base for paint.
Need assistance on selecting a theater fabric for your stage flat? Our team of textile experts are ready to assist you with your fabric selection.