This topic has 7 replies, 7 voices, and was last updated 3 years ago by Jamie Clausius.

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  • #14915
     Gilda
    • Experience: 20+ years
    • Scenic Status: Full Time Regular

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    We have had a great question submitted from a self taught drop painter:

    “We don’t have a lot of experience at our shop with painting drops. We mostly paint hard scenery. Everything I know about painting drops has been from reading books. Mistakes have been made, and I have learned a lot on what not to do. One issue I seem to often have is after we pull a drop up and fold it, we can’t ever seem to get all the creases and wrinkles out of it. We do spray the drop down with hot water after it’s been hung, and that helps but doesn’t get rid of all the creases. We’ve tried rolling the drop for transportation but that still doesn’t have great results. Is there a standard operating procedure for preventing this?

    Maybe I’m putting on to much starch? Or not enough starch? Or getting the wrong type of muslin? Or maybe all drops are like that at first and just need to be used a few times like an old trusty t-shirt? When we receive drops from rentals they are always folded and in hampers, so I would think it’s fine to fold a drop. They don’t have creases in them after hanging them drops even though they are folded up.

    We have some drops coming down the pipeline soon and we’re nervous about it and how to prep the muslin. These are not translucent so I don’t think we need to starch them. Just water down some flat white house paint to size the muslin first before we start painting, kind of like you would if you were stretching canvas on stretcher bars and using a gesso. Do scenics use some kind of product like a fabric softener in their base paint or starch to keep the muslin pliable? We use Rosco Off Broadway paints way beyond the recommended watered down ratios and still can’t seem to keep the muslin from creasing after it’s hung.

    Any words of advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

    #15809

    It’s been a long time for me but, if you’re getting wrinkles it suggests that something is out of square. Double check your diagonal measurements on the frame before you paint and double check that your drop is sewn properly.

    #15810
     Mary Novodvorsky
    • Experience: 20+ years
    • Scenic Status: Full Time Regular

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    Donna Wymore has a good recipe for starching a drop in a previous post. Sometimes I will steam the creases to help relax them. I would use starch on a drop before resorting to house paint. You’ll get wrinkles also if your battens are bent.

    #15811
     Carole Payette
    • Experience: 20+ years
    • Scenic Status: Full Time Regular

    I make starch from powder and change the recipe based on how thick I want the starch to be. My experience with starch is that when sprayed with water it softens, unlike paint, which gets rid of the wrinkles. Also, for particularly difficult drops, you need to stretch them securely. We have side stretcher bars and then we secure the bottom pipe to the floor. Using hot water, and sometimes adding some Alum, we spray the entire drop. Letting it dry completely before detaching the stretchers. I hope this helps.

    #15812
     Anonymous

    A reply from the UK so forgive me if I’ve misunderstood any of your terminology. (We don’t use the word muslin for any type of drop so I’m assuming a lightweight canvas? I’ve never used starch so will look into that, sounds interesting.) Anyway I spray prime with old fashioned size first, (animal skin glue, very dilute) laying down the nap with a large brush. (This layer must be light especially if you are painting on the floor or you’ll stick the cloth (drop) to the floor.) This will go through an airless sprayer if its a big cloth. Then I spray on a prime layer, again working the paint in with a brush. I find the size has part sealed the weave which means less scenic paint. It sits more on the surface of the cloth which means that a) it doesn’t stick to the floor and b) the back of the weave is still absorbent. The upshot of this is that if you then spray water on the back of your cloth or drop it will soak in a bit and help the creases drop out. The size will also reactivate and this helps further to get rid of the creases. I’m painting pantomime cloths in this way at the moment. last thought, I would suggest using hot water when you spray the back of the cloth.

    #15813
     Scott Gerwitz
    Admin
    • Experience: 20+ years
    • Scenic Status: Full Time Regular

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    I don’t know if I can totally give you the perfect answer but I’ll share some ideas.

    First- I find starch more forgiving than paint size. And I love painting on starch so much more than paint.

    I do not think the amount of starch makes that much difference. I usually use 1/4 box to 1/2 box of starch to a gallon.

    Using thin paint helps. The thick paint will crack on you later.

    I find when spraying the hot water it helps if you attach the pipe pocket to the floor(vertical direction). As well as figuring out a way to stretch the drop laterally(horizontal direction). I have used 2 pieces of 1x clamped to the sides and then stretch the wood to the side of the theatre.

    Another trick is Alum. If I have a real persnickety wrinkle I will add the Alum to the hot water. Around a tablespoon to a gallon. Not sure what the chemical process that happens but it is a real magic trick. You can buy it in the grocery store spice isle. It is used for pickling.

    Also make sure you spray the whole drop- if you only spray one area it will size that leaving the other parts dry and create new wrinkles.

    Hope this helps!

    Scott

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

    #15814
     Mary Novodvorsky
    • Experience: 20+ years
    • Scenic Status: Full Time Regular

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    I thought I was the only one who puts on side stretchers and blocks down the batten to spray out wrinkles! And I use the Alum too. (It’s used to keep your pickles crisp and not soggy) I’ve never had good luck spraying a 50′ drop with water on it’s own without making sure it was restrained.

    #15815
     Jamie Clausius
    • Experience: 5-10 years
    • Scenic Status: Full Time Freelance

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    I also agree with stretching the drop on all sides once it is hung. Many backdrops are unfortunately ‘trapped” which means they are not truly square, but a slightly trapezoidal shape (hence ‘trapped’!). This can be tricky since the fibers are not straight, meaning perfectly perpendicular to themselves and the floor, which can create wrinkles. In the past I have done similar solutions to what Scott has described.

    I have also suggested using a steamer on the back of the drop to help with wrinkles to customers. Be sure to keep the steamer head atleast 6 inches away from the drop, as the head will drip and could leave terrible stains in it’s wake. I have not tried Alum yet, but I would trust the experts that have suggested it to be a viable option as well.

    Great question!

    Jamie Clausius

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