Coloured Vinyl vs. Cardstock for Photography

Coloured Vinyl vs. Cardstock for Photography

Solid coloured backdrops have been a major trend in photography for the last few years. Ideal for adding personality to clean and simple product shots, bold coloured ‘drops have also made an impact across a range of other genres. From food, to fashion and lifestyle, the graphic appeal of this style is clear. So whether it’s bright tones paired with defined shadows, or earthy shades lit more softly, colour can definitely inspire us to get creative. But are all coloured backdrops created equal? In this post, we are going to look at how coloured paper backdrops compare to reusable vinyl designs. We will investigate how well these different materials perform in a variety of photographic situations. Finally, we’ll see how you can level-up your photography game by choosing the best solid coloured backdrop for your next shoot!

 Flat Coloured Vinyl Backdrops by Club Backdrops

The choice of soft or hard lighting creates different moods when used with coloured backdrops


1. What are paper backdrops?

Traditionally, we see photographers using paper backdrops that range from A4 card stock to 3 meter wide paper rolls. For many years, paper was the cheapest and best option for photographers looking to add colour to their shots. But this material has always had its drawbacks: Easily marked or torn, paper’s porous surface also ripples and warps when exposed to moisture. These properties of paper backdrops cause problems in use, transport and storage. The old-school solution to this being simply to ‘rip it up and start again’!

Paper backdrops, whether they are small sheets from an art supply store, or a big roll designed specifically for studio work, are also available in a restricted range of colours only. You may be able to manipulate shades with lighting tricks or by editing in post-production, but it will take work to achieve subtle colour matching while using paper backdrops.


2. What are vinyl backdrops?

Where paper backdrops are dyed in a limited range of hues, vinyl backdrops are printed using large-format colour printers. This means that they can be created to order in virtually any specific shades you might require. The UV ink printers at Club Backdrops create a low-sheen, durable surface on top of a flexible vinyl substrate. Far thicker than paper, vinyl will not rip or tear under any normal circumstances! It is waterproof and wipe clean. As such, a properly cared for vinyl backdrop can last for many years (and many shoots).

 Waterproof and durable flat coloured vinyl backdrops

Available in brand matched shades, coloured vinyl backdrops are waterproof, durable and flexible


3. Paper VS Vinyl in different photography uses

So now we know the difference between paper and vinyl coloured backdrops, lets see how they stack up in a few usage scenarios:

3.1 Coloured Backdrops for Product & Still Life Photography

For most product and still life photography, you will be looking to create a pristine surface on which to shoot objects. Backdrops will need to lie flat, sit flush or hang straight. While both paper and vinyl backdrops can be used for this type of photography, there are a few distinct advantages to vinyl which make it ideally suited to the job.

With its heavier weight, vinyl creates a ripple-free background for still life shots. Where paper may blow about or risk ripping unless firmly anchored on all sides, vinyl is far more substantial. Usually it only needs a few pieces of tape or a couple of clamps to stay in place, making setup and switching ‘drops a breeze. It is also perfect for achieving a seamless ‘cove’ effect, as the vinyl naturally holds a smooth curve when attached to perpendicular surfaces. An additional perk for product photographers with commercial clients, or businesses creating their own content, is the availability of brand-matched colours. By ordering custom printed vinyl backdrops, it is easy to achieve images that tie in with the rest of your marketing and design output.

Custom vinyl backdrops in brand matched colours. Photography by Florence James Collective

Photo by @florencejamescollective

Shooting on custom vinyl backdrops with brand-matched colours is a simple way to keep your content cohesive


3.2 Coloured backdrops for Food Photography

For food photography, vinyl backdrops are the undisputed champions! They were originally conceived with food shoots in mind, specifically due to the unsuitability of other options. Thanks to the absorbent qualities of paper and cardstock, it only takes a drip of garnish, or some runaway crumbs, and you will have permanent stains and grease marks to contend with. So unless you fancy replacing your ‘drop every few exposures, or doing a bunch of awkward retouching, it is really much easier to use vinyl backdrops for food photography.

With vinyl, spills and splashes can be simply wiped away with a damp cloth. Whether you are shooting in a studio, at home, or on location in a restaurant, the vinyl backdrop can be re-rolled and easily stored or transported for future shoots.

Flat coloured vinyl photography backdrop for food shoots

Photo by @florencejamescollective

Vinyl backdrops are ideal for getting a bit messy and creative on food shoots!


3.3 Coloured backdrops for Jewellery or Macro photography

For very close-up work, you may find that there are limitations to both paper and vinyl backdrops. When shooting small objects that sit flush to the surface, especially in hard lighting situations, it is possible that some grain will be visible — whether it is the texture of the paper, or the printed layer of ink on vinyl. To minimise this, you may wish to compose shots with a gap between the subject and background. This will make sure that your backdrop reads as a smooth solid colour without undesired detail.


3.4 Coloured Backdrops for Headshots and Pet Photography

If you have the luxury of a large, permanent studio space to shoot portraits, then you might already be using colourama (or similar) backdrop paper rolls. These can be used multiple times, with the ends of the roll being cut and disposed of as they become dirty or unusable. While they are great for photographers who have plenty of room for storage (and maybe an assistant to help them), there are situations where a small, portable coloured backdrop might be more appropriate. Quick, fuss free headshots can be easily achieved using large vinyl backdrops. Simply tape to a wall, add lights and you’re good to go!

 Pet studio portrait on large yellow coloured vinyl backdrop

Photo by @lemons.etc

Large vinyl backdrops are also far more resistant to paws, claws and slobber than paper - making them a great choice for pet photography!


3.5 Coloured Backdrops for Video and Vloggers

Whether you would like to spice up a how-to or unboxing video; or generate some stylised b-roll closeups; flat coloured backdrops are a great addition to a vlogging setup. Custom colours are also perfect for creating a cohesive style that ties your shots together and compliments your channel’s aesthetic.


Hopefully this article has helped you to decide which type of coloured backdrop would best meet your needs. We love the unlimited shades that can be achieved with custom printed vinyl backdrops, in addition to their durable and reusable nature. With impactful colour looking to remain a top trend going forward, this is the perfect time to start building a unique palette for use in your work. You can also check out our range of in-stock coloured vinyl backdrops - a curated selection of classic and on-trend shades which is designed to inspire and ready to ship immediately.

So, in conclusion, whether you stick with paper or choose vinyl backdrops, we hope you have fun playing with colour, and as always until next time, happy snapping! 🙂 📸

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