How To Create Translucent Backlit Scenery Effects

Scenic Artist Laura Scheving recently created a project that she simply described as her “Magic Translucent Drop.” It’s an excellent example of how to create vivid sunrise or sunset scenery that only arrives when the backdrop is backlit.

Translucent drops like this one work because it is double painted, with one opaque image painted on the front, and vibrant translucent colors painted on the back that ‘illuminates’ through when it’s lit from behind.

The opaque front of the backdrop (L) and the translucent backside of the drop (R)

When painting on both sides of a drop, it is key to keep the paint from the back of the drop from bleeding through to the front. To accomplish this, Laura sized the muslin on both the front and back with starch, and then added three sprays of a clear flat acrylic on the back before she started painting.

From there, Laura used Rosco Off Broadway Scenic Paints on the front side of the drop to create the cliff and lighthouse. She challenged herself with the landscape areas, however, by using brushless techniques to create the textures and foliage. Some of the techniques she used included rag rolling, combs, rollers and dropping a piece cloth cut like “Swiss Cheese.” Because that area of the drop needed to be opaque for the final effect to work, Laura wasn’t concerned about the layers of paint building up as she concentrated on the details.

What did need to be painted carefully, with being mindful of the thickness of the paint, was the lighthouse. The goal was to create a reflective light moment where areas of the white lighthouse would change to match the pastel sunset colors in the sky.

To create the soft clouds and color shifts, Laura used an HVLP gun with white casein mixed with Rosco Supersaturated Paints - blues on the front, and vibrant orange, red and purple sunset colors on the back. A surprise sailboat was also painted on the back with an opaque grey so that it only shows when the drop is backlit.

The final results will vary depending on the colors the lighting crew chooses to backlight the drop with. Either way – the results are, as Laura says, magical. To see more of Laura's magical art, visit her website: Please visit Rosco’s Scenic Paint Product Page to learn more about the paints Laura used in her translucent backdrop project.


Angelique Powers June 01, 2017 Questions?

About Angelique Powers

Guest Author Angelique Powers has an MFA in Scenic Art Design from the California Institute of the Arts and has been professionally painting theatrical scenery for over 16 years. A Founding Member of The Guild of Scenic Artists, Angelique also shares her knowledge, passion and experience with her students at the University of Minnesota as a scenic paint instructor. To see Angelique’s work, be sure to explore the portfolio on her website –