So you have a photography studio of your own and need some polyboards? There are two ways to go about it, the expensive way and the right way. Many established studios and photographic equipment retailers will charge you an arm and a leg for them, especially the stands/holders. But in reality, they're very easy to build and require only basic materials.
The first step is to get yourself some polyurethane foam sheets! They typically come in the standard uncut size of 120x240cm, which is an ideal size and requires no further cutting. One of your choices will concern foam density, The most common grade is SL, followed by M grade and H grade. I went with M as it's a bit less prone to damage and tends to make the board a bit more rigid. Regarding thickness, I recommend 50mm. It's rigid enough not to bend at all, with no sway and enough weight to keep it steady whilst still being mobile and easy to move around the studio. You can go thicker, but in most cases there's not much point or benefit. As a guideline I paid $30AUD per sheet, most often it'll be the delivery fee that costs you; find a friend with a van, pick-up, ute or trailer!
You'll then need to decide how many you need and what colours you're most likely to use. In my case, I required only black and white. Cleverly, If you have two poly's and paint them black on one side, white on the other; you'll effectively be able to have either two white or two black surfaces at a given time. If you paint them the same on both sides, you'll only have one of each. But for obvious reasons I'd not recommend this if you're using colour. In any case, ensure that you use a matte paint as reflections are the enemy. The boards will absorb a lot of paint, so expect to lay down at-least three coats to achieve a solid and uniform surface. I used roughly 1.3L per side (three coats). So 4L of black and 4L of white for three polyboards.
All of the standard common sense rules of painting apply. Stir your paint well and apply paint uniformly and evenly using a roller (do not use a brush), I laid all of my boards down and lined them up, painting them all at the same time to reduce effort. Allow them to dry completely before reapplying additional coats. I personally didn't paint the edges at all because I decided to wrap them in matted non reflective tape to protect them from tearing and being damaged. But if you don't plan to use tape, go ahead and paint the edges as it will improve durability. But they are foam after all, they will get damaged and they won't last forever.
The trickiest part of this entire process are the stands they sit in. You can buy them retail, but they're not common and they tend to be ridiculously expensive. Especially if you need lots of them. You can get creative and build a wooden structure to hold them, but it's really not worth the effort. I recomend you contact a local metal worker or scrap yard and they'll be happy to knock you up a stand for around $20AUD each. It's simply an A4 sized (210 × 297mm) plate of raw 3-4mm steel with a set of bars bent and welded, very basic; maybe DIY? Just make sure that the gap between the bars is roughly 5mm wider than your boards, all that paint adds up and the last thing you want is a board that won't fit or gets torn up by the stands.
After you have them in hand, you can have them powder-coated or just paint them yourself with some spray cans. Be sure to lay down a couple thin coats of grey metal primer or whatever you put on there will flake and make a ridiculous mess of your beautiful poly-boards. Use only matted paint that matches your poly-board colour. I highly recommend many thin coats rather than fewer thick coats, even if you need to do 6-8 passes, it makes a tremendous difference to paint appearance and the overall durability of the painted surface.
And there you have it, beautiful, professional poly boards for a fraction of the cost of getting them by any other means. My total cost for three boards and three stands was $215.00, $70 each, very happy with that! Now you have even more control over your studio lighting.
Visit Eclat Creative for more information or of you have questions. Photography studio for hire and event venue located in Melbourne, Australia. Gourmet catering, equipment hire, props., academic tutoring and much more. Good luck and thanks for reading!