Backdrop Rental vs. Purchase When Planning a Production

There’s no question that a backdrop is an easy yet effective way to add drama, branding and style to your special event. But is it better to use a pipe and drape rental backdrop or to buy your backdrop? The key is to consider all angles before making your decision.

Author - Dazian



Fabric backdrops have been making a splash since Shakespearean times as an efficient and highly effective way to set a mood, convey style, and make a memorable impression on audiences. Today you can quickly transform a space using a pipe and drape set up with a range of materials from versatile muslin to dramatic velvet, silk and satin, glitzy aluminum chain and metallics, and brilliant illuminated panels that use fiber optics or LED. If you can dream it, a backdrop can do it!


Any special event can benefit from a visually striking fabric backdrop. Backdrop curtains add depth and make it simple to enliven a plain or even industrial background for events ranging from weddings and other celebrations to performances, presentations, trade shows and much more. Because fabric is the perfect material to print on, you can maximize your impact by adding a logo, product image, and/or messaging — or simply embellish with valences or other stylish accessories to enhance your overall theme. 


There are many spaces that can be transformed using a backdrop, from a red carpet photo opp, to a meeting room, stage or trade show booth. You’ll want to use your backdrop to  cover the space between the floor and the ceiling, with typical heights ranging from 8’ to 10’ high, and 12’ to 16’ wide. The beauty of a pipe and drape set-up for your backdrop is it’s modular, and you can add as much as you need to cover a significant space, like a large stage or to act as an attractive room divider.


Backdrops are versatile, and whether you or not you should go for a pipe and drape rental or purchase your backdrop is a great question. Before you decide, however, it’s worthwhile to first consider your options in terms of backdrop materials.

Determine Your Backdrop Needs

To get started, here are a handful of simple questions to help you in the early stages of your renting vs. buying decision making process:


1) What’s the purpose of your backdrop?


If it’s to create a subtle background with no distractions, a backdrop made of classic black masking fabric is your best bet. It absorbs light and sound, and helps ensure that what’s going on in front of the curtain is the main focus.


If, however, your backdrop is there to help make an eye-grabbing visual statement, you have a wide variety of colors, fabrics and materials to choose from. Hosting a glamorous performance? Consider metallic eyelash curtains, mylar “rain,” or any other number of exciting and fresh looks. As mentioned, you can also print on or even paint fabrics to turn your backdrop into a unique, branded focal point.


2) Is your event inside or outdoors?


For indoor events, you have a huge range of backdrop fabrics to choose from in cotton, polyester, mixed fiber and other materials that are flame-retardant and durable.


When considering outdoor backdrops, you have a few other considerations, like weather, wind, and glare (from the sun, especially when using your backdrop as a photographic background) to factor in. Outdoor backdrops are typically made from polyester or PVC so they can stand up to any weather changes, yet still maintain their fire retardancy. For a windy situation, such as an outdoor music festival or performance, mesh backdrops like a Deauville mesh might even be the best backdrop option for you.   


3) Is your backdrop for a one-time event or are you taking it on the road?


This is an important question, as it may well influence your decision to go with a pipe and drape rental for your backdrop, which includes the backdrop panels and the hardware to hang your backdrop, or purchase the materials. 


If you’re using a backdrop one-time only, you may be less concerned about whether or not it’s extra durable and easy to transport. 


If you’re planning on using a backdrop repeatedly and are moving it around from place to place, you’ll want to choose your fabric carefully, ensuring that it’s foldable, crease-free, and rugged enough to withstand the demands of touring. Today’s digital fabrics are sophisticated enough that you can even have your printed backdrop folded and re-folded without damaging the artwork.


4) How are you lighting your backdrop?


Lighting is a key element for any event, so it’s important for you to consider the interplay between your backdrop and the lights that you are using. 


If you’re backlighting your backdrop for a subtle yet dramatic look, you’ll want to choose a wide fabric that doesn’t have any seams. Different fabrics can help you maximize the impact of your backlit backdrop — for example, you can use a shimmering fabric like a metallic to reflect or spread the light evenly for a theatrical effect. And, like the shipping considerations in the previous point, projection fabrics can be rolled or folded to travel easily, as opposed to stiff vinyls, which crack and break easily.


If you are shining a spotlight, using bright photography lights or otherwise front lighting people or objects, you can go with a more cost-effective seamed fabric for your backdrop. There are also projection fabrics you can use as a backdrop to incredible effect for video or film presentations or as a compelling background for motivational speakers.


5) What’s on your backdrop?


As we’ve mentioned, today’s technology makes printing on fabric easy and effective for impactful branding opportunities not only for corporate events, but also for private parties that have a signature flair. You may want to use fabric for a clean, crisp glare-free step and repeat (a backdrop that has your brand logo and/or company name printed on it) for photo opps, a dramatic media wall in a trade show booth, or an engaging background for a registration desk, among countless other uses. 


This leads us to the big question: is it cheaper to rent or purchase a backdrop?

Rent vs. Purchase a Backdrop

In general, the investment you’ll make in either buying or renting a backdrop is far less than creating a solid structure that is labor-intensive to build, transport and install. Fabric gives you the depth and dimension you need to create excitement and captivate audiences, is easy to transport, and simple and fast to install — all without the hefty price tag. 


That said, on the surface it’s generally less expensive to use a pipe and drape rental for your backdrop. Don’t jump to conclusions, though, because the length of your rental, the number of times you plan on using the backdrop in the future, what’s on your backdrop (or not) and your budget will affect your decision to rent or buy. 


A pipe and drape rental backdrop makes sense if:

  • It’s for one-time use that is a relatively short amount of time (i.e. a one-day event, a 4-day trade show).
  • You’re not worried about wear and tear.
  • You want a turnkey kit that’s easy to install and transport.
  • You want to get a lot of detail or a backdrop that covers a large area — for not a lot of investment.
  • You have a modest budget in general.


Purchasing a backdrop makes sense if:

  • It’s going to be used multiple times, like for a booth you take to several conferences a year or a step repeat that you use every time you have an event.
  • You want to have branded materials on hand to use whenever you need a background that makes a statement.
  • The backdrop is going on tour with your show or company, and wear and tear is an issue.
  • You’ll only use it a couple of times a year, but it’s a staple — and you have the budget to invest now and are happy to save money by not having to rent backdrops in the future.
  • The backdrop is part of a permanent installation like a stage or meeting room.


As you can tell, there are many variables to consider when deciding to rent or purchase a backdrop. We’re here to help — so let’s chat about how you envision using your backdrop and we’ll help you make the smartest, most cost-effective choice for your next special event.



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