This section is from the book "Complete Self-Instructing Library Of Practical Photography", by J. B. Schriever. Also available from Amazon: Complete Self-Instructing Library Of Practical Photography.
Plain Background. Plain backgrounds may be made from an ordinary dark-colored window shade - usually the green or deep slate color is the most suitable. By attaching the window shade to a spring curtain roller and then fastening the roller to the top of an ordinary screen, you have a convenient and suitable background. When the ground is not in use it may be rolled up, where it is out of the dust, and in its compact form can be stored away. 185. Painted Backgrounds. - Suitably painted grounds can be obtained from most photographic supply houses.
Illustration No. 10. Construction of Background Frame. See Paragraph No. 185.
When purchasing a painted ground it is advisable to purchase a gradually blended ground. By this we mean a ground which is blended from side to side in tints from dark brown to deep gray. The size of the ground best suited for all purposes would be about 5x6 feet. Provide a frame 5x6 feet, outside measurements, using strips of pine or any soft wood, 2 inches wide by 7/8 inch thick, with both sides and edges planed. (See Illustration No. 10). Stretch the ground on this frame, placing two large screw eyes near the edge on the top and the bottom. Then provide an extra frame 6 inches wider - with standards at the base to hold it upright. Drive two large nails or hooks in the upper portion, to receive the screw eyes in the background frame. It is possible by this means to work from either side of the light. You can always have the dark end of the background next to the light by simply inverting it.
Stretching The Background. A little care must be exercised when stretching the background, in order to avoid wrinkles. The following suggestions may be of service to those who have had no experience along this line:
187. First, place the background face down on the floor. Be careful that there is nothing on the floor to mar it. Next lay the frame on the background. Then, beginning at the top of the ground, draw it over the edge of the frame a trifle, and beginning in the center drive in a couple of tacks. Do the same at the bottom and sides, being careful to always drive the first tacks at the exact center. Complete the tacking by always drawing carefully from the center. Tack first to the right and then to the left. Do not try to stretch the canvas - just draw it equally from the center.