A Step-by-Step Guide to Making Your Own Portable V-Flats

A Step-by-Step Guide to Making Your Own Portable V-Flats

V-flats are traditionally not portable by any means. For those that have a little DIY in them, I made my own portable v-flats that I can take with me anywhere I need. Here’s how to make them.

Using this article as my guide, I decided to get more bang for my buck and make v-flats that have a white and black side. To do this, in addition to the white foam boards, I purchased 8, 32x40 black mat boards. I chose mat boards because I thought they would be thin enough to easily adhere to the white and the gaffer tape would still hinge properly. One issue I didn’t take into account, however, is that the mat boards make the foam heavy. I was a little nervous throughout the creation process, but once complete it seems to be totally fine.

I laid out all of my materials so that I could visually see everything and have access to it as needed. I would highly recommend having a wet and dry paper towel or rag nearby. The photo mount adhesive ended up all over my hands. I’m not the neatest person when it comes to anything crafty.

Step 1: Adhere the black mat board to the white foam board

I sprayed the photo mount adhesive all over one side of the white foam board, quickly lined up the black mat board and pressed firmly. I almost immediately noticed that the photo mount spray may not be strong enough alone to adhere to the white foam for the long term. I was hoping to avoid gaffer taping all the edges as it seemed so time consuming and not necessary, but because of this decided it needed to be done.

Step 2: Apply gaffer tape to the edges of the board

As I mentioned above, I tried to skip this step. If you aren’t adding black to one side you might be able to get away without doing it. Ultimately, I decided to do it because I wanted extra durability and I did not want the black side coming detached later on down the road. I did cheat this a little bit though and only taped two sides, leaving the sides that would act as hinges later exposed. This took a little bit of planning and mapping to make sure I taped the right sides. so I laid out the 4 boards so I could see what sides would become hinges.

Once I had the sides mapped out, I laid out the white gaffer tape first to approximate length, sprayed the photo mount adhesive on the tape, and applied it to the side of the board. Once the white tape was set, I turned the board over and applied the tape the black side. On this side I did it a little differently though. After I sprayed the adhesive, I applied the black tape higher so that it wouldn’t really run over to the other side of the board. The edges were already secure with the white tape, the black was sole so that there would be no white tape on the black side.

For the excess tape on the edges: I am not patient enough to present wrap the edges of the boards where there is excess tape, so I just cut them as short as I could and folded the tape along the sides.

Also, before you think about not using the photo mount spray I would like to stop you and tell you that you absolutely should. I realized during this process that I never want to build these again and while gaffer tape is incredible and durable, the spray helps it last that much longer. I have definitely had gaffer tape peel off of various projects in the past. Also use gaffer tape. Not any other kind. Gaffer tape is made of fabric fibers which is what gives it flexibility. You’re going to want that flexibility for the hinges. Duct tape, while it seems durable enough, is made of vinyl and doesn’t have the same flexibility properties as gaffer tape.

Step 3: Gaffer tape the hinges

Take the two boards that are going to be the bottom to hinge together first. The side you are going to hinge together is the shortest side of the board, so you want the longest edge of the board to sit vertically.

This is where the clamps come in. You definitely want to clamp the two boards you are hinging together so they don’t slide around while you are taping. Use cardboard where the clamp touches the boards so the boards don’t dent from the pressure of the clamps.

With the two boards clamped together, lay out the gaffer tape. The color of the tape is determined by which side of the board you are working on. In the photo example it is the black side so I used black gaffer tape. Spray the tape with photo mount adhesive and then place the boards as centered as possible over the tape. Fold the tape up to the boards and secure it to the boards on each side. Again for the excess tape on the edges, I cut the tape as close as I could to the edge and folded it along the edge.  Once the first side is complete, flip the boards inside out, re-clamp, pull any tape from the other side that may have stuck to the edges to the center, and repeat for the other side. This time with the opposite tape color. In my case, white.

Once the bottom is hinged, you’ll need to hinge each top board to the bottom, making sure to leave the center of the two top boards free. You will be applying Velcro to the center later. Hinging these boards to the bottom is the same process, but it requires a little more patience as it can get a little tricky. My taping skills definitely began to suffer at this point and it was the most annoying part for me. I did this by myself so its definitely possible, but would have maybe been easier with two people.

Step 4: Apply Velcro

Once your v-flat is all put together, you’ll need to add Velcro between the two top boards so they will stay standing when you want them to.  I had two pieces of 2” Velcro and mapped out about where I wanted them on my boards. I found it was easiest to put a box under one side so it would lift slightly higher than the other side and the Velcro wouldn’t get stuck together upon application. All you need to do it place each piece of Velcro where you want it and center it on the edge of the board so the Velcro wraps around both sides of the board, much like the gaffer tape. I did use the photo mount spray on the sticky side for this too.

One thing I would do differently here is cut each Velcro piece in half, making 4 small Velcro pieces rather than 2 large. I feel like it would give me more control over the top pieces sticking together and make dismantling a tinge easier. I don’t think you can go wrong either way just thought I would note it.

Once you complete this step that’s it! You are done!

Materials and cost:

8 32X40” White Foam Boards 3/16” deep: I found them on sale at a local craft store. $35.87

8 32x40” Black Mat Boards: I happened to find a 10-pack for $36.54

Black Gaffer Tape: $16.71

White Gaffer Tape: $16.71

2 packs of 2” Velcro Strips: $4.24

Scotch Photo Mount Spray Adhesive: $5.90

1 Pair of Scissors

1 Box cutter

2 Clamps

Scrap Cardboard

Grand Total: $115.97

Final thoughts:

I did this alone and it probably took me about 3 hours to make one. Yes, one v-flat. I was too tired and hungry to make the other and let me just say I am absolutely dreading it. I will probably enlist another set of hands for the second to see if that will help speed things up. If money is no object, save yourself the trouble and buy the pre-made version at V-flat World. They are pricey at $392 for two, but it’s really a cost benefit type of situation. For me, I wanted to try making my own and ultimately am happy I did. I’ll be happier once the other one is complete.

Kelly Lane's picture

Hello, I'm Kelly. I am a fashion photographer based in Atlanta, GA.

I started off 10 years ago shooting weddings. This taught me how to shoot fast and keep my set up simple, which I've adapted into my fashion shoots. I love helping other navigate the world of photography so feel free to reach out!

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ooooo, awesome work Kelly! You went all out and added a black side too!
Would love to see your v-flats in action!

Thanks! I made the other one and used them for a shoot yesterday and love it! So far so good!

Good job, I don't know anyone that would pay $200 for a set of V Flats. I have had mine for 18 years and they've been moved to five different spaces.

that's pretty neat..
can be cheaper, but those v-flats of yours looking so awesome

My comment must not have been liked. Gaff tape comes with adhesive, why use spray adhesive on tape that already has phenomenal adhesion?

"gaffer tape is incredible and durable, the spray helps it last that much longer" I have V-Flats at a clients non temperature controlled factory that are 5 years old. The only failures are from the foam-board backing de-laminating from the actual interior foam. Or are we just rehashing info that started w/ Felix Kunze V-Flat video a few years back?

Gaff tape does not need spray adhesive.

I asked this on a similar video a few weeks ago. Duct tape is available in black and white and has much better adhesive. It would be perfect for this as you don't have to add spray (which is messy) and is more durable.

To each his own. I have had gaffer tape peel off over time. As I mentioned in the article, gaffer tape is made of fabric and duct tape is vinyl. So there is a flexibility that gaffer tape has that duct tape doesn't. The whole point is that they bend easily and are secure, which duct tape won't do. With all the movement, I wanted the gaffer tape reinforced. You don't have to do it, but as I said I never want to have to make these again so I took the extra step.

I did an article on this years ago with 25mm (inch in old money) polystyrene sheet. taped edges and joint. Old side painted with blackboard paint.
Job done.

Problem with foam board is that it warps, You can see that in the photo above. Might not be an issue for some but when you are doing a job where a reflection is needed, a straight edge is desirable.

Good job though, I hope you are a lot faster on the rest of them.

Thanks! I haven't had any problems with them so far! In fact I've found that since they are portable I have been using them a lot more than I expected!

What kind of white foam did you use? Do you have a brand name or link? Im drin Germany and foam board is a very wide term. Same with the black. Thanks!

hi! It was basic white foam poster board that was 3/16" thick. Here is an exact link to what I bought https://www.hobbylobby.com/Art-Supplies/Canvas-Surfaces/Foam-Board/White...

I linked the black mat board I bought in the post.

You can buy foam core, white one side and black the other side, then you can avoid all this taping and gluing and spraying.

believe me I looked everywhere for that but couldn't find it in any sizes that would have been usable.

Here in Vegas, the only place I have found the 4' x 8' black/white foam core was Desert Art Supply.