The Ultimate guide on what you should DIY and what you should buy

October 27, 2022
By Claire Xue

There are so many decor pieces and props that you can DIY, but there are also some that you should consider purchasing instead of making it yourself. Today we are breaking down what exact items you can and should DIY at home and the materials and tools you need to get the job done. We will also share some things you should consider purchasing instead of DIY due to the elaborated process to complete.

Photography by: Diane Villadsen

For some decor and photo props, like the background and the pieces with only one layer of the MDF board, these pieces you should consider DIY because they have fewer steps to make.

The pieces you should DIY are:

    • Large background shapes
    • Walls (single layer)
    • Single-layer shapes
    • Surfaces with no thickness
    • The pieces are flat and more 2D

If you are making these pieces at home, we listed the tools and materials that you will need below:

    • MDF boards AKA particle boards; 
    • A table saw
    • Sand paper
    • Electric sander
    • Preferred paints
    • Paint roller and brush 
    • Paint cover sheet (get a reusable one that is waterproof)

Pro tip: Don't use plywood for the surface because the wood texture is harder to cover up with only a couple of layers of paint.

    • Alternatively you can use cardboards or foam boards and you can use box cutter to carve the shapes, this is much less intimidating way to DIY your background.


First, let's start with interior paint for painting large surfaces such as walls. Use a roller for painting the exterior; only brushes for edges or detailed work. Home Depot will have more options on colors and tools. You can get these items in Home Depot or your local hardware store. 

Spay paint to paint smaller pieces of props, something you can hold with one hand. Spray paint will give your subject smoother finishes, so it's less post-production effort if you haven't spray painted before. I've learned from my mistakes. We have a blog post about spray painting tips and tricks.

    • Painting cover sheet ( get a reusab
Moodelier studio set with two artist
Left: Photography by Diane Villadsen : Set design by Claire Xue 
Right: Photography by Claire Xue 

However, there are items that you should consider purchasing instead of DIY. These items have a tricky process and take days and weeks to finish or involve more extensive tools and machines, so you can not quickly finish them at home.

If you're aiming for a 3D look, it is much better if you buy it instead of DIY since this process will be time consuming.

The pieces you should purchase are:

    • Raisers
    • Stools
    • Columns
    • Product display items ( where products need to be placed)
    • Curved silhouette with significant thickness (such as the curvy steps and squiggles)
    • The pieces you can use on any side; you can lay them down, flip them around, and use them at any angle.

Hopefully, you will understand what you need, what it takes to DIY some decor and photo props at home, and what you should purchase. So you can be smart about what you should spend your time on to create and have a good ROTS (return on time spent); what you should purchase get good ROMS (return on money spent)

Disclaimer: ROTS and ROMS is totally made up by me, but you know what I meant 😉

Last, DIY or Buy, both are a mood! ✨🌈🙌🏽


Photo Credits to: Helen Koker , Anna Alexia and Claire Xue
FYI: We buy some of our art decors from Blick Art Supplies


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