One of the most popular pieces of gear most photographer assume a studio should have is a reflector of some sort, and a v-flat is greatly preferred. Some photographers who look for a DIY option but can't seem to find a source for the large foam boards usually give up and proceed without them. Here's another method you can use to create your own v-flats.
I spent some time traveling to different studios, and one thing I found at most of them were v-flats of some sort. I started to plan to create my own studio, and I knew this was one piece of gear on the list I must own. I even reached out to some local photographers and asked them what gear they would like to be in the studio, and v-flats came up for several. They are pretty versatile in different uses and don't take up much space, but like many, I couldn't find a local source for large 4'x8' Gatorboard or foam boards to use.
I searched online and came back with many expensive options, and then on top of that, there's shipping. I did find one local source, but they wasn't cheap, and then I would have to drive roughly 30 miles to get them. Houston is fairly large, and I didn't want to drive back with the foam boards strapped to the roof with the chance of them bending with the wind. While picking up some other materials at the local Home Depot, I went ahead and checked out what they had in stock that I could use and came across the insulation section, where there was 1/2-inch 48"x96" pink insulation boards. I decided to pick up two and give them a try since they were only $12.50 per sheet; if it didn't work out, it wouldn't be a huge loss.
Both sides of the insulation board had a clear plastic covering, which I removed prior to painting. I already had several gallons of paint for the rest of the studio, so I just used that. I started off with three coats of interior primer and sealant paint for the unprinted side of the insulation board. I let each coat dry before applying another coat, then finished it off with a coat of flat white paint. With the other side of the insulation boards having print, I picked that side to be black, so I used two coats of the primer and sealant paint, followed by two coats of black paint.
Once the boards were painted and dried, I then used a clamp to hold them together with a stool to lean them against so I could tape them together. Following the same methods found in two articles, one by Clay Cook and the other with the video of Felix Kunze's guide, I applied gaffer's tape only on the edge of the fold and taped the ends in a diagonal from the edge to fold over, with another cut down the center so it could fold over. Once the black side was taped together, I flipped the boards over and repeated the process for the white side after smoothing the tape seam to the center. Once you flip it over, the seam warps, so it needs to be lined back up.
I was finally done constructing my own v-flats from insulation boards. One thing to keep in mind is to use padding between the clamps and the boards. For a minute there, I thought I would have issues removing the clamps without damaging the paint, but they came off without chunks of paint coming off. I wouldn't try it again without something between the paint and the clamps just to be sure.
If you are not able to source any white, black, or the combination of both colors in a Gatorboard or foam board locally, check out your nearest hardware store to see if they have insulation boards in stock for you to use instead. I will be back to pick up another set of insulation boards to make another V-Flat for the studio. The 1/2-inch set seems to be sturdy enough to stay up on its own, but they also had 1-inch thick insulation boards if you want to go with a thicker set.
Have you created your own v-flats before? What did you use? Post photos of your final product in the comments below.