I love having a photo booth at every party I host! When I have one, I am reminded to get at least one picture of every guest, and it is nice to have a pretty backdrop for pictures. A backdrop that matches the party's theme is not just great for pictures, it's a large piece of party décor too!
Just before my daughter's 7th birthday, we took a family trip to Grand Cayman. She fell in love with snorkeling on that trip and was fascinated with life under the sea. She not only loved the fish but all the coral too! When we started discussing party themes, she quickly asked for an Under the Sea party. I knew right away that I wanted to create a coral reef to use in a photo booth for the party.
Just like in the ocean, I wanted a variety of types and colors of coral, and thankfully the internet was full of many different techniques for D.I.Y. coral. I started making a different type of coral every day for a couple of weeks leading up to her party and would just store the individual pieces I'd made in large boxes until party day.
Making the Faux Coral
Pool Noodle Corals
The first technique I found involved cutting pool noodles in several different ways to create faux coral. I used a tutorial from My Humble Home and Garden to create Pool Noodle Faux Coral. Since I was making a larger reef on the floor, I left extra height on some of the pool noodles compared to their tablescape version, but they had multiple cutting techniques that made some interesting-looking coral from pool noodles. Dollar Tree is a great place to find cheap pool noodles for crafting. My daughter's birthday is in September, and Dollar Tree had already gotten rid of their summer pool noodles, but thankfully they know crafters use them year round and they had a lot of Halloween color pool noodles in stock (green, purple, orange, and black). I figured all of the colors except black would make good coral choices. I added a couple of blue noodles from my garage to the Halloween colors.
Spray Foam Corals
Probably my favorite style of faux coral was this Spray Foam Coral technique from Green Eyed Girl Events. I was able to make 4 large pieces of coral using four Wooden Dowels and 1 can of Spray foam insulation. After the spray foam dried, I painted each of the four pieces a different color with acrylic paint. I used pink, purple, yellow, and blue. I held the stick in one hand and painted all sides, then placed them in a large vase to dry. The wooden dowel not only served as the base to spray the foam on but was perfect for holding during painting and inserting into the reef scape the day of the party.
Coffee Filter Corals
I also made some coral designs from coffee filters with this tutorial from Stickas Kids. This was a fun one for my daughter to help me with and was super inexpensive and easy to make. I used coffee filters left over from one of our beach vacations (we use K-cups exclusively at home, but I had coffee filters in my pantry that we must have bought and used at an Airbnb), food coloring, and pipe cleaners that I always have around the house.
Pipe Cleaner Corals
Before making pipe cleaners into coral pieces, I prepped an old recycled egg carton by painting it light yellow and cutting it into 3 pieces (4 egg holes in a square section) to use as a base. I cut pipe cleaners into various lengths and twisted them together to make coral shapes, once I had a bunch of pieces, I poked the pipe cleaners through an upside-down egg carton, and added a little play dough on the underside to hold the pipe cleaners upright and in place.
Tissue Paper Corals
I have used the Better Home and Gardens technique for making Tissue Paper Pom Poms in the past. For my coral reef, I used this same technique to make tissue paper corals. Instead of cutting round edges for pom-poms, I cut the edges with sharp points.
Mesh Tubing Corals
The final pieces of coral I made were with Mesh Ribbon. I cut pieces of mesh ribbon into 9-inch lengths. Mesh Ribbon naturally curls up, once it was cut and curled itself, I overlapped 10 pieces in an X shape. I pinched the center of all 10 pieces and tied them in place with a pipe cleaner. I was then able to fluff and reshape all the pieces to look like a piece of coral.
Making the Photobooth backdrop
The coral reef pieces would be the star of my photo booth, but I still needed a full backdrop to create a clean look for the back of the photo booth. The party's theme was Under the Sea and coral reefs are found underwater, so I wanted shades of blue behind the faux corals to represent water. I decided some ruffled streamers would look great, the ruffles remind me of waves. I used three different shades of blue crepe paper streamers (with dark blue used more sparingly). If you'd like to sew your own crepe paper streamers, I wrote a full tutorial on Sewing Ruffled Streamers. They are so fast and easy to make, and one of my favorite DIY projects for parties. After I sewed the blue crepe paper streamers, I laid out two blue plastic table covers, overlapping them width-wise to make 1 piece that was ten feet wide (this is how wide I planned for my photo booth to be). I stapled the crepe paper streamers to the top of the plastic table covers, leaving small gaps between each streamer until the full ten-foot width was covered with streamers. I made this backdrop several days before the party, so after adding the streamers, I rolled the backdrop up (starting at the top) and stored it for later.
Assembling the Reef
On the day of the party, I started by assembling my Photo Backdrop Stand and attaching my ruffled streamer backdrop using the clips that were included with my Photo Backdrop Stand. I love this stand for times I can’t attach stuff to the wall, either because I’m in a rented space or I’m setting up away from a wall. It’s fast to assemble and includes clips for attaching backdrops. It also included sandbags to make the setup sturdy around kids! I added a couple of octopus balloons from an Under the Sea Balloon Arch Kit (I used the rest of this balloon arch kit behind my dessert table) to the top of the photo booth backdrop stand.
After the backdrop was hung, it was time to assemble all the corals I had made. I started by arranging 4 large boxes (I just used large empty shipping boxes) in front of the backdrop. Next, I took a Roll of Brown Craft Paper and loosely covered all the boxes. I used my hands to crinkle the craft paper and give it a more natural look. I poked some Wooden Dowels through the craft paper and boxes and used them to help attach larger pieces of faux coral. The pool noodle pieces were easy to slip over the wooded dowels and I used dowels behind the spray foam corals as support. For all the smaller lightweight corals, I used Glue Dots to hold them in place. I had some extra green ruffled streamers left over from a Luau party that I scattered around the faux coral to look like kelp (and also help hide the boxes).
The faux coral reef made a great focal point for the Under the Sea Party and was the perfect spot to get pictures with all of our guests!
**I have included affiliate links to the products I used and can receive a small commission if a purchase is made after you click on a link in this tutorial. All items used in this tutorial were purchased by me and I did not receive anything in exchange.
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