We often get asked: What do you find the most difficult thing to style?

Somewhere on the top of our list is a soft prop, a dish towel or cloth. Do you find that you fiddle and faff with the cloth until you are so frustrated because it just won’t fold the way you want it to that you feel like tearing it in half? You’re not alone!

So why use it if it’s such a hassle to get right?

Take a look at most food photography and you’ll seldom find shots without a cloth or dish towel somewhere in the image.

 why use a cloth or linen in your styling

Why use a dish towel, tea towel, styling linen or cloth?

For 4 reasons...

This lowly piece of cloth can elevate even the plain and flat to rich and deep. You’ll see food bloggers and stylists use them to:

  1. soften a shot
  2. highlight a theme colour
  3. frame a shot
  4. enhance the mood in an image, balancing the shot

It is one of the props we all have in our kitchen so it is completely accessible. Unlike most props that are hard to find or expensive, kitchen towels are available in every retail outlet known to man, and are super affordable! But, how do stylists make it look so effortless to tame the napkin or cloth into submission? We’re breaking it down for you.

Stack of Dishtowels

Know when to use it:


creative barn styling rustic linen

To soften a shot

When styling a food or drink shot you may have cold hard surfaces filling your frame. Without that little bit of fabric, the shot would be all metal/glass and really hard materials. With the kitchen towel there is a little bit of softness that really makes the shot.


creative barn styling linen in drinks shot

Highlight a theme colour

This shot would not be the same without the coordinating color of this Mungo towel under the drink shot setup.

The coordination of these crisp colors contrasting with the strong white washed out background really makes this shot pop and gives you a fresh feeling of being at the seaside!

Have you ever noticed how satisfying it is to look at an image with harmonious colours in it? This is because they stimulate feelings of trust and calm.

Because the color blue is so dominant in this shot, the white marble pestle & mortar and white label of the VerGin bottle really stand out.

 Tip: Use different tones and textures of the same colour to create depth.


creative barn styling linens

Frame a shot

A kitchen towel, muslin or tulle fabric in this case can act as a frame on the side of an image as it pulls the clay color of the background over while providing a little bit of texture and break the solid flat colour. 

If the fabric was not there and the background was just the clay styling surface alone, this shot would be completely flat and lifeless.


dark and moody image papaya creative barn styling linen

Balancing the shot

We love a good moody, dark scene, who doesn’t. It really evokes a strong feeling within the viewer.

In this shot the obvious focal point is the open papaya. That is the brightest spot and where your eye goes first.

That said, the papaya in the background, the kitchen towel and wooden board in the foreground make you look at the whole composition rather than just the middle of the image.

Without the textured towel on the left, you might get “stuck” at the bowl and not even notice the spoon or the palm leaf plate underneath.

 Linen Napkins

If you haven't used a cloth in your styling yet, give it a try, play around with fabric you have in your home or check out our styling fabrics and linens on the store. You'll notice how it just completes an image in many cases. We can't wait to see the creative scenes you dream up, please share them using #creativebarntips and @thecreativebarn so we can share them.

Look out for more tips coming up: How to Tame the Cloth


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