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The following tutorial was submitted by "Gavin Miller" on 8-27-02, and is being recreated here to bring back some historical records to the New Academy:
Here's how I do backdrops.

I use templates to spraypaint clouds onto the blue "sky" background. It's called cloud painting for the "artistically challenged" he, heh (like me!!)

I have found I can get MUCH more realistic looking cloud shapes by using these plastic templates than I ever would by painting directly onto the backdrop with a paintbrush. I think clouds painted directly tend too look too "heavy" or "solid".

To create my templates. I just hacked away at some scrap plastic sheets with a pair of scissors, cutting rough cloud edges or complete shapes (not rocket science - random wavy lines do just fine).

These templates are held close to (but not hard up against) the backdrop. Then, using an airbrush or spray can, flat white paint is MISTED on. Less is better in this instance. Your clouds will look nebulous and hazy if you just mist it on. Too much and they start to look too solid.

Try to achieve sharper edges on the tops of clouds (where the sun shines on them) with feathered edges underneath (in the shadow). Allowing the "sky blue" colour to show through the cloud at places gives it a realistic misty look.

Here is a photo of my home-made cloud templates.


Here's a photo showing my blue painted backdrop at the left and some experimental cloud painting using templates on the right.

This was one of my first attempts. I ended up painting over the clouds a few times (using a paint roller and blue paint) until I was happy with the amount of clouds and the way they looked.


Here's a shot showing my backdrop with the first layer of hills (the horizon) painted on.

These hills were misted with white paint to "fade" them into the distance. Then another, "closer", ridge of hills was painted on top and the whole scene again misted with white. A third ridge of even closer hills were painted on and another mist of white was applied.

By this time, the first (horizon) ridge was faded into the far distance by several mist coats of white paint.


Here three layers of hills have been applied and "faded" into the distance.

Waiting for foreground detail to be added.

Gavin Miller
Perth, W. Australia
Here I've used a kitchen sponge dipped in green paint to dab on "foliage" texture to the foreground hills. I've used a paintbrush dipped in tan paint to add randon "bare earth" areas in the hills and I've painted in some "man-made" structures (as this is supposed to represent the suburban hills).


I decided another mist of white paint was in order. Then I added a nearby "treeline" using a sponge dipped in green paint.

This completed the backdrop.


Here's what the scene looks like when you throw some Woodlands Scenics foliage clusters in front of the "treeline" painted on the one-dimensional backdrop.

I think the three dimensional clusters blend quite well and the whole scene has depth and "distance" (from the hard foreground objects back to the soft horizon)


Here is another shot, taken at the other end of my layout, once again half way through finishing my backdrop.

Two RailNet E8s (Lifelike) run "light engine" under the catenary over the yet-to-be painted and ballasted mainline.


Gavin Miller
Perth, W. Australia