One option for background trees...

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One option for background trees...

Postby doctorwayne » Nov 7th, '16, 02:34

With a couple of long-neglected areas needing trees - lots of trees....

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...I decided to experiment with making some background-type trees. These aren't detailed, but merely fill out the scene beyond the ones which are.
Since the area shown in the third and fourth pictures, above, is the smaller of the two, I decided to use it for my tests.

The raw material is mineral wool, commonly used as insulation. It's known through various brand names, Roxul being one. I had a partial batt of it leftover from a home project and saw some possibility for my layout. I used a utility knife to cut a pieced from the end of the batt, which is approximately 14.5" wide. The cut-off piece is roughly twice as long as what would be required for background trees in the areas shown - my hills required ones between 3" and 6" high, so the various cut-offs were roughly 6",8", 10" and 12". Once the piece is cut, gently tear it in two along its long axis - this yields two pieces with straight ends and bottom, and irregular tops. These pieces can be further divided, depending on the user's particular needs, by splitting the thickness into two, three, or four thinner parts.

After enough pieces were on hand, I set out to paint them, in order to change the yellowish colour to something a little darker. I used a fairly dark green latex paint, but black would work, too (mine should be darker based on the sample card which I chose, but the apparent mismatch should work fine for this application).
My first attempt was to spray paint it, but problems with the sprayer made the application too heavy, and it took a long time to dry. The paint was thinned with water:

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As you can see, it's not necessary to cover the portion which won't show - this will vary depending on the topography of your layout, but mine is mostly background hills sloping towards the viewer, and the top of each successive layer will cover the lower, unpainted, portion of the ones behind it.
After the fiasco with the sprayer, I used my airbrush for the rest, with the paint thinned to a somewhat greater degree:

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Here's a bunch simply stuck into the scene to see if it still had possibilities:

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Here's some of the heavily-painted stuff with an application of ground foam:

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...and the airbrushed version, with a first coat of foam:

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I was originally going to sprinkle the foam onto the still-wet paint, but that made it very messy to handle. Instead, I sprayed the tinted and dried insulation with hairspray. I used a pump-type dispenser rather than a spray can: it's more readily controlled, and when the level drops below the pick-up tube, the remainder can be poured into the next pump dispenser - very little waste. A spray can often stops spraying before the contents are used up, resulting in wasted material:

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As you can see in the photo above, I used only finely ground foam, and only two colours. The fine foam keeps the material low-relief (not too much detail), and, when the dark foam is applied first, then another application of hairspray followed by the lighter foam, the effect is of sunlight on the trees.

To "plant" these background trees, holes were drilled into the plaster-on-aluminum-window-screen-landforms, and short pieces of bamboo skewers glued in place. The individual sections of insulation were then pushed onto the skewers - I didn't bother gluing them, but a blob of white glue atop the skewer before impaling the "tree" material could be used.

Once the actual background and mid-ground trees were added to the scene, I did add some small patches of polyfibre to a few areas of the insulation to help tie it in to the foreground and break-up its somewhat row-like appearance. Those got some hairspray and ground foam, too.
I think that when I do the area with the two bridges, I may fluff-out the individual hunks of insulation to give them a little more irregularity in their depth.

Here's the scene with the background "trees" in place:

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Once the background "trees" are in place, more fully-modelled ones are needed as the scenery moves closer to the viewer. I started with some twigs, gathered locally from fairly large bushes which grow wild in this area of the province. I don't know the species, but a google search yielded some images which indicate that it may be Round Leaf Dogwood.
No matter where you live, there should be a local plant or shrub which can provide useful material for tree armatures.

After painting the trunk grey, using craft paint from the dollar store and a 1/2" brush, polyfibre was stretched thin and draped over the branch structure. It's important to stretch the material thin, and to place it in a logical manner...I use several separate pieces for all but the smallest trees. Note that I seldom bother to glue the fibre in place - the hairspray holds it somewhat, but once the tree is to your satisfaction and installed on the layout, there should be no need to touch it again:

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Here, the lower portion of the fibre has been sprayed with hairspray, and some fine, dark green ground foam has been applied. One could follow with additional spray and more of the same or perhaps some coarser material. I then spray the tree's upper surfaces and apply some lighter green, usually of medium coarseness. Depending on the lighting over your layout, you may wish to spray the top again and add a little bit of even lighter green or perhaps some yellow - this can help to suggest sunlight on the upper portions of the tree...

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...and a few more fully-developed ones - keep in mind that these are still background trees:

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...and a few temporarily placed near the area where they'll be planted:

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Here, a bunch are ready to be planted. I drill holes in the plaster, vacuum the resultant dust (not yet done in the photo below), then remove the tree, add a small glob of white glue on its base and plug it back into its spot. Keep in mind, too, that you can always do foliage touch-ups after the trees are glued in place - some careful work with the hairspray and a light dusting of ground foam can repair damage which occurs during installation or improve spots which you may have missed during the construction.

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As seen below, all of the larger trees are in place to the rear of the bridge, which was re-installed for the photo. It'll be removed in order to add smaller trees and underbrush, before moving to the foreground:

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Smaller trees are required, too. These are about 2" or 3" high, and many still have the bush's dried fruit on the branches. One or two pieces of fibre drape nicely over the fine branch structure, and once the foam is in place and more trees added, those unprototypical details won't be noticeable:

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The scene required quite a bit of underbrush:

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Perhaps I should mention here that I work on the layout room's floor. To keep things relatively organised and neat-ish, I spray the fibre-covered trees over several thicknesses of newspaper, then apply each colour and texture over their own newspapered area. This allows any foam which doesn't stick to the fibre to remain loose and be returned to its container for re-use.

I haven't touched too much on ground cover, but should note that the area immediately in front of the insulation-based trees was painted, using a 2" brush, with the same dark green, unthinned, as was used on the insulation. The rest of the ground had been stained using thinned latex house paint directly on the plaster soon after it had hardened (many years ago :oops: ).
For the foreground area, ground cover was added by painting the steeply sloped portions with full-strength white glue. Various colours and sizes of ground foam were sprinkled on that, and the area below that, then all of it was sprayed with "wet" water (water with a few drops of dish detergent added). This helps the painted-on white glue to wick-up into the applied foam and also preps the material which was added to the rest of the scene to better absorb the diluted white glue which was applied using a dropper-type bottle.
The area took a few days to dry, and then more underbrush and small trees were added. I also selected some fine lichen and after applying hairspray, dusted it with ground foam. This was affixed directly to the ground as ground cover, using white glue, or place over skewers implanted into the plaster, and secured with white glue to represent dense undergrowth.

Here are some skewers in place, awaiting the lichen, along with an as-yet-unplanted larger tree and some loose lichen, not yet covered with foam:

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...and with the lichen installed:

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This is the upper portion of the right-hand slope, with more trees yet to be planted...

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...and the lower portion of the same slope:

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...and a few views with the undergrowth and larger trees in place in the foreground:

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...and a view from the layout side, looking towards the aisle...

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...and north, towards Park Head:

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...and, finally, a view of the area. I purposely kept the trees away from the layout's immediate edge, since anything snagging on the foliage could quickly denude half of the forest. :crazy:

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I hope that some of you will find something here of use or of interest.

Wayne
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Re: One option for background trees...

Postby Schraddel » Nov 7th, '16, 07:43

Wayne,

very big picture, great! Simply GREAT! :worship: :clap: :tada:

Cheers Lutz

N.B. This article should be pinned.
Cheers Lutz
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Re: One option for background trees...

Postby Ralph » Nov 7th, '16, 08:48

Brilliant technique! Very effective way of conveying large forested areas! :tada: :tada: :tada:
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Re: One option for background trees...

Postby Charlie B » Nov 7th, '16, 08:56

Thanks for the detailed instructions on doing this. I am sure it will come in handy soon. :tada: :tada:
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Re: One option for background trees...

Postby RailCop » Nov 7th, '16, 09:55

Wayne, that looks great. And I have a small area on my layout where I could use this technique. Thanks for the insvtruction.
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Re: One option for background trees...

Postby doctorwayne » Nov 7th, '16, 10:41

Thanks so much for the kind words, guys. :goldth:

Wayne
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Re: One option for background trees...

Postby modelsof1900 » Nov 7th, '16, 13:44

Doc, great looking scenery! Congratulation - and a lot of envy!
Cheers, Bernd

Please visit also my website www.us-modelsof1900.de.
You can read some more about my model projects and interests in my chronicle of facebook.
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Re: One option for background trees...

Postby Tyson Rayles » Nov 7th, '16, 14:14

:tada: :cheers:
Mike

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Re: One option for background trees...

Postby LynnB » Nov 7th, '16, 23:48

Nicely done Wayne and nice job on the write up, easy to follow.
Lynn

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Re: One option for background trees...

Postby doctorwayne » Nov 8th, '16, 00:23

Thanks Lynn, and thanks, too, for dropping by to see us. :goldth: :goldth:

Wayne
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Re: One option for background trees...

Postby e-paw » Nov 8th, '16, 12:49

Nicely done sir. :tada: :cheers: :tada:
My other car is a locomotive, ARHS restoration crew
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Re: One option for background trees...

Postby railbuilderdhd » Nov 14th, '16, 15:53

Those trees are turning out nice. I never thought they would be that good from the starting picture.

Well done!

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Re: One option for background trees...

Postby ak-milw » Nov 14th, '16, 20:52

The whole bunch blend together perfectly, great idea!



:cheers:
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Re: One option for background trees...

Postby sailormatlac » Jan 15th, '18, 20:34

I can't believe I missed that thread... Very interesting stuff Wayne. Your technique would make wonder even on smaller layout where a line of backgroud threes are required to hide how the sky meets the horizon. BTW, congrats for that forest around the trestle. This is how I remember most trestles I've seen: inacessible, in a wooden area and almost impossible to completely photograph.

Matt
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Re: One option for background trees...

Postby hillyard999 » Jan 17th, '18, 15:27

Dr Wayne

I too missed the original thread.

Your work shown here is stunningly effective!
I particularly like the photos looking up at the bridge from down below.

--hillyard999
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