Model Tree Clinic

JimJ Jul 10, 2013

  1. JimJ

    JimJ Staff Member

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    Here we go. Here's a little photo clinic showing one of my methods for making realistic foreground trees. The materials list is: dried flower stems or similar natural trunk/branch materials, Scenic Express natural tree kit branch material, round toothpicks, super glue, model putty (I prefer Green Squadron Putty), wax paper, small squares of foam board for a temporary base, paints tweezers and so on. The first pic shows the dried flower stems I use alongside the Scenic Express branch material. It is sold $24 a box and yields tons of trees. Cut the Scenic Express branch clusters off into small pieces. I cut the flower stem to length for the trunk and cut off all the dried flower tips off the top leaving as much of the branch like structure as possible. Then cut a toothpick in half, sharpen the cut end and shove it up into the base of the tree using super glue to secure it. Force it in tight and if it splits a bit no worries. [​IMG]Then make a base for it using square pieces of foam board. Tape a square of wax paper to the base and push your tree into it. The wax paper keeps the model putty from eating the foam and preserves the modeled roots when removing the tree from the base later. Trust me, don't forget the wax paper. [​IMG]Now use tweezers to poke the small branch clusters down into the top of the tree. Just shove them into the tree top and find a place where the small cluster is up against the main tree structure and secure with super glue as in the photo. Don't worry much about neatness, adding the leaves later will cover up most ugliness. [​IMG]Try to insert as many clusters as you can to give the tree some shape and eliminate the flat top appearance and bare spots. If more branches are needed lower on the trunk just drill a hole in the trunk with a fine bit and glue a branch cluster into it. [​IMG]Stand by for more!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 10, 2013
  2. maxairedale

    maxairedale TrainBoard Member

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    Great Clinic.

    Looking forward to more of it.

    Gary
     
  3. JimJ

    JimJ Staff Member

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    Now it's time to paint it. I wear a latex glove to hold it and spray it with grey rattle can paint. Then place it into it's base to dry for a few minutes.
    [​IMG]
    Now for one of the cool steps, forming the trunk. I use putty, a piece of styrene for a spreading tool and a used #11 blade. Position your tree into the base as straight up a down as possible (remember to have the wax paper taped flat and tight to make a smooth flat surface) unless your modeling a leaning tree. Then squeeze out some putty around the base of the trunk. Use the piece of styrene to drag putty upwards onto the trunk all around it leaving the very bottom a bit fatter. You don't have a lot of time to do this before the putty starts to dry. This process will leave lines, pits, crumbs and other irregularities but that is what you want. Just experiment and keep making these trees and you'll get a knack for this part quickly. Take the #11 blade and press down along the base to form roots. Not all trees have exposed roots but it looks cool and can be covered up with ground foam later if roots are not desired.
    [​IMG]
    Let this dry overnight. Don't rush it like I did once and ruined the roots. Let it dry overnight. Here's is how this project tree looks so far. By the way, I make about 5 or 6 trees at once and reuse the foam bases. Tune in tomorrow and I'll show how I bring the tree to life with trunk painting methods and adding the leaves. Thanks for checking this out.
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 10, 2013
  4. JimJ

    JimJ Staff Member

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    Here's a look at a tree I made over the weekend. I just wanted to show the root details and bark texture that my method creates.
    [​IMG]
     
  5. HemiAdda2d

    HemiAdda2d Staff Member

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    Awesome! If you place the tree at an angle matching that of the location you planned to plant it (like on a hill), angling the tree is advantageous. I might try this. I have some old SE material at home, and I need some deciduous trees. Looking foward to the final touches!
     
  6. mikelhh

    mikelhh TrainBoard Member

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    Turned out great, Jim!
     
  7. JimJ

    JimJ Staff Member

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    Thank you and good morning. Before I head out to work is prime time for the next step. Carefully pull the wax paper down and off the tree's base trying to preserve the root structure as much as possible. Then paint the trunk with cheap flat black craft paint. Let this completely dry and we'll finish this tree when I get home this afternoon. Thanks for following along.
    [​IMG]
     
  8. JimJ

    JimJ Staff Member

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    Final installment. Painting and adding leaves. I pay pretty close attention to trees and the trunks are usually grayish. But field dust, natural weathering and sunlight can create a warmer brownish look to it so I use the following method to paint the trunk and highlight the texture detail. I again used cheap craft paint (except the color "earth") to complete the trunk. First I mixed the black and white to create a grey color and dry brushed it over the black trunk. Dry brushing leaves the black paint down in all the cracks and crevices creating depth and shadow. Then I dry brushed an earth color over that and finally I used white to just barely highlight the most raised texture. This result makes me happy but anyone can adjust the colors to their satisfaction.
    [​IMG]


    To add leaves I hold onto the toothpick for a handle and spray plenty of cheap hairspray onto the branch structure and quickly sprinkle green ground foam all over it. Avoid the main trunk when spraying the hairspray and shaking on the ground foam. You can also stick the tree top into a big bag containing ground foam and shake it all around to add leaves or a combo of both using two different shades of green. Be creative and experiment.
    [​IMG]


    And a final photo showing our new tree planted into some fake fur scenery. If you don't want your roots to show (my wife hates that) then just sprinkle some ground foam around the base to blend it in with the grass or add weeds around it.
    [​IMG]


    These are easy to make and fun to experiment with. Add a broken dead branch with brown leaves, add vines growing up the side of the trunk or maybe a tire swing hanging or wooden board steps leading up to a treehouse. These would be great for up close special scenes at the layout's edge. Thanks for reading all this and I hope somebody actually tries this method out.
    I do not claim to have invented all these steps but this is how I put them all together. Happy modeling!
     
  9. Eagle2

    Eagle2 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    I've seen similar methods before, but as memory serves they were a bit more involved/complicated. It's especially impressive the results the multiple dry-brushings create on the trunk. Thanks for a great clinic!
     
  10. Flash Blackman

    Flash Blackman Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Great clinic. Inexpensive trees, too.
     
  11. JimJ

    JimJ Staff Member

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    Thanks. I thought maybe the thread fell flat but it was sure fun putting it together anyhow. You're right about the prices for pre made trees. I was at my LHS tonight and saw some trees that were $16 a pair. What?! and they were very small. I've been busy making a lot of these lately.
     
  12. JPIII

    JPIII TrainBoard Member

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    i spent a good chunk of last winter hunkered down making trees......and this winter looks like more of the same. I was not totally happy with any of my methods of making large firs but got a few clues. I spent time this summer looking at the shape & fullness of closely packed (natural growth) trees and now have a better handle on that aspect.

    Here's a sample of last years stuff. After salmon season, I'll attack them with renewed enthusiasm.[​IMG]I spent a good chunk of last winter hunkered down making trees......and this winter looks like more of the same. I was not totally happy with any of my methods of making large firs but got a few clues. I spent time this summer looking at the shape & fullness of closely packed (natural growth) and now have a better handle on that aspect.

    Here's a sample of last years stuff. After salmon season, I'll attack them with renewed enthusiasm.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 17, 2013

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