Friday, July 2, 2010

Making Realistic Miniature Trees

This article describes how to make the most realistic miniature trees for your HO or "S" scale diorama or model railroad. Scale model trees can be made inexpensively.

We were commissioned to design and create a model of "Bear Country" for the opening of a children's video. A 1/24 or "S" scale diorama was selected to be filmed and created to look real. The overall size of the diorama was 3 ft x 4 ft. The scene included about 25 miniature trees - decidious, pine, oak to add variety. The trees created were designed for "S" scale models, but will work equally well with HO scale models (1/87).

Sketch of Center Tree provided by Director
A variety of materials were used to create the trees, including a spray bottle, air filter material, a pull saw, white glue, sponge brush, burnt umber acrylic paint and flat black spray paint.

Materials Used in Making Realistic Miniature Trees
The steps to producing miniature trees are:
1) Cut a 1/2" to 3/4" diameter dowel to length - approximately 1 ft long
2) T
aper the dowels to a point using a sander
3) Using the pull saw, scrape along the length of each dowel to create bark texture
4) Thin down some of the burnt umber acrylic paint to create a wash, then apply to the dowels. You can also thin down some black paint and apply to the dowels to really make the bark texture pop out.

Burnt Umber Acrylic Paint
5) Cut triangular and irregular size pieces from the air filter material. These will become the branches for the miniature trees.

Air Filter - Available at your local hardware store
6) Spray the branches using the flat black spray paint7) Slide the cut air filter pieces on to the wooden dowels, turning each to randomize their orientation. You will also need to pull apart the "branches" to make them more airy.
8) Mix a 1:4 ratio of Elmer's white glue to water in the spray bottle. You can also add a drop of dishwashing soap to break the surface tension and get better absorption.
9) When the black spray paint is dry, use the white glue spray bottle to add adhesive to the air filter branches, then sprinkle on the ground foam. You can also use the sponge brush to apply a thicker coating of the white glue. For the branches, we used turf green ground foam.

10) The finish nails can be used to provide an easy way to mount them to your surface. Pre-drill the holes to make them easier to glue into place.

Green Grass Ground Foam

Completed Miniature Trees
You can also drill holes in the side of the tree and add smaller twigs to simulate branches. Our main tree had a swing (1 in) which was attached to a branch glued to the main trunk.
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