Show numerous ways of making trees from DIY trees to tree kits from Woodland Scenics as well as showing completed trees from Woodland Scenics and Auscision.
Starting with DIY tree armatures made from sticks and twigs found in the great outdoors, to get the best results when making trees this way try to find twigs and small bushes that have very fine and detailed armatures. Salt Bush trees are a good example of this and can be found on the side of the road (there is a very large supply of salt bush on the way to Saint Kilda near the tram museum).
It’s not always easy finding suitable tree armatures and sometimes you may find one style of natural tree only to realize when you return for more of the same type of tree armature they have mysteriously vanished from the face of the earth.
With the Woodland Scenics tree kits you don’t have to worry about inconsistency… You’ll always be able to find and replicate the exact trees you want, as an example if you’re modelling an apple orchid you’ll need plenty of trees all looking very similar.
Next there are a couple of different directions you can take, one direction is similar to the method we used on the natural tree armature by applying poly fiber to fill out the tree and apply course turf over the top another method is explained here:
You can add additional layers of color by spraying lightly with spray adhesive and sprinkling fine turk burnt grass from the top down but just be aware the spray adhesive or hair spray may react with the hobby tack adhesive.
As you can see in a lot of the pre made trees on the shelf, a lot of them are made with a wire armature, this is just another way of creating the armature. The main reason for making your own wire tree armature is having the ability to make a custom sized tree that will fit perfectly into the scene you’ve created. You can make them as big or as small as you need and you’re not limited to the specific sizes in the WS tree kits or to the sizes and shapes of natural twigs you find outside.
Once you’ve created your tree armature it’s just a matter of coating the tree in a paste to hide the wires, I’ve used rubber latex for this as it is nice and thick which is perfect for filling in the gaps between the wires and it also remains flexible which allows you to bend and manipulate the branches even after everything has been finished.
Another way of making your own past is to use very fine powder (bicarb soda) or sawdust and mix that in with standard PVA glue to make a gloopy mixture, then apply that over the tree. It also remain semi flexible and often leaves a nice rough texture on the trunk.
Fine leaf foliage can be used in all sorts of different ways, you can pull it straight out of the package and do nothing else except plant it into your scene creating shrubs and small trees or, you can bunch multiple branches together creating large styles of bushes, you can also break off small branches and stick them individually to the Woodland Scenics Tree armatures creating a very realistic tree although it’s very time consuming!
I mostly use fine leaf foliage by breaking off small twigs and planting them into the scene creating small bushes randomly through the landscape but I also love using them to make highly detailed trees by applying small branches individually to the WS tree armatures.
There are some other products you can use to enhance the appearance of trees and they are ‘leaves’. They are used in a similar fashion to applying the burnt grass fine turf over the completed tree, basically once the tree has been finished you can spray it with some spray adhesive then sprinkle over a small amount of the ‘leaves’ to add a more realistic texture.
There are a few brands available, MP scenery products, Noch, Trremendous to name a few but a quick search online should give you a good idea of suppliers in your area.
Hero trees are trees that look amazing, the problem with hero trees is they are often expensive (ie; the pre made commercial trees) or they take a very long time to make thus making many of them to fill a forest can either cost you an arm and a leg or you’ll be making trees for the rest of your life…
That doesn’t mean you should spend money on a some readymade trees or spend many hours making just one tree… it means you should plan to use such trees wisely, for example, if you have 3 hero trees don’t place them up the back of the layout where nobody will see them! Place them up front and center and put the average trees up the back.
If you’re making a forest of trees all you need is a few good trees at the front of the forest and then fill in the bulk of the forest with the quick homemade or the cheap ebay trees.
We have slightly touched on ground cover already and that was the fine leaf foliage trees, the fine leaf foliage can be used as low lying bushes and weeds however we need to start a lot lower than that and gradually build up to adding bushes and weeds.
There are hundreds of products available but I have to say one of my favourites is static grass, it adds an amazing amount of realism to any scene when compared to using foam however foam still has its uses. There are many different brands of static grass but the one I prefer the most due to its range of color and length is MiniNature, they have some really good autumn colors which work really well for Australian scenes.
The only problem with static grass is that you’ll need a static grass applicator! They are not cheap but they are certainly worth their value in the long run, you also have the option of building one yourself which is a lot cheaper however you’ll need to have a good understanding of soldering and wiring. There are a number of videos online showing the steps involved in building your own.
Before moving on to the third layer we need to fix down layer two and to do this you’ll need to know about wet water, alcohol and glue.
Wet Water is just a little bit of regular tap water mixed with a few drops of dish washing detergent, it breaks down the surface tension of the water giving it the ability to absorb into the dirt without beading up and rolling away. The reason we need to spray the area with wet water before applying the glue is because the glue has a very high surface tension that you can avoid and to assist the glue in penetrating and absorbing into the dirt we first apply the wet water.
Alcohol is a substitute for wet water or vice versa, alcohol actually does a much better job than wet water however it’s often much more expensive. I usually purchase it in bulk as it tends to be a lot cheaper. A 5ltr bottle from Adelaide Moulding and Casting Supplies costs $45.
To fix everything down permanently you’ll need to make a batch of glue that is thin enough to apply with through a spray bottle. It’s very easy to make however you can also purchase scenic cement pre made from Woodland Scenics.
To make your own you can use standard PVA glue mixed to a ratio of about 3:1, 3 parts water and 1 part glue and a few drops of dish washing detergent. I also use Mod Podge Matte mixed to the same ratio, mod podge matte tends to spray a little better than PVA glue through the spray however if you’re having trouble getting the PVA to spray you can dilute it with more water. Maybe try 4:1 or 5:1 ratios but just remember that the more you dilute the weaker it becomes.
So to secure the dirt/grout mixture mist the entire area with wet water/alcohol until the entire area is covered, you don’t want it to be so much that it’s pooling up but just enough so it looks damp. Next whilst it’s damp spray the area with the glue, again you don’t need it to pool up but it needs to be thoroughly covered, there should be a white tint over the area from the glue then just leave it to dry.
If you do end up having areas starting to pool up just use a paper towel to soak up the excess in those areas.