Luke Towan
September 2, 2014
3 min read

Puff Ball Trees

Just a quick tutorial on the trees I have recently put down on my  N scale layout. They are quick, cheap and easy to make.A lot of information can be found on the internet for puffball trees, I used a few different methods and came up with a method that works best for me.

The materials:

  • Green spray paint (or any color you want, darker obviously works better)
  • Small tub
  • Woodland Scenics course turf dark green and medium green,
  • Polyester fiber (pillow/toy stuffing)
  • Chop sticks to hold the polyester ball, they have a small surface area and therefore when spraying the puffball it coats all the surface without having to turn and spray again in the spots that were covered by the pliers or tweezers or whatever is used.

To start I pull a small amount of poly fiber and roll it in my hands, then I tease it out to make a see through larger ball.A very small amount of poly fiber can go a very long way and the great thing about these puff ball trees is, adjusting size for scale is simple making bigger puff balls or smaller ones.

Next I use the chopsticks to hold the puff ball while I spray it green. The picture is just an example, I'd suggest doing it outside and not next to the curtain!The first lot I did I really soaked the ball with lots of paint, later I found that it worked a lot better if I only gave them a light spray holding the spray can further away, if the paint starts to bead on the fibers then you know you've got more than enough paint on them!

As soon as you finish spraying, drop the ball into the tub filled with course turf and then shake the tub around to cover the ball.​You might need to tease it round with your hands to get a good coating. (Again the picture is just an example, as you can see the ball is still white, it should be green).

I didn't want all the trees in my forest to be the exact same color so I made a variety of colors. About a 50/50 mix of dark green and medium green.

In hindsight I believe I could get even better results using a third color in there, like some browns or olive greens to signify different species of tree.

You can also see in the photo above I used twigs to indicate tree trunks, this effect could be enhanced by grouping multiple trunks under one puff ball which would help sell the effect of there being a dense forest behind the tree trunks.

The rock face is foam covered in paper-mache and colored with brown and grey paint.

This is the end result.It looks fantastic on a large scale, and the main purpose in using puff ball trees is not actually for realism because they tend to look unrealistic up close but on a large scale when viewed from a few feet back they really do a great job at selling the sensation that you're looking at a vast and dense forest.Hope you have found this tutorial helpful.


Download the files associated with the project. All files are included in a zip for convenience.


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