Author Topic: What are your scenery tricks?  (Read 2974 times)

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Mark W

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What are your scenery tricks?
« on: January 29, 2014, 08:10:07 PM »
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Are there any basic rules/guidelines you follow when shaping terrain, laying foliage, planting trees, or adding details?

Is there any special trick or technique to accomplish that rule/guideline?

Got any photos of the result?
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DKS

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Re: What are your scenery tricks?
« Reply #1 on: January 29, 2014, 08:21:03 PM »
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I would say the number one rule/guideline is to start with reference images. Lots of them. Sometimes you may want to replicate a specific scene, or synthesize one by combining elements of several. But trying to make convincing scenery without researching your railroad's region can be difficult.

For this scene on my (now gone) Z Scale James River Branch, I was attempting to capture classic elements of a northeastern farm.

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Scottl

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Re: What are your scenery tricks?
« Reply #2 on: January 29, 2014, 08:42:16 PM »
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For natural landscapes, the key for me are irregular surfaces, mixes of textures, materials and colors.  I have increasingly used natural materials and steered away from ground foam, although I consider static grass an exception that is a really important part of my kit now.  My basic rule set is:  nothing is flat, nothing is pure black or white, and natural features may look random, but usually have pattern that you can model.

Another area to pay attention to is the shape of river banks and slopes.  These are places many modellers bend reality to make things fit and it can really detract from what we see in a scene because it looks wrong.  Most people have a good sense of natural proportions and when we see art or modelling that departs from that, it is often very obvious.  Generally, modellers make slopes too steep, often in conjunction with an inappropriate material on the slope.  Natural slopes (and many graded slopes) are almost never an inclined plane, but have curvature to them and the material often changes with that curvature.  Look at photos of your prototype and try to look for these details to get it right.  The same can be said about rivers and streams- use prototype information and try to see the details in the river (bed material, driftwood, pools, rapids, bank structure and material).  They vary a lot so taking some time to figure your setting out is a good way to promote realism.

I have found many of the published European modellers have very high landscaping standards and the magazines and forums are excellent sources of inspiration.  I have many German model "landscape" magazines that convey a lot of great ideas in pictures, even if you can't read them.  Similarly, I find the larger scale modelers are often paying a lot of attention to scenery and much can be learned from these scales. 

This is likely to be an interesting thread.

DKS

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Re: What are your scenery tricks?
« Reply #3 on: January 29, 2014, 09:44:47 PM »
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This thread should offer some good insights into scenerymaking: https://www.therailwire.net/forum/index.php?topic=25286.0
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Ed Kapuscinski

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Re: What are your scenery tricks?
« Reply #4 on: January 29, 2014, 09:46:58 PM »
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Work from photos. And not ones in model railroad magazines or the Walthers catalog.

Mark W

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Re: What are your scenery tricks?
« Reply #5 on: January 29, 2014, 10:02:25 PM »
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Probably the biggest thing I'm mindful of when shaping terrain is erosion.  When rain water filters down through the terrain, you'll tend to see broad slopes eventually become narrow cuts, all going down until it becomes a river.  When a river bends, it carves into the landscape on the outside, and gradually slopes on the inside. 



...natural features may look random, but usually have pattern that you can model.
Completely agree, but I think "pattern" is usually interpreted the wrong way. I think "random consistency" is how I'd describe it. 

When laying ground foam, I keep in mind how the foliage would survive.  Hilltop, unshaded grass tends to be dryer/lighter/golden. Partially shaded grass in locations where the ground would retain rain water are the lush greens.  Fully shaded areas would be green but not as lush or thick.  I do this consistently across the terrain which was shaped irregularly based on how I feel it would have eroded. 

Of course the specific region could change everything.
« Last Edit: January 29, 2014, 10:04:43 PM by Mark W »
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robert3985

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Re: What are your scenery tricks?
« Reply #6 on: January 30, 2014, 12:01:25 AM »
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Like DKS, reference photos are essential IMHO.  If you're not modeling a specific area, pick out photos of scenery that you like, print the photos and use them when creating your scenery model.  Yup, I wrote "model" because scenery is a model, just like your engines, cars, vehicles and structures.

Although I'm a dyed-in-the-wool prototype modeler, I fully realize that scenery, just like scene length and sometimes width, must be selectively compressed to fit our available space.  This is one reason that I chose N-scale, because I can fit more scenery into my LDE's, which better dominates the track and trains.

One of my big tricks is that I don't use ground foam for my dirt.  I use dirt, which has been graded by 3 different screens to give me the textures I'm looking for.  Since I model prototype scenes, I visit them, take photos and videos, then I dig two or three buckets of "sacred dirt" to use for part of my ground cover on that LDE which will represent that particular prototype scene.

I also never use rock molds.  I always carve the rocks, cliffs and cuts to look like my reference photos.  I used to do it in plaster, but now I'm doing it in extruded polystyrene (which takes a lot longer).

Third big trick is that I use tan felt for my "grass" for 80% of all grassy areas in my desert/river bottom scenes.  I glue sections of brownish-tan felt to my finished and painted Styrofoam terrain contours, then airbrush greens and browns where appropriate, sift dirt of different grades on the felt, then tease the felt fibers up through the dirt/sand until I'm happy with the results.

Then I trim the fibers, sock the dirt down with ballast cement, then put finishing touches on it after the glue is dry.

Here's a photo of felt grass and hand-carved cliffs which I helped build with my friend Kelly Newton:


Prototype inspired scene, hand-carved rocks, cuts & cliffs, real dirt, felt grass, Wilhemina Pass LDE:


Felt Grass Closeup at Echo, also a prototype inspired scene:




Dave V

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Re: What are your scenery tricks?
« Reply #7 on: January 30, 2014, 12:11:40 AM »
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Texture and depth. I add layer upon layer.  Pennsylvania is very lush in the summertime, and even an open field is extremely complex and random in texture, so I pile it on.





And, once you think you have enough trees, in reality you're only halfway there:



In order to help reinforce the "depth" of my ground cover, I actually paint my scenic base with flat black.



Also, don't forget the details...  Towns need people, cars, trash cans, telephone poles, signs, etc. just like the real thing.  More detail is usually better, but detail has to be appropriate to time & place and shouldn't overwhelm the scene. You can, in fact, over-detail.

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MVW

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Re: What are your scenery tricks?
« Reply #8 on: January 30, 2014, 12:15:22 AM »
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I dig the felt grass, Bob ... and everything else, of course. But the felt grass is a new one on me.

Jim

mark dance

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Re: What are your scenery tricks?
« Reply #9 on: January 30, 2014, 12:21:43 AM »
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Tricks?  Hmmm....

Put scenic details like delicately leaved deciduous trees, static grass, small bushes, weeds, rock detail, etc. where it will be noticed...near the front of the scene, at the entrances to cuts, along river banks and, more sparsely, generally along the right of way.  Don't bother with it anywhere else as no-one will notice including you. There you can stick filler trees to flesh out the scene.









[That is one of Tim's]



hope that helps!

md
Youtube Videos of the N Scale Columbia & Western at: markdance63
Photos and track plan of of the N Scale Columbia & Western at:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/27907618@N02/sets/72157624106602402/

Mark W

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Re: What are your scenery tricks?
« Reply #10 on: January 30, 2014, 12:30:38 AM »
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Lately I've been thinning my Glue/Water mix more on the watery side, about 40/60 -35/65.  In addition to adding dish detergent/rubbing alcohol (to reduce the surface tension), the thinner mix mists better from spray bottles.  Also, I use those smaller mist bottles rather than the large cleaner/solvent spray bottles.  The spray is much less forceful which prevents disrupting the unglued ground foam and such. 
« Last Edit: January 30, 2014, 12:33:46 AM by Mark W »
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robert3985

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Re: What are your scenery tricks?
« Reply #11 on: January 30, 2014, 05:30:48 AM »
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I dig the felt grass, Bob ... and everything else, of course. But the felt grass is a new one on me.

Jim

I learned that little trick when I was creating 120mm fantasy figures back in my International Plastic Modeler Society days, before I got back into model railroading.  There are a few things I've learned since then about the technique which I incorporate into my Weber and Echo Canyon LDE's, particularly trimming the fibers down to a shorter length by holding them after they're teased up, then using scissors to snip them, and discarding the long fibers off-layout.  Then, using a fine mist of wet water to wet the dirt and felt to the point it's just short of being muddy...then using a big eyedropper to flow the ballast cement UNDER most of the felt fibers, because you don't want them to mat up.  That inevitably will happen in some places, but you can tease it up after the glue application is dry...then final trimming to get the lengths correct, and maybe a thin coat of hairspray with an even application of appropriate colored ground foam to simulate seed pod on top of the fibers.  Vacuum up the excess after the hair spray is dry.   Around the edges of the felt, I build up that area with my real dirt, but in some places in the real locations, the layer of grass and vegetation actually looks like a layer of felt that's been teased up!

Several detail-oriented model railroaders here in Utah use this technique since I taught them how to do it.  Also, static grass can also be used to enhance the felt technique, 'cause there are a lot of different appearing species of grass in most locations.

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Re: What are your scenery tricks?
« Reply #12 on: January 30, 2014, 08:18:28 AM »
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I use peat moss to simulate deadfall around trees and general detritus in foliage, water features. It has all kinds of shapes and textures so you will have small twig like material of random lengths and diameters. You also find filament-like matter that I find simulates deadfall branches. The extremely fine organic matter provides a shadow effect to large expansive areas of similar tones, I find. I sprinkle it over ground foliage and it settles into the scenery nicely. Any fixative you normally use will secure the peat moss like any other scenery product to the foliage.

The best thing is you get get a HUGE bag for only a couple of dollars, or pilfer some from your lawn care supplies in the garage.

Hope this helps

DKS

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Re: What are your scenery tricks?
« Reply #13 on: January 30, 2014, 08:49:52 AM »
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One scenery trick I learned recently is to not bother with poured water products. On rare occasion they may create an interesting effect, but as it happens I find realism is enhanced considerably by simply painting a flat surface and applying thick clear glossy gel for wave effects.



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Scottl

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Re: What are your scenery tricks?
« Reply #14 on: January 30, 2014, 10:51:58 AM »
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I agree, gloss gel gives a lot of control and is easy to work with.  Pouring might be useful in some situations, but not most in my experience.