Modelling Trees

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About: - Railway - Models - Miniatures

So, you want to make model trees? Well you have come to the right place.

This instructible will have a full video tutorial to go along side the step by step guide. So if you would rather sit back and relax, the full video can be found here.

Time and patience is key with this project. If you rush, you won't be happy with the result!

Step 1: What You Will Need

Having all the materials in advance is key with any project. Getting halfway through and running out of materials is annoying, so make sure you have enough! The links are to British sellers although these are just recommendations.

You will need (but not limited to):

If you bought everything above it would cost around £30, but bear in mind that some of this could last for many trees. If you just want to make a few trees then I suggest that you find the materials locally on the cheap.

If you are not bothered about making them yourself, you can find some brilliant ready made trees here.

Step 2: Choosing a Scale

For this tutorial I am going to make a small apple tree in a scale of 1:76. If you are not into model making this may sound like a weird choice, but there is method to my madness. 1:76 scale is known as OO gauge (extremely close to HO for anyone else). However, this could easily be a large tree for N gauge (1:148) or a small shrub for O gauge (1:42 - 1:48 varies).

I suggest that you use a scale appropriate to the diorama centre piece. If you have a plastic kit or diecast model, it would usually say somewhere on the box.

Step 3: Creating Armatures

Now the fun begins!

Taking the florist wire we can see roughly how tall our tree is going to be. The florist wire I am using is 180mm long and the tree is going to be half that. So, my scale tree is 90mm tall and using a scale converter (I always use this one) I can find that my tree would be 6.84m high. That's a big apple tree!

Here are the basic steps:

  • Take one strip of florist wire and bend around your finger roughly in the middle.
  • Now with one finger in the loop twist the wire together until about three quarters of the way are twisted.
  • Repeat the first two steps three more times with new wire.
  • Now you have four pieces of twisted wire.
  • Take two of the twisted wire and twist them together until about half way.
  • Repeat the previous step on the two remaining wires.
  • Now twist the final two together in the same way as before until about one third of the way are twisted.

And voilà you have the basics of a tree, but we are not finished yet!

To finish off, you need to flatten the root (the looped part) and snip them. Then pull and bend the branches up above until you are happy with the way it looks.

You can always thicken the trunk by wrapping more wire around it.

Step 4: Making the Bark

You have got your tree, but it looks unrealistic! Let's add some bark.

This can be messy! You have been warned!

Plaster of Paris is what I have used to make the bark. Yes, there are other products out there that may do this better, but I have found that Plaster of Paris works just the same can be cheaper. Due to the nature of plaster you have to work fast on this step.

The Plaster of Paris need to be mixed with water until it is gloopy but stiff (if you're not sure what this means watch thisshort clip). The plaster is applied to all the wires that have two or more strands.

The first coat may not be enough and a second coat would be needed. I am adding a second coat so I will use a hairdryer to speed up the hardening of the plaster.

Once you are happy with the result, leave it to dry for 24 hours / overnight.

Step 5: Adding Colour

Now the plaster is dry, it's time to paint!

Bare metal can be hard to paint with any water-based paints, so using primer on the tree is recommended.

I have painted the tree, in full, in burn umber (dark brown) and then adding highlights where necessary. Keep in mind that the tree will create shadows on itself, so having the bark one colour may lead to a fake looking tree.

If you don't have many paints try mixing white with your brown.

Step 6: Leaf Preparation

Leaf Preparation?

Yes, we need to make the smaller branches and twigs you find on trees. However, this is more of a structural step than an aesthetic one.

We are now delving into the modelling specific products which first is the polyfibre. Polyfibre is sort of a stringy material, like a cobweb crossed with long hair. Alternatives to polyfibre can be natural but these tend to look out of proportion on a scale as small as this.

Here is how to do it:

  • With the polyfibre, take a piece probably no longer that 50mm long and flatten it out.
  • Stretch it as much as you can just before it starts to break apart.
  • Simply pull it across the ends of the armatures.
  • If you haven't covered everywhere you want leaves take another small bit and repeat.

If you want extra guidance watch thisshort clip on how to do it.

Step 7: Creating the Bulk of the Leaves

When you are happy where the leaves a going, take the spray adhesive and spray the top of the tree. Make sure the glue does not make contact with the trunk. This can be achieved either by, wrapping it in masking tape or, just covering it with your fingers.

Once sprayed take the coarse turf (scatter material) and sprinkle it over the polyfibre. Now turn the tree upside down and tap the bottom. This will remove any turf that has not stuck.

You can simply repeat these steps to get the desired shape of the tree. I ended up doing three coats just so the tree had a lot of volume.

Using a range of turfs can make the tree look a whole lot better, but can end up being more expensive.

Step 8: Adding Detail

This is the part where your tree becomes a tree.

I am using Green Scene products for this part. They do ship outside the UK but at a hefty price.

Like in the last step you need to spray the tree with adhesive. After that sprinkle some of the extra scatter on top. I suggest you use a lighter colour than the base, as this will add highlights.

I am using a fine light green turf as well as a little red turf and a product simply labeled as 'Leaves'.

What these 'Leaves' are is basically (to my knowledge) finely cut tissue paper.

Experimenting is always good. Here I try adding apples made from red Plasticine to emulate riper apples.

Step 9: Finishing Up

And you are done!

If any scatter material has stuck to the trunk take a pair of tweezers to try and pick it off.

Now the tree is ready for any layout or diorama.

Hope you found this useful but if you have any questions or comments, I would love to hear from you.



Thanks for reading

Revolution Rail

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    3 Discussions

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    Alex in NZ

    7 weeks ago

    Really nice, and realistic-looking tree. Thank you for sharing the process :-)

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    seamster

    7 weeks ago

    This is highly impressive. Nice results! And good instructions too, thank you : )

    1 reply