Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Happy Trees!

OK, Bob Ross I am not, but I'm pretty happy with the way the backdrop turned out.

This was the stage had me worried, I have never done any sort of painting before but decided that if I wanted something that looked halfway decent I was going to have pick up a paintbrush and push myself.  I did a lot of Youtube watching and conferred with Quin about how to paint my backdrop.  He gave me some great suggestions along way that proved to be quite a bit of help.  Thanks Quin!

While I felt the distant mountains looked good, I couldn't help but wonder what an actual 3D tree planted in front of them would look like?  Would there be too much contrast?   I kept thinking that I needed to have some sort of texture to help blend the 2D background trees with the 3D trees on the layout?  At the saame time I didn't want to have paint a mural to get the results.

This turned out not to be the case.  Quin explained that the darker colored hills were nothing more than a shadow layer that I was suppose to paint the forest on, thus giving me more depth to the scene, so I began using a sponge and dabbing method with a darker rich green.  I got the hills about 90% covered up with the sponge.

While the sponge worked good for this, I couldn't get close enough to the ceiling tile, so I tried using a 3/4" Filbert brush to get paint on the bottom 1/2" of the backdrop.  Then I tried using this brush on the next lighter color of green but I couldn't get the stippled effect I was looking for.  I had used a cheap 1" painter brush to get a rough edge on the nearest hills, but for the trees the pattern was a bit too big. So I grabbed 3/4" flat brush.  

After getting the greens mixed to a lighter color I loaded up the brush, wiped off the biggest share of it and started to stipple on the paint.  This seemed to work better.  I continued to stipple on that color of green until I had covered the previous color about 75%.  

Then I mixed up the next color of green several shades lighter. Being lighter I only applied it to half of the hills and not the entire area. This would give the appearance of sunlight hitting one side of the trees and would help to reinforce the Depth of the scene.  I kept mixing the green with a lighter green and yellow until I felt I had sufficient Depth.  As I moved down the layout I could feel myself getting the hang of this and quite often I returned to a previous area to apply more highlighting to match what I had recently done.  

I was worried the whole time that I would go overboard and ruin the scene, so when I could stand back and see the Depth, I stopped, took a few pics and sent them to Quin.  The next morning he replied that they looked awesome, and I breathed a sigh of relief.

See what you think?

The next night I cleaned the rails again and started putting back the structures and rolling stock and grabbed a few more pics.  All in all I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out.  Now at least I have some faith that I can replicate this later with a few changes and complete the backdrop.

This it the paint and the colors that I used.

Quin just edited this picture for me! LOL
I wish I had that much hair...

Saturday, October 21, 2017


I got after the clouds today.
Clouds have always been perplexing to me.  Most say they are easy but there are as many different ways of making them as there are clouds.

While watching something on FaceBook the other day where a painter used nothing more than a rattle can and stencil he made some pretty realistic clouds very easily.

While I've know of stencils I never really looked into them before.  I found several videos on YouTube showing how some made them and how they used them.  It seemed pretty simple?

I made mine from a sheet of black poster board I got from Wally World for $0.97 and cut down into smaller sections that were easy to hold and maneuver.   On one I cut out the clouds with a knife, the rest I just tore out sections randomly.
Then I folded the top portion over 1" or so to give me something to hold them with and also to keep them a bit  more rigid.  It also acted like a shield from any overspray.

I gathered the needed supplies and started playing on some plain cardboard.  Didn't seem to tough, but I realized one thing.  I found I didn't want to use a rattle can due to the small height that my backdrop was.  So I got my airbrush out and wound up using some thinned down cheap acrylic paint that I had on hand.  The airbrush didn't have the power to spray the paint all over the area and create a fog.

As with anything, practice makes perfect, and I still need a bit.  Also found it kind of tough not to over do the clouds.  Referring back to Eric's Housatonic layout, where Eric painted clouds continuously around his backdrop, I wanted some space between my clouds.

Things I learned.
Do not hold the stencil too close to the back drop.
When overlaying the stencils keep them closer than you think you will need, this keeps the clouds more solid.  I had to go back and fill in on some of them.

Could they have been done better? Yes
Will I get better at this? Probably. 
Can I fix the clouds I already sprayed? Yes.  (Paint over them with blue and respray them, lol)

Anyway, here is what I came up with.  Not perfect, but I think they'll work.

Next up I will be adding the blotch trees to the foreground with a pallet of acrylics.  This is the part that has me worried, I'm not a artist...

Friday, October 20, 2017

Those Distant hills.

With the track all painted in Haskell it was time to step into some uncharted territory for me...backdrop painting.  I tried this years ago on some modules that I had built but was unsuccessful. 

Fast forward to the present.  I began building the current layout in 2007 and several years into I got a backdrop installed.  Soon after I got it painted blue and was pretty happy with it.  It stayed blue until a few years ago when I got some scenery installed in Malvern using the same basic technique of two tone hills.  

So the first thing I wanted to take care of was getting rid of the screws that I used to secure the backdrop.  I used panheads until I knew for sure what I wanted.  

I started countersinking some new holes close to where the old screws were at, then I installed new #6 x 5/8" screws with a countersunk head.  Then I puttied the holes up and sanded them smooth and touched them up with the original blue.

I had done a lot of studying of backdrops on the web.  I later stumbled across and started watching a blog by Eric, a.k.a. Pomperaugrr and his N scale layout based upon the modern version of the (HRRC) Housatonic Railroad.  He had posted a few updates of his backdrop that caught my eye. 

I like real backdrops but could never find anything produced that was close to what I wanted nor did I have the ability to go photograph the area I was modeling.  So I kept surfing....I remember reading somewhere that a backdrop should never be so good that it should distract from your modeling.  However I've never seen any photo backdrop do this.

After rummaging through a lot of pictures and "How to's" on the web I kept coming back to Eric's backdrops.  There was something about this simple method he produced that always kept drawing me back to it.  I think what I liked about it was, it had enough to give the scene depth but yet it was simple and not overpowering.  

My next step was to get some paint but I struggled for a while over which colors to get.  With help and guidance from Quin,  I found some paint sample online and decided to pick up a quart of each of the two colors I settled on.  I went a local Menards store and got the cheapest flat paint I could find.  I figured this should give me more than enough to finish the entire backdrop and then some. 

One issue I was having was trying to mix and match what I had previously done in Malvern.  Every time I mixed a batch it was always off a shade or two, so with the two quarts I should never have the troubles matching colors again.

I sketched out an idea of where I wanted the distant hills to go and grabbed the light colored paint and 1" foam brush.  I started with a Pittsburg color called Jaded Green.  This was green but has a blue tint to it.

Then I used the darker color, another Pittsburg paint called Deep Veridian, this has no blue tint. I started painting the nearer hills, because they were a cheaper paint I had to give both colors a couple of coats.

I was pretty happy with the results, even though the paint dried a few shades darker.

Next I wanted to try a tip that I picked up from watching a video that Dave Frary posted.  After he painted each set of hills, he went back using a can of white primer, added a mist of white over the hills he had just painted.  He said this helped to define and add a touch more of depth to the hills.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Haskell's painted

After a little bit of digging I found my landscape paint.
Nothing special, something I found at the paint store that was mixed wrong and I got it for $1.  This helps to seal the ceiling tile when I start gluing down the grass base and gives a nice earthy look.

Once the base paint dried I got the tracks sprayed with a couple of shades of Rust-Oleum brown.

With a bit of cleaning I had the rails clear of paint and the test loco running nice and smooth!  Right after I sprayed the tracks, I wiped most of the paint off the rails with a rag dampened with mineral spirits.  Later I used a PERFECT track cleaner to get the residue paint off and polish the railheads and turnouts.

Now I can focus on the backdrop.  I think I'm going to start by installing new countersunk screw and puddy over them and fill in the seems.  If that works well, I'll start painting the hills and then the clouds.


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Preparations for ballast and backdrops.

With the session behind me, I started getting an itch to do something other trackwork. 

So I picked an area that I knew was pretty much ready for scenery and started prepping the tracks to paint and then ballast.  Man it's been awhile since I've done this last and had to stop and think of the process.

The first thing I did was to trim the excess cork back to the edges of the ties.  I've always trimmed it back as I'm not a fan of a wide roadbed, especially since this isn't going to be a well maintained and manicured line. 

Then I grabbed some old flex track and started cutting sections of ties to fill in the joints where they were missing.  It's amazing how much better this makes things look.

Next will come the painting of the track.  Again since this will be an older less maintained track, I didn't want to use a darker brown paint for the tracks.  I want it to have more of a look like sun faded rather than a fresh look.  So I found can of  Rust-Oleum Bronze.  It's actually not far off from Floquil Rail Brown, but it is a bit lighter.

I'm also going to use a custom blended ballast starting with a light gray.  So I don't want the track to be too dark so it stands out in the lighter ballast.  If this winds up being too light I can always tone it down with washes or powders.

Once I get the track painted and ready for ballast, I also want to continue working on the back drops.  I want to replace the screws with countersunk ones, putty over them and fill in the seams, then I can continue painting the hills. I'm also itching to try a different technique for making clouds that I've been researching.