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.


  1. Allen one way to paint the distant hills is to add some of your blue backdrop paint and by using an old stippled brush instead of a foam one start at the top of your mountain and drag down. This way it looks like distant trees tops and the added blue helps to blend in the distant hills nicely. Then using the same colour add your front colour and do the closest hills then they blend nicely. Yep I did the flat white spray very lightly and it works a treat in fact I used my airbrush to obtain better control in my RR room.

    1. Thanks for the input Rod. I will give that a try in the future on the other side?
      Yes, just that little bit of white makes a difference! What I may do also is to spray not only the tips of the back hills with white but also all along the hills. Since I made the mistake of not blending the sky itself, this may help to fade it ever so slightly?