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A quick and easy way to make realistic looking trees


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MeTheSwede

I was asked how I made my trees for my first layout. Obviously there are plenty of experts out there describing how to make a lot more detailed trees in better ways than a newbie like me can do, but if you are more of a modelling beginner or you want to do a hundred trees in a reasonable time frame, this post might be more useful to you than the more advanced tutorials. And it will certainly be a big step up from buying cheap mass produced plastic trees or just putting clump foliage on the ground.

 

 

 

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I'm starting with a piece of foamboard that I've glued some scatter materials and static grass on. This will get a cover of "wild trees" and be used as a mobile scenic piece as I try out things for my upcomming n-scale layout. I'm modelling summer time, because that's when I've been to Japan.

 

 

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My very simple tools. Number 2 is for poking holes in the ground when planting trees.

 

 

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These are the glues I'm using. Spray glue from Noch and some cheap PVA glue (white wood glue).

 

 

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Here is what I'm using for stems. Number 1 and 2 are Woodland scenics products and 3 and 4 are stuff I've found growing outside where I live.

 

 

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And this is after bending the Woodland Scenics plastic tree armature and doing some cutting and trimming. It might have taken me about 3 minutes or so. In the end not all of the pieces got used on my little piece of foamboard.

 

I'm not quite happy with the colours of the trunks, so I gave them a very quick paint job with acrylic paint. On my layout I didn't bother with this for most trees, as the trunks will hardly be visible anyway when trees stand closely next to eachother.

 

The woodland scenics plastic armature got some brown-greyish dry brushing which helps with softening the darkish brown and brings forward the texture. The very grey stems were made a bit browner and the dark stuff I found outside were made a little bit more greyish. This took another maybe 3 minutes or so. I forgot to take a picture afterwards.

 

 

 

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These are the various products I'm using for foliages for the trees. A mix of various greens and various foliage structure means I'll get a mix of different tree tree types just like in the real world and it will make my little scene come more to life.

 

 

 

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Polyfiber is what binds everything together.

 

 

 

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Each tree only requires a very small amount of polyfiber. The finer you manage to tear it apart, the better. All the polyfiber I used for my layout came from this bag and it still looks almost full.

 

 

 

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After putting polifyber on the trunk material, it's time to use the spray glue. I'm spraying from a distance in very short bursts, as the polyfiber easily gets blown out of position by the glue spray. For large trees I will often add a second layer of polyfiber and spray again, in order to get more volume in the tree foliage. Using scissors to cut the fiber in strategic places also helps with shaping it. The goal is to avoid falling into the "green ball on top of a stick trap".

 

Before applying the polyfiber you may want to spray the stem and pour some scatter materials or even leaves foliage on it to represent mosses or climbing plants on the stem.

 

 

 

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On this photo I'm in the process of pouring some of the "leaves" from Noch over the polyfiber. When I'm finished I'm giving it a very short and light spray with the spray glue to prevent too much from falling off. I don't want to fix it with too much glue as that affects the look of the finished tree in a way I don't like.

 

 

 

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Another method is to spray glue on a piece of polyfiber directly, pour leaves materials over it and let the glue dry for a few minutes. Then it can be cut with scissors into suitable sized pieces which are either used directly on the ground to model bushes and very small trees, or put onto the tree armatures when making largers trees. I will probably experiement a bit more with the later as it gives a bit more control of the shape of the tree and allows for "hanging branches" in a way that is hard when spraying the polyfiber on the actual tree itself (due to the tendency of the glue spray to blow the polifyber into contact with the stem).

 

 

 

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Here is another tree, where I'm in the process of applying the foliage material from Bosch onto the polyfiber. This materials consists of larger pieces that don't stick well if poured over it, but it works fine to gently push everyhing in place using my free hand.

 

I think making trees is fun because it's possible to mass produce a lot of them in a short time span and they all come out differently. Each of my trees only takes a few minutes to make.

 

 

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Today I'll use the 250-41 from Silhouette for my plastic tree armature. This material is very good for bushes and also works well as a foliage material for trees.

 

 

 

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First I use a brush to apply some PVA glue on the bransches.

 

 

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The material consists of "green stuff" on little "sticks". I use scissors to cut away as much as possible of the sticks.

 

 

 

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A couple of minutes later the branches have been covered with the material. The leftovers are used for bushes.

Cloose up, it might look a bit weird, but it works fine on a layout.

 

 

 

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And here is the final result, a very overgrown piece of foamboard.

 

The spray glue also comes in handy when adding static grass, bushes and various other scatter materials to the foamboard. However it should be noted that the Noch spray glue will eat away at styrofoam if it gets in direct contact with it. I started with putting a layer of acrylic paint on my piece and covered it with dilued PVA glue in order to put on a first layer of scatter materials. After that there is absolutely no problem to use the spray glue on it.

 

 

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From another angle. I'll try to remember to make the foamboard base a bit thinner next time.

 

 

 

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As you can see, putting a lot of effort into painting stems isn't worth the effort. If modelling free standing trees in a park or garden setting, stems are clearly visible, but for a wooded area growing more naturally you won't see much of the stems when looking at it from the outside.

 

 

 

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And here's the finished piece next to some urban sprawl.

 

 

I hope I've managed to inspire someone. A permanent layout isn't needed for making wooden areas, as they can be put on bases and moved back and fourth on temporary layouts just like buildings.

 

I would also be very happy if anyone else has any little tree making tricks to share or maybe recommend some additional products for making foliage or ground cover.

 

 

 

Finally, here's a link to the thread with my tree rich micro layout for those who may have missed it or finds this thread sometime in the future:

 

 

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gavino200
14 minutes ago, MeTheSwede said:

 Obviously there are plenty of experts out there describing how to make a lot more detailed trees in better ways than a newbie like me can do

 

Thanks for this great write-up, Swede. I can't wait to try my hand at the technique! Actually, I think the best technique guides are made by people who have recently mastered the process. You're foliage looks amazing. I'm sure others will benefit from this description too. 

 

🙂

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Excellent Swede! Thanks for taking the time to do this, super useful. I’ve never used the ground foam on the sticks before, going to have to grab some and experiment. Love it when folks post stuff like this as almost always you see something new or even a small variation that can be really useful!

 

have you ever tried twisted wire armatures? You start with like 18g braided electrical cord (ie lamp wire). Strip 3 or 4” of insulation off. Twist about 1/4” of the wire well right at the insulation and solder that bit through well to hold all the strands together and then snip it off at the insulation. Now you can begin twisting wire to create the trunk then start branching off smaller bundles for the branches. If you need more branches you can always solder on more wire. Once bent into position, cheap, thick craft paint can make more texture and details on the armature. Really fun way if you want to make a really special tree.

 

jeff

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MeTheSwede
1 hour ago, cteno4 said:

Excellent Swede! Thanks for taking the time to do this, super useful. I’ve never used the ground foam on the sticks before, going to have to grab some and experiment. Love it when folks post stuff like this as almost always you see something new or even a small variation that can be really useful!

 

I found it in a shop on Amazon and decided to get a bag and try it out. I had never seen or heard of it before. Only after I've been using it myself did I spot it in a German layout on Youtube.

 

1 hour ago, cteno4 said:

have you ever tried twisted wire armatures? You start with like 18g braided electrical cord (ie lamp wire). Strip 3 or 4” of insulation off. Twist about 1/4” of the wire well right at the insulation and solder that bit through well to hold all the strands together and then snip it off at the insulation. Now you can begin twisting wire to create the trunk then start branching off smaller bundles for the branches. If you need more branches you can always solder on more wire. Once bent into position, cheap, thick craft paint can make more texture and details on the armature. Really fun way if you want to make a really special tree.

 

jeff

 

I've seen youtube videos about twisted wire armaures, but naaaaah, I think I'm sticking to the principle of keeping it simple. Mostly it's an issue of me having many other hobbies (and work) keeping me occupied and there are only so many hours in a week. I'm eager to get stuff finished and I know that if things are too slow to make I'll get bored.

 

And soldering... I haven't held a soldering iron in my hands since back in middle school which was in another century. 😅

 

I doubt I'll try twisted wire trees until I get my planned n-scale layout into a state of "this looks pretty much finished, what do I do know?", if that ever happens. 🙂

 

 

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JR 500系

Excellent write up! Thank you for sharing! 

 

The trees look realistic and the folliage looks natural! Nothing like a little sprite of green in the dense urban jungle! 

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