Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Backdrop

I originally cut the plywood backdrop to be in the shape of mountains, but soon realized that it would be difficult and unrealistic to finish it this way. Instead, I decided to paint the mountains on one large backdrop, this way allowing myself to include the sky and have the backdrop extend further up to the ceiling.

Existing backdrop between mountainsModel train layout with backdrop and handmade rock castings

The first act of business was to build the rock bluffs that are extensions of the large and small mountains and extend to the bridge. I only had about a 3/4 of an inch between the track and the wood backdrop, so I had to make these rock bluffs pretty thin.

Foil molds for plaster rock castingsFoil molds for plaster rock castings

I first traced directly on the backdrop the basic outline that I wanted each of these bluffs to be. I then traced paper templates, and used these templates to start building my molds. I used aluminum foil to create the molds to the desired shape and depth.

Foil mold filled with plaster of ParisFinished handmade plaster rock castings

I gently crinkled the foil and manipulated it with my fingers, ensuring that the grooves didn’t undercut into the plaster once I poured it. Before pouring the plaster, I coated the foil mold with 70% isopropyl alcohol to help the plaster settle. As soon as the plaster set, I removed the plaster castings. This had to be done very carefully, and as you can see, the castings broke as they were quite thin. Not a issue however as they could be glued back together.

Finished handmade plaster rock castingsFinished handmade plaster rock castings

As you can see above, I traced the template directly onto the foil whit a blue sharpie for my first mold, which then ran into the plaster, so I didn’t use this method going forward. Once these were completely dry, I glued the cracked sections together and verified how they fit on my layout.

Foam board backdrop with templateDollar Store acrylic paints

For the backdrop, I used large sheets of foam board, which had white cardstock glued to each side. This provided a sturdy and workable surface. I made a large template out of scrap newsprint to get the shape I needed my backdrop to be, then traced it onto the foam board and cut it to shape.

I made a small sketch on paper of how I wanted the backdrop to look to make sure I had the correct look and feel (see Design & Planning page). I then drew the basic locations of the mountains, tree lines, rock bluffs, etc. and got right to work painting. I used acrylic paints from the dollar store, which worked great for this application.

Model train layout with backdropModel train layout with backdrop

I started with the sky colour, then the mountains, and last was the trees. I kept things as simple as possible for 2 reasons. First, I am not professional when it comes to painting, and second, I did a lot of research on backdrops online, and found the more simple backdrops were most effective, as they did not distract from the detailed layout scenery.

Model train layout with backdrop and handmade rock castings

Once the backdrop was dry, I fastened it to the original backdrop with double-sided tape. I then glued the previously casted rock bluffs directly to the backdrop, and used Poly-Filler to blend them into the rest of the layout.

1 comment:

  1. Just a note to say nice work! Really impressed with your attention to detail on the layout and on your blog. Wish I could be half as detailed oriented!
    Best!
    J

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