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RailRoad Modeling
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Backdrop Painting
Wisconsin, United States
Joined: September 11, 2009
KitMaker: 1,917 posts
Historicus Forma: 25 posts
Posted: Saturday, February 16, 2013 - 04:20 PM UTC
I painted scenery on the backdrops for one of my HO scale club modules in time for this weekend's local model train show. I figured I'd share what I've done. Others here may have advice for my next time.
I tried to channel Bob Ross or Bill Alexander from old TV shows.
I started with plain blue backdrops. Our train module club has a standard blue to make all backdrops match. In this case, it's Ace Hardware's "Florida Day". During slow time at an earlier show, I had sketched shapes faintly in pencil to help establish what height to paint to and where buildings or trees would look best, based on the land shapes and model buildings in the foreground.
First I collected all the old paint colors that could be used for buildings and trees, and dabbed samples onto an old plastic lid for my paint pallet, with a healthy puddle of sky blue in the middle.
Blending the earthy colors with the sky blue, I painted subdued/muted shapes for the most distant background. No need to let anything dry as you're working. I'm going for a faded background, so it's better to keep blending these shapes together.
muted background left
muted background center
muted background right
Here are all three panels at this stage in my fancy art studio :
muted background full width of module
This effort went rather quickly, but it was getting late, so I let that dry for the night.
The next day, I went back to do the near trees.
I had bought several shades of green acrylic paint at a craft store. Since the club agreed (also) to use early fall colors, I included yellow and orange also.
I spread these colors on my pallet, as before. I dabbed two colors onto the brush and stippled the green in tree shapes over the muted background shapes. Still learning as I went, it seems the lighter, drabber greens looked best, and best to use more light green near the tops and medium green near the bottoms of each tree. Don't blend the trees after painting-- only stipple, don't blur the colors together. To me, it makes the eye see individual leaves.
trees left
trees center
trees right-- and the Wisconsin State Capital Building
Okay, on that last one, I went back and used the white and beige colors in the foreground of the photo to portray the Wisconsin State Capital to set the location of the module scene.
Here are the backdrops at the show, on the modules, with buildings and trees, etc.
backdrop in place on the module left
backdrop in place on the module center
backdrop in place on the module right
backdrop in place on the module overall width
So I have to go back next and restore the worn-off foliage from the trees and improve the buildings. That photo house under the capital dome is still being constructed in styrene on the workbench. People and street signs, poles, lighting, and crossing gates will add much also.
I hope I've shown enough for you to assist me in my efforts to improve. I've been dragging these modules around for several years, 3 shows per year, so I probably don't see what others might on these, so please comment.
Staff MemberManaging Editor
Tennessee, United States
Joined: December 21, 2002
KitMaker: 7,772 posts
Historicus Forma: 172 posts
Posted: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - 05:53 PM UTC
Hi Sean,

Thanks for sharing! Backdrops can make a diorama / layout come to life.