09/07/2019
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How to model a deciduous tree

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In this latest guide, we've chosen to model a sycamore tree, as it would be in the autumn. You can adjust the leaf colours as appropriate and these would be even easier to produce for a tree in summer by choosing suitable greens. Punching your own leaves is quite a laborious process on anything other than small trees, therefore these punches are better suited for making leaves that have fallen to the ground.

The opportunity to make leaves to your own colour requirements is very useful, but you will need to undertake careful research to get the hues you require. Altering the colours of leaves that have already been applied to the tree is problematic so try and get this right beforehand. Despite this, for dioramas and key locations on a layout, it is always worth the effort of making a tree that is a scenic centrepiece.

Shopping list

  • 0.3mm dia. wire
  • Flat nose pliers (x2)
  • Greenstuff World 1416 leaf punch
  • PVA adhesive
  • Acrylic paints
  • Plaster filler
  • Old stipple brush
  • Toothbrush
  • Lollipop stick
  • 1in artists’ brush
  • Artificial hair
  • Sawdust
  • Carpet glue
  • Milliput filler
  • Humbrol Acrylic primer
  • Lifecolor (LC-CS27) Shades of Black

Step-by-step guide on how to model a deciduous tree

1

Take a dozen strands of 0.3mm wire and twist one end together using two pairs of pliers. Ensure that enough of the wire is twisted together to hold all the pieces in place – about 2cm should be sufficient.
How to model a deciduous tree

2

Add branches as you go, splitting the bundles into smaller ones until you reach individual strands. Examine the growth of a tree in-situ to get an idea of its growth pattern.
How to model a deciduous tree

3

Once you have gone as far as you can with the twisting, shape the branches according to the species of tree and particular example you’re modelling.
How to model a deciduous tree

4

When you have made a good number of branches, cover them to hide the twists in the wire. I used a mixture of PVA glue with added black acrylic paint and plaster filler. You need the mix to be as stiff as possible, but still capable of being applied with a brush.
How to model a deciduous tree

5

Add as many coats as you need to hide the twists in the wire. Between coats apply fine sawdust to create texture and speed up the cloaking process.
How to model a deciduous tree

6

Take artificial hair and cut tufts measuring 5cm in length. Tousle the hair to break it into individual strands.
How to model a deciduous tree

7

Decant carpet glue into a container and paint the ends of the branches with it using an old brush. Now sprinkle the hair in place.
How to model a deciduous tree

8

Using a pair of hairdressing scissors, trim the twigs. You’re looking to remove those of excessive length and any that are looped.
How to model a deciduous tree

9

The trunk is made from the handle of a paint brush. If you use a cheap one, the ferrule can be removed easily by twisting with a pair of pliers.
How to model a deciduous tree

10

Drill holes for the branches in the truck. I used a 2mm diameter drill.
How to model a deciduous tree

11

Fix the branches using superglue. Apply Milliput filler to give the trunk a less regular appearance and to tidy up branch ends.
How to model a deciduous tree

12

Add more of the bark mixture to the trunk and sprinkle with texture material depending on the tree you are modelling. I used sawdust on this occasion.
How to model a deciduous tree

13

Give the whole tree a coat of Humbrol Acrylic primer – it makes sense to use the grey colour.
How to model a deciduous tree

14

Now spray the tree with various greys and browns to get the bark colour you want. You can use either acrylic or enamel paint.
How to model a deciduous tree

15

Dry-brush a light colour on the bark to create highlights.
How to model a deciduous tree

16

Add lichen by flicking the tree with various shades of yellow and off-white.
How to model a deciduous tree

17

It is important to add weathering. Don’t underestimate the amount of moss that grows in our damp climate.
How to model a deciduous tree

18

The leaves are produced from paper using punches from Green Stuff World. I used item 1416 which produces leaves suitable for a sycamore or maple.
How to model a deciduous tree

19

I coloured the leaves using acrylic paint because it is cheap and readily available. I also wanted something that was waterproof, or at least water-resistant, once dry. Emulsion match pots may also be suitable with a little thinning.
How to model a deciduous tree

20

It is important to add weathering. Don’t underestimate the amount of moss that grows in our damp climate.
How to model a deciduous tree

21

While the wash is still wet, add other darker colours and allow them to merge. This will avoid sharp edges to the colours. The paper will buckle when wet, but this isn’t a problem in this instance.
How to model a deciduous tree

22

When dry, turn the paper over and repeat the previous stage so that both sides of the paper are coloured.
How to model a deciduous tree

23

Repeat the previous steps for leaves using other colours. Do a sheet of leaves painted dark umber to represent those that have fallen to the ground and lost their autumnal colour.
How to model a deciduous tree

24

Cut the paper into strips, then use the punch to cut the leaves. Do them in batches of the different colours and store in containers until you need them.
How to model a deciduous tree

25

Paint the twigs with a tacky PVA glue and sprinkle the leaves in place. Work over a sheet of paper so you can reuse material. Don’t worry if areas aren’t covered with leaves because autumn trees are often denuded.
How to model a deciduous tree

26

The branches are quite flexible and you can gently bend them to gain access to the inner surfaces and aid shaping.
How to model a deciduous tree

27

Blend the leaf colours together by spraying them with an airbrush. I decided that my colours were quite a long way out and had to use a lot more yellow to make the tree look right.
How to model a deciduous tree

28

Autumn leaves often mark as they decline. If you’re modelling a sycamore, flick black acrylic paint at the leaves using a toothbrush and a lolly stick. I used UA734 from the Lifecolor Shades of Black set.
How to model a deciduous tree

And there you have it. How to model deciduous trees. The next step will be placing them on your layout.  Our online guide will help you get to grips with ‘planting’ trees on your model railway. 

Looking to create bushes next? Watch one of the Woodland Scenics experts show you how. 

Need more advice? Take a look at the BRM Techniques page for all our latest guides and advice articles.

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