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 Making Realistic Trees
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Engine Wiper

Posted - 10/01/2003 :  8:12:41 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I have been asked to talk about my tree's and how I make them. I'll try hard to explain it well. Mike may have to come in and bail me out a little.

First of all, I use sage brush twigs...not easy to come by in Florida. I get them when I take trips out to the western states. Don't panic, if you don't have access, you can use any twig or sturdy weed that has a complex branch structure. look around fields and small shrubs for good looking twigs and weeds. With the fall coming on, this should be quite easy

I also use Super Trees from Scenic Express. These are used on the Silverton Central and they look great. They come with complete instructions that will help you make great trees.

My Trees Material List:

1) Woodland Scenics Poly-Fiber
2} Woodland Scenics Medium Green {Coarse) Foam
3) Woodland Scenics Light Green {Coarse} Foam
3) Woodland Scenics Turf Blend (Fine)
4) Cheap pump hairspray..the cheaper the better


1) tear off a small piece of Poly Fiber and stretch and tease it out until you can barely handle it. You will get the hang of this part with practice. The trick is that you really don't want to see the fiber when you are done.
You may want to trim the branches to a more tree like look. When you become practiced, you can glue branches to branches for a fuller look.
More on that later. Lets first start with the basic tree.

2) apply this lacy piece to the lowest brach..now spray it with hair spray and take a pinch of the medium green foam and gently sprinkle it from your pinched fingers on the wet fiber. you still want to be able to see through the fibre..just like in nature, you can see through the tree. go easy because you still have other colors and texture to add. resist filling it in on the first go round. Be patient and add a little at a time. Trim the fiber with a small scissors if it doesn't look good or is to big for the branch...work it around until you like it

2)Now,work your way up the trunk. Do this to all of the branches with the medium green.

3)Now, you want to apply the lighter green foam to the top portion of the branches. What we are doing is making false shadows by using the lighter green on top of the darker. Spray a little and add the lighter green. Go easy! you can always add more later. When you are done with these two colors, study it and a little here and ther until it looks good to you.

4)Now, hold the tree and spray it all over again. From above the tree, Lightly sprinkle on the turf blend. Try to keep this away from the interior areas of the tree. This highlights the areas exposed to sunlight and the varied colors gives the tree a believable look.

5) Use a small scissor and trim the little fibers that are sticking out here and there. It doesn't have to be perfect, otherwise the tree will fall apart

Conclusion: I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea. You can practice this before before adding the trees to your foreground areas. After making a tree..look at it a couple of days later and you will want to change it little. When your done, you will be thinking of ways to do it better and easier for you. This all takes practice. Remember, trees are model too.

Ultimate Test: Leave your trees outside. If the neighborhood dogs like em, you did real well.

Thank you for asking me to share my method. I call this my method, but I have picked this up from articles and instructions over the years.
You will create your own little methods too.

Mike, teacher...please check and comment.

Nick, buddy....blast me in an email...I can handle that!

Country: USA | Posts: 338


Posted - 10/01/2003 :  8:50:06 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I drive my wife nuts this time of year when we go for our walks. I usually come home with a plastic bag full of natures own tree material which happens to blow by as we walk.

I like your suggestion on the pump bottle hair spray. I learned my lesson with the aerosol can. Nothing like sticky green fiber being blown all over.

In memory of Mike Chambers

Country: USA | Posts: 2958 Go to Top of Page


Premium Member

Posted - 10/01/2003 :  9:09:53 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Thanks Brian
No sage brush here in Connecticut either.
I will have to give your method a try.
I am going to order a tree or two from Scenic Express as Mike and Jim also recommended them.

John Bagley
Modeling the Alaska Railroad in HO in Wildwood Georgia.

Country: USA | Posts: 13275 Go to Top of Page


Posted - 10/02/2003 :  02:14:26 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote

Thanks,Bri,for giving us those words of wisdom,I knew that if I poked you with a stick I would get a reaction.
Time to go and round up some sagebrush, not easy on the Welsh Borders...I might be gone some time.


Country: United Kingdom | Posts: 1745 Go to Top of Page

Engine Wiper

Posted - 10/02/2003 :  09:32:00 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I have an idea: Woodland Scenics now makes pre colored trees very similar to Scenic Express. They come in a packaged in a small clear box. They are using the same weed material as Scenic Express.They are competing for the same market. I used this Woodland sceics weed material on all of my low brush on the RRC and Chippy Hollow.Their is no reason that you can't snip off these small branches and glue them to your twigs.It would make for a very complex branch structure and believable tree. To me, scenery and real good trees can really enhance a structure...the supporting actors in our scene.

Country: USA | Posts: 338 Go to Top of Page


Premium Member

Posted - 10/02/2003 :  10:05:28 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Bri, good tutorial. Thanks. I've use hair spray in aerosol cans for years but never thought about using the pump spray variety. Good suggestion.

I have used "Super Tree" material for about 4 or 5 years now, and I really like it. It also makes excellent underbrush when cut and trimmed to the proper height. I didn't know that WS was now selling the same thing under their label.

Another favorite material of mine is dried sedum. It's the same stuff that was written about in a recent Model Railroader article. What I do with it, though, is quite a bit different than what the author of the article described.

Sometime, when I find a couple of free hours running uphill, I'll put together a tutorial on making sedum trees to go with your sage brush/poly fiber tutorial.

I posted these photos before in one of the "Off-Topic" daily discussion threads, but not everyone reads those threads. Here are some "Super Trees" and sedum trees planted together to create a heavily wooded area on my layout.

Country: USA | Posts: 21584 Go to Top of Page

Engine Wiper

Posted - 10/02/2003 :  10:33:09 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Mike, Thank you for your comment about my tutorial. Your tees are exactly the way they should look....excellent pictures.

My only regret was mentioning the sage brush. I didn't want the guy's to think that you couldn't make an acceptable tree unless you were using sage brush. Not the case! I'm excited because this opens up a new door for some of us. As I said, great trees and scenery will make the scene. I use them as view blocks and to frame in a scene.

Dave Frary's book on scenery is one of my favorites. I still use it and I have had the book for years.

Country: USA | Posts: 338 Go to Top of Page

terry hansley
Crew Chief

Posted - 10/02/2003 :  10:47:51 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote

Great pics Mike

I look forward to a sedum Tutorial.

Here in Central Ohio,the Sedum is sold as a landscape plant, in nurseries, as October Glory.

It`s a great plant and every fall you have a TREE harvest.

Brian, Thanks for the info on the WS material, that is the type of info that should be passed around on these forums.It`s not likely the BUY decisions made by the small number of modelers here will bankrupt any manufacturer. It sure makes our modeling easier.

Terry H

Country: USA | Posts: 597 Go to Top of Page

Tom Hopkins
Engine Wiper

Posted - 10/02/2003 :  11:15:44 AM  Show Profile  Send Tom Hopkins an AOL message  Send Tom Hopkins an ICQ Message  Reply with Quote
If anyone is really set on the sage, Sweetwater Scenery (http://www.sweetwaterscenery.com/) sells beautiful sage armatures and are really nice folks to deal with. Too expensive for a forest(at least for me) but great for a few foreground trees.


Country: USA | Posts: 159 Go to Top of Page

Engine Wiper

Posted - 10/02/2003 :  11:38:39 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Tom, great idea about Sweetwater products. I bought dome of their grassy groud cover while I was out in Denver. Their aspen trees are the very best that I have ever seen. The fall foam colors are from AMSI...gorgeous! Glad you reminded me of them....Thanks

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Posted - 10/02/2003 :  4:43:37 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Thanks for the link Tom...nice looking trees.

In memory of Mike Chambers

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Posted - 10/03/2003 :  1:05:20 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote

There are two types of sage in my area. There is a flowering sage, which puts out a small purple flower. The Texas Highway Department uses them for decorative plants along underpasses and overpasses.

Then there is a sage plant(pic below), that Native Americans and new agers use in ceremonies. If the photo is the type of sage you use, I am working in the middle of several thousand acres of the stuff. Can do a swap.


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Engine Wiper

Posted - 10/03/2003 :  1:30:17 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Hello Jim, The type of sage that I use has a real complex type of branch structure and has real looking textured bark. I would love to cut a deal of some kind. What can I send you. I have different types of soil colors from Colorado.I don't know what I can do to make the transition even. Let's discuss it over coffee

Country: USA | Posts: 338 Go to Top of Page

Engine Wiper

Posted - 10/03/2003 :  11:07:56 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Rich, On page 1 of the chippy Hollow pictures is some of the sgae brush that you are referring to. I did get some in Park City, Utah and down aroun Chama N.M. I tried to find some of the good stuff in Colorado, but I ran out of time. As we speak, Dave Revelia is tring to find some brush called Iron Wood? It's supposed to have the same type of branch structure and deep bark texture as sage. Have you heard of this stuff

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Posted - 10/04/2003 :  12:05:53 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote

Reviewed your Chippy Hollow pictures and see what you're after. I'll be back in New Mexico the first of the week and will start "the Great Sage Hunt".

Rich, yep we do have mesquite trees and plenty of em. I think that type of sage is the flowering sage and not the plant pictured above.


Edited by - ANo10 on 10/04/2003 12:13:33 AM

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Section Hand

Posted - 10/05/2003 :  10:23:50 AM  Show Profile  Send railliar a Yahoo! Message  Reply with Quote
Re: Sage brush

I find mine at or above 10,000' elevation. Collected two garbage bags full last week at Leadville. A friend claims he finds his in the San Luis Valley but he didn't reveal an exact location.

For pines? Check out garage sales for "last year's plastic Christmas tree." With judicious trimming they work well as background cover, even foreground, but plant them in groups.


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