Trains4Africa
Because all Boys (and some girls) love Trains

Backdrops Made Easy

Easy Scenery Tips & Techniques

One of the easiest ways to make a layout seem larger is to add a back drop. The back drop can be mounted at the rear of the bench work along the wall or can divide a layout into different scenes by acting as a scenic divider. Nearly any type of material that accepts paint ranging from can be used.

Permanently mounted scenes for home layouts can be successfully completed with primed and painted sheet rock, while portable pikes and modules have used nearly every type of material. Popular materials range from Masonite or large sheets of styrene to sealed and primed plywood. Many modelers shy away from adding a back scene to their layouts since they feel that a convincing one requires some kind of artistic ability. Nothing can be further from the truth. The first thing to remember when building a back drop is to keep it simple.

Blue Sky:  The best way to get started is to choose a light blue and medium blue paint. Apply the light blue color from the horizon line to about a third of the way up on the back scene. Feather in the medium blue increasing the hue as the paint is applied near the top of the scene. For small jobs spray cans available from the craft store make quick work of coloring the sky, for larger jobs tinted cans of flat latex indoor house paint will cover a large area easily and inexpensively. Once the blue sky is dry, one may stop at this stage or press on and add additional features to the scene.

Easy Scenery Tips & Techniques

A Little Nebulous:  While a sunny clear blue sky is great for rail fanning or taking a road trip, clouds inevitably show up on the horizon. Clouds can easily be added either free hand or using cloud templates using a spray can of flat white or white primer. The secret for successful clouds is to lightly apply paint to let the blue sky show through rather than try to get full coverage.

Easy Scenery Tips & Techniques

Purple Mountains: The illusion of far-off mountains is easily added in much the same manner as the clouds. Choose a light purplish blue color just a shade darker than the medium blue sky color. Either mask off the outline of the mountains with painter’s tape and newsprint or use templates. As with the clouds, lightly spray the mountain color so that the sky color shows through to add depth and shading to the mountains.

Easy Scenery Tips & Techniques

Smoke and Mirrors: One frequently used technique to trick the eye and make a layout appear larger is to use a mirror mounted on the back drop. For safety and ease of handling we recommend using acrylic mirror material. Frame the mirror with abutments, buildings or a bridge to blend it into the scene. Mirrors are more convincing if they are installed perpendicular to the scene that will be reflected.

Easy Scenery Tips & Techniques

The Third Dimension: Careful blending in low relief structures and scenery against the back drop will create the illusion of distance and depth. Photographs of buildings mounted on black foam core are quick and easy additions that will allow the modeler to create a convincing urban scene. Rock casting, clumps of foam and small trees affixed to a back scene are equally effective way to add perspective to a rural or mountainous scene.