Working with Plastic Plants (part three)

Vet Sgt Area Terrain, Petal Forests, Scratch Built Terrain, Tutorials, Vegetation 0 Comments

Making larger plants like trees may look difficult, but it’s actually not much harder than making the smaller plants. A tree is just a collection of smaller plants all stuck together. You do have a smaller range of usable plants to choose from however, so you will have to be more selective in which plants you use.

One of the easiest ways to make larger plants is to use an armature. In this case we used copper wire to form the armature but many other materials can also be used. In its simplest form it can be just a single wire, like the example on the left. The other two are a little bit more complex since they used seven wires each. Start by bending out and twisting together the wires on the bottom to form the roots and to give you a good surface to glue onto. Depending on how tight your wire bundle is, you may have to temporarily hold it together with some tape or glue. Then spread out the wires on the top to form the branches. The one in the center is intended to be used with the ring method of attaching and the one on the right is for the tip method.

Many plastic plants come with attachment rings that can be used like the one in the center of this picture.

Simply alternate between vegetation pieces and spacers until you have reached the desired height and then insert a half piece vertically into the top spacer. We used small straws (coffee stirrers) for the spacers but beads or even coiled wire can do the same thing.

Sometimes you won’t have a ring to work with just a stem. In those cases we do something we call tipping. There are many different variations on this method, but this is one of the simplest.

Start by punching a small hole through the side of a coffee stirrer and then insert the stem into it. These small “bushes” were made by two pieces being stuck into the side and one in the top. Depending on the plants you are working with you may only need the one in the top or possibly as many as five. The number and placement of the plastic plant fronds that you use will have a very profound effect on the look of the finished plant.

We wanted a very open and airy look to these trees, so we used a very minimal number of both attachment points and fronds on each tip. By increasing the number of either or both of these we could easily have achieved a “full” look.

There are many different ways to texture the bark on a tree but in this example the armature was covered using window caulk (since it is desirable for the finished trees to still have a fair amount of flex in them). Make sure that you use the “paintable” type of caulk or you will have problems later. It’s very sticky when first applied, so I let it sit for an hour or two before smoothing and shaping. After the caulk dried the tree was then painted and a layer of flock was applied using PVA glue.

In this picture, the tree on the left was made using the ring method and the one on the right was made using the tip method. Both methods give very similar results and very complex trees can easily be made using ether one (or even both) of the methods.

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