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Author Previous Topic: Rebuilding my T&P layout HO scale Topic Next Topic: Laser cut layout modules in North America
Page: of 23

Section Hand

Posted - 11/21/2005 :  5:02:30 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Just thought I would throw in an opinion on painting backdrops. First, I'm an aerospace engineer with VERY few artistic genes and no painting experience beyond a little rail car wheathering until recently. I could not find commercial backdrops that looked like the Mt. Shasta area in Northern CA that I'm modeling (HO) so I finally had to drag myself (kicking and screaming) into an art supply store if I was going to get anywhere beyond plain blue sky over masonite. After getting frustrated with looking at videos and articles that never clearly explained what to do with the brush I picked up a variety of acrylics (tube type) and brushes and just started experimenting. This was the key for me - look at photos of similar areas and just mess with the colors, highlighting, blending and brush techniques until you get something YOU like. It will probably be VERY crude at first but just keep working at it a bit and you will improve very quickly. The wonderful thing about acrylics is that you can paint over what you don't like (several tries were needed on some areas of my layout). My stuff is still very basic but I consider it to serve my purpose and is adequate for my needs (others have stated that you do not want to detract from your models - they are correct). It's definitely worth a try if you can't locate a suitable commercial or photo backdrop. I found I could even make simple structures using a bit of pin striping tape to keep my lines straight. Here's some backdrop examples from my McCloud Railway (under construction) - I hope this helps:

Download Attachment: Backdrop with tree covered hills.jpg
43.59 KB

Download Attachment: Basic mountains - hills.jpg
32.64 KB

Download Attachment: Basic pine trees.jpg
44.45 KB

Download Attachment: Simple painted structure.jpg
18.14 KB


Country: USA | Posts: 70 Go to Top of Page

Tabooma County Rwy

Posted - 11/21/2005 :  5:29:57 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Very nice, Lee! Your techniques are certainly inspiring. If my backdrop wasn't already done, I'd be motivated to try to achieve "your" look.

Country: USA | Posts: 4630 Go to Top of Page


Premium Member

Posted - 11/21/2005 :  5:31:42 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Lee, great looking backdrops. Not only that your layout looks very good. How about some more pictures of your layout?

Country: USA | Posts: 23198 Go to Top of Page

Engine Wiper

Posted - 11/21/2005 :  9:43:10 PM  Show Profile  Visit jeffjan2001's Homepage  Send jeffjan2001 a Yahoo! Message  Reply with Quote
all i can say is wow! i hope that my backdrop looks half as good... those pines probably smell like pines too...

Spitton, Bailey & Wyre RR
"We'll get you there even if we have to get out and push!"
Loosely Based on the Camas Prairie RR in Northern ID

Country: USA | Posts: 198 Go to Top of Page

George D

Premium Member

Posted - 11/21/2005 :  9:59:33 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Those are terrific looking background shots. I like the look of your trees. I think you have a few more artistic genes than you realize.


Country: USA | Posts: 15478 Go to Top of Page

Section Hand

Posted - 11/23/2005 :  1:05:11 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Many thanks for all the praise and nice words from everyone - support is always appreciated. For those interested I have posted some more photos of my McCloud Railway layout and its associated equipment on the Photo Album page under my username, lac13705. I'm still in the early construction phases with about 50% of the benchwork, track and rolling stock completed, 15% of the scenery and only 5% of the structures so there's still pretty limited stuff to look at though. Happy Trails.


Country: USA | Posts: 70 Go to Top of Page

MP Rich

Posted - 12/08/2005 :  5:00:07 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Some time back there was a mention of using aluminum coil stock for backdrops. I have found where I could use a backdrop that will be really hard to do with any material that does not curve easily. I need something like a fifty inch diameter 180 degree curve. Sounds like coil stock might be just the thing. Anyone out there with some hands on for this stuffas backdrop materail? Questions like what width did you find and how do you support it in curves. I tried really thin aluminum flashing once and had lots of trouble. Can you fill me in? Thanks.

Country: USA | Posts: 1762 Go to Top of Page

Section Hand

Posted - 12/08/2005 :  5:44:10 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I've never tried the aluminum coil stock you're asking about but I have heard that many people have had good luck with styrene sheets. Even 1/8 inch masonite sheets can be bent to surprisingly tight radii if done carefully - especially if the bending can be done in stages where it's allowed to sit in a bent state for a few days before bending to the final radius. Hopefully someone else will have better first hand knowledge regarding the aluminum for you.


Country: USA | Posts: 70 Go to Top of Page

MP Rich

Posted - 12/08/2005 :  6:27:09 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Thanks for the answer, Lee. I have been using 1/8 inch masonite and havebent some pretty radical curves but it has been something of a pain but workable. This time I am looking at puting something on the outer edge of the layout without a wall to fasten to securely. To bend this sharp I feel I might need a wall to press it against. The masonite seems to be heavier than really needed and as it comes in short lengths it requires a lot of end finished. If the coil stock could be found in adaquate widths it would seem to have some real advantages as to the number of joints ot finish. I can manage the joints but it is like Chinese water torture for me and I would rather not repeat it if there are alternates. To make the best use of space the outer edge of my layout will be nothing less than crooked. Or maybe I should describe that as undulating? Metal might help a lot.

Country: USA | Posts: 1762 Go to Top of Page

Tabooma County Rwy

Posted - 12/08/2005 :  10:06:47 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Hi, Rich,

I found out about a product called "bendable plywood", available at a lumber yard in south Seattle. It's about $26.00 per 4x8 sheet, is maybe 1/8 inch thick, is smooth on both sides, and bends in a very tight radius. It's amazing stuff. I've not used it for backdrops, but have used it for facia applications. I just picked up a sheet a couple of weeks ago. Although I have a table saw, I had the lumber yard people cut me two pieces, 10" x 8'. To cut it myself (the last time) I needed two extra helpers.

Anyway, after they cut it, I rolled up the three pieces and bungee-corded them into this rolled up state (about the size of a garbage can). I leave them rolled up until I'm ready to use the pieces. At that time, I just remove the bungee cords and they lay out flat on the floor. I'm not sure what the trade name is - the store sells it as bendable plywood. I know it is imported from Italy.

Anyway, for a backdrop, you could mount this, then do like I did and use a long strip of sheet vinyl, mounted bottom side out, on the plywood. Then paint your backdrop directly on the back of the vinyl. This way you get no seams and tight curves.

I know this was a long-winded answer, but it might be an alternative to the coiled sheet metal, and you wouldn't be faced with "prepping" the metal prior to painting.

Country: USA | Posts: 4630 Go to Top of Page


Posted - 12/18/2005 :  03:11:29 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Lee, those are really good backdrop scenes. Well done.

I've been investigating alternatives for backdrop material and have come across a source 'downunder' for foamed PVC sheet which I think will be very suitable for backdrops. It is very light and flexible, as the pictures below show.

This picture shows the flexibility of the foamed PVC sheet material.

I've used aluminum channelling to support the sheeting. The sheeting you see in the background behind Paul and Mario is placed there temporarily. I am yet to fix it in place permanently and make the joins.

For Aussies and New Zelanders the website for the supplier is http://www.plastral.com.au/main.html

For Aussies and New Zealanders the website for the supplier is http://www.plastral.com.au/main.html

It comes in 1 mm, 2 mm, 3 mm, 4 mm, 5 mm and 6 mm thicknessí. I used 2 mm thick 2240 mm x 1220 mm sheets at A$38.35 each.

Paul commented that the 1mm sheet would be good for scratch building.

BTW, thanks Mario and Paul for coming over to help with the positioning and for such good discussion on a number of topics. I really enjoyed the afternoon with you both.

Edited by - bpate on 12/18/2005 03:28:10 AM

Country: Australia | Posts: 3090 Go to Top of Page

Crew Chief

Premium Member

Posted - 12/18/2005 :  10:05:47 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
For those of you in the U.S. (West coast) foam PVC is available through TAP plastics www.tapplastics.com

I know they have sheets. Need to conteact them to see if they can get anything larger than 2 foot by 4 foot.

In case you are interested...

Dave K in NB

Country: USA | Posts: 872 Go to Top of Page


Posted - 12/18/2005 :  10:30:44 PM  Show Profile  Visit Peterpools's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Your backdrops are excellent. I'm just about ready to start my own backdrop and was just going to go with the standard run of the mill blue sky. Looks like I need to put a bit more thought into doing something more appropriate.

Country: USA | Posts: 12335 Go to Top of Page

Mario Rapinett

Posted - 12/19/2005 :  03:45:23 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by bpate

BTW, thanks Mario and Paul for coming over to help with the positioning and for such good discussion on a number of topics. I really enjoyed the afternoon with you both.

Barry...loved the lunch, but next time let me know when I have to actually work for my feed.

I picked up a few tips also.. thanks


Country: Australia | Posts: 5847 Go to Top of Page

New Hire

Posted - 03/26/2006 :  7:11:12 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Regarding backdrops; I've read postings about the various materials used, such as wallboard, masonite, linoleum, and rolled aluminum. I was at the local Lowes hardware and noticed they carry rolls of vinyl roof flashing that are 20 inches by 50 feet. I could do my entire "N" scale layout without even one seam! Of course the drawback is that it's only 20 inches high. My layout is an around the walls shelf style so I don't need the backdrop to also serve as a view block as in a peninsula situation. Checking online I found that Home Depot has a similar roll of vinyl that's 24 inches wide but it only comes in a tan color where the Lowes 20 inch wide comes in white. My plans were to just do a basic sky blue, blended to show a horizon, with some simple clouds. Has anyone else tried this vinyl flashing material? My questions would be how did you mount it and how well did it hold paint. Thanks.


Country: USA | Posts: 1 Go to Top of Page
Page: of 23 Previous Topic: Rebuilding my T&P layout HO scale Topic Next Topic: Laser cut layout modules in North America  
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