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Scenery texture

This scene on Tom Johnson's Cass County Railroad demonstrates a variety of textures and layers he used to get the amazingly realistic look of a country store and fall scenery.

What makes the difference between scenery that looks just okay, and what looks amazingly realistic? The answer is scenery that has lots of texture and layers. The dictionary defines texture as: surface characteristics and appearance of an object given by the size, shape, density, arrangement, and proportion of its elementary parts. Take a look at some of the work done by modelers such as Lance Mindheim and Tom Johnson to see examples of realistic scenery. It clearly is not done in one application, but in multiple layers, and including lots of texture. Texture is often overlooked when it comes to scenery, but with study and practice you can achieve amazing results.

The hobby has come a long way with scenery products since the days of died sawdust and lichen. Ground foam and static grass has allowed modelers to replicate the overgrown grassy areas that rarely, or never, see a lawn mower or any maintenance. Using Heki Wildgrass (HK 1575 and 1576) on my layout dramatically improved the look of the scenery. Super Trees capture the look and natural shape of trees since they are a natural product. Yes, they do take some work to make, but are well worth it in my opinion. New scenery products by Martin Welberg allow you to model overgrown areas that were not possible just a few years ago. The best way to learn how to use the products is by trying them. Don’t expect perfect results immediately, it takes a little trial and error to get the look you want. You want to have multiple textures and blend the products together to have a cohesive scene.

A country road on Tom Johnson's layout disappears seamlessly into the backdrop.

On Tuesday, January 17th at 9 PM EST, Tom Johnson and I will be on the Second Section Podcast discussing scenery. Tom is a master at the use of color, texture, and scene composition. Tom is planning to discuss his recent scenery project where he has transitioned from summer to fall scenery on his layout. When you look at photos of Tom’s layout, you are drawn into the scene. Notice the different textures and layers that appear in just one scene. Tom is a retired art teacher, which gives him an advantage when it comes to scene composition, but with practice you can improve your scenery skills and add realism to your layout by following his tips and techniques.

For my portion of the podcast, I plan on discussing how I made the water areas on my layout, and some of the scenery techniques and products that I used. Water can be difficult to get to look just right, but products on the market today make it much easier than it has been in the past to get good results. Each type of stream, river, or lake will require slightly different techniques. I will also discuss blending your scenery into the backdrop, and the importance of “negative space”.

Andy and Mike do a great job on the Second Section Podcast, and I hope you can tune in to the show. We look forward to reading your questions and comments during the show.

Until next time stay safe and keep model railroading.

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