Category Archives: diorama

How to make leaves for dioramas

Well, after a three week hiatus (even scale model builders get married sometimes), here’s a quick post on weathering.

There are several options and many products for making leaves. They can be used anywhere: on dioramas, and even on individual vehicles. They are great and subtle way to increase the level of realism: a brown, crumpled leaf on the floor of a vehicle, or stuck between tool boxes make a model look more real.

There are punch-sets (pretty good ones), PE and amazing laser cut, and other aftermarket sets, but there’s a free, and pretty convincing alternative, too, courtesy of the common birch.

From wikipedia:

The flowers are monoecious, opening with or before the leaves and borne once fully grown these leaves are usually 3–6 millimetres (0.12–0.24 in) long on three-flowered clusters in the axils of the scales of drooping or erect catkins or aments. Staminate aments are pendulous, clustered or solitary in the axils of the last leaves of the branch of the year or near the ends of the short lateral branchlets of the year. They form in early autumn and remain rigid during the winter. The scales of the staminate aments when mature are broadly ovate, rounded, yellow or orange color below the middle, dark chestnut brown at apex. Each scale bears two bractlets and three sterile flowers, each flower consisting of a sessile, membranaceous, usually two-lobed, calyx. Each calyx bears four short filaments with one-celled anthers or strictly, two filaments divided into two branches, each bearing a half-anther. Anther cells open longitudinally. The pistillate aments are erect or pendulous, solitary; terminal on the two-leaved lateral spur-like branchlets of the year. The pistillate scales are oblong-ovate, three-lobed, pale yellow green often tinged with red, becoming brown at maturity. These scales bear two or three fertile flowers, each flower consisting of a naked ovary. The ovary is compressed, two-celled, and crowned with two slender styles; the ovule is solitary. Each scale bear a single small, winged nut that is oval, with two persistent stigmas at the apex.

 

There was a reason I hated plant taxonomy at university. Anyhow, it boils down to the following: some parts of the seed pods (not a scientifically correct name) look like maple leaves.

Birdch seed

Mix some white glue with water, and use it to attach these to the surface of the model (or diorama); the seeds themselves can be mixed with this glue, and used as amorphous plant deposits in crevices.

The effect is pretty convincing, and if you live in a country where the tree grows, it’s free. I’ve been using this on the T-62, the Zrinyi II, the D7 dozer I’ve made, and in general, most 1/35 models I’ve been building lately. The one downside is obvious- it looks like my models live in a very uniform forest populated by a single tree; so I’ll be buying some punch sets in the future, that’s for sure.

 

Tamiya 1/35 T-62 with Verlinden damage set p4.

The first part of this build can be found here, the second here, and the third here.

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Well, the small dio is finally done. It’s been a long, long build. It took me more than a year back in the US to find the conversion set; I was lucky to grab it cheap from someone who gave up on it. It then sat in a box for the next couple of years, then brought back to Europe, and finally ended up in the UK. The actual build time was a couple of months; quite quick, really, but I did take a lot of shortcuts. These were mostly done out of necessity (of preserving my sanity); the set is not exactly user-friendly. The fit is poor at places, the instructions are horrid, and some parts are just plain impossible to do (like the installation of the turret ring). I’m not even mentioning the warped parts, like the gun barrel. (Wait, I just did…) So to save time, my already thinning hair, and money, I just rolled with what I had (with the exception of the gun barrel).

Anyhow, when all is said and done, it built up into a very inaccurate, but quite nice tank.

I tried to show a gradient of colors from back to front: burned out engine compartment dominated by rust colors, to the greenish hues of the frontal hull.

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The figure also took a LOT of time to hunt down; unfortunately it is long out of production, so my best bet was to get lucky and buy one from someone. (This is a really good reminder of buying things when they are available. However, it also is a sure way of building up a stash that would shame a hobby store, so there is a delicate balance to be achieved here.)

And one final word about the photography, before the pictures. I’m using a Nikon D3300 with either the kit lens (when the subject is relatively large), or a Tamron 90mm macro lens. The models are placed in a collapsible light box, and lit up using two LED lamps from the side. The whole contraption is in the kitchen, with fluorescent overall lightning, which explains the difficulties to actually getting the colors right on the photos- the camera, no matter how smart it is, is having trouble with the white balance. I did take some photos during the day using the same setup, and the sunlight as an overall source of illumination; the difference is visible. I will set the white balance manually next time. The other issue I dislike is that the figure looks a bit glossy; when you look at it in real life, it is much more matte.
It’s a learning curve of taking photos, and it’s also a matter of convenience. Living in London means I have absolutely no space dedicated for model building, so everything needs to be set up in the kitchen when I build/take photos. Not very convenient.

So without further ado, here’s the finished STALKER diorama:

Tamiya 1/35 T-62 with Verlinden damage set p3.

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The first part of this build can be found here.

Second part here.

With the major building and painting finished, it was time to put the tank into context. Well, into a scene, that is.

I buy large plastic cases to keep my models in; they are excellent for display, protection against dust and curious fingers, and also make it easy to transport the models. In some cases I use them as small dioramas.

In the second part the tank was reasonably finished, but it was still somewhat uniform, despite of the layers upon layers of paints, paintchips, oil paints, filters and pigments. Now was time to bring out the sponge…

The technique is reasonably simple: dab the sponge (or the scrotch brite) into the paint, dab most of it off on a piece of paper, and then keep dabbing it against the surface you wish to cover with paint/paintchips. (Depending on the amount you cover you can depict paint chips or flaking off paint.)

I’ve used the external fuel tanks to experiment; unfortunately the box was not long enough for these to be mounted onto the tank…

First, I’ve used the sponge technique to make the uniform brown surface into a rusting, multicolored one.

Second step: using light green I repeated the process. (This color is excellent for paint chips, too.) It’s not a problem if it’s too light at this stage; in fact, it’s actually necessary- the subsequent washes, filters will darken the color anyway.

And finally, the result: I’ve used overall brown washes, which created a grimy, used look. Some more green was dabbed onto the barrels in a much smaller area, and voila – we have an interesting, rusting surface with different shades and colors.

The tank was glued onto the base using two part epoxy (it’s quite heavy because of all the resin and metal), and then I used Tamiya’s soil Diorama Texture Paint. (I’ve got it discounted when the largest hobby store chain in the UK went bust a couple of years ago.) The color is not exactly great, but we’ll help it a bit later using the airbrush.

Using the sponge method I’ve added green patches onto the turret and the front part of the tank- I wanted to achieve a color difference between the front and the back.

The paint was toned down with some brown filters.

I’ve used the leftover tracklinks from the MiniArt T-54-1 for the tracks; a lot of them don’t have teeth, since they are the special links for the ice-cleats, and they are also narrower than should be, but to be honest I did not want to spend money on extra tracks. Nobody will notice, unless they read the text.

I’ve bought some AK Interactive products online cheap (six bottles for twenty quids) – rust, different colored streaking products, washes, and one that simulates algae streaking… so I used this tank to try them all.

I’ve used more rust pigments on the turret and the side of the hull, and used a dark brown filter to tone down the contrast a bit. Black pigment was used sparingly to depict soot (my fiancee’s insistence)  The way I use these pigments is to load a brush with Tamiya’s flat varnish, dab it into the pigments, dab most of it onto a piece of paper, and then dab it onto the surface of the model. You want to have some in the brush, but not too much; kind of like a heavy drybrush.

 

I’ve used some wine by Eduard to depict a creeper growing out of the driver’s compartment. The fallen leaves were made using the actual seed pod of a tree. Unfortunately I can’t figure out what it’s called; it looks like a fat caterpillar, and when you grind it up between your fingers, it falls apart into Marple-leaves like parts, and seeds. I mixed some white glue and water, added this plant material, and distributed onto the tank.

 

 

 

Last part is coming next week with the vegetation and the STALKER dude added

Tamiya 1/35 T-62 with Verlinden damage set p2.

The first part of this build can be found here.

The tank needed to be burned out and rusty- something that stood abandoned (and looted) for years. I took a lot of liberties with the amount of rust and weathering -this degree of decomposition would only happen after decades. It’s an interesting point in our hobby: we tend to overemphasise the damage, the chipping, the rusting on most of the AFVs we build, which makes them interesting to look at, but quite unrealistic and out-of-scale. The point is: it’s not meant to be an exact replica of the real thing, it’s only a representation of an idea.

The idea here is a tank that had a catastrophic fire in the engine compartment, so it was abandoned in the Exclusion Zone around Chernobyl. (I wanted to use the STALKER figure, so it had to be Chernobyl. I could not come up with a realistic scenario why a T-62 would catch fire there, though, so you’ll have to use your imagination.)

Anyhow: after spraying on a base-coat of different rust colors, I proceeded to coat the tank with AK Interactive heavy chipping medium, and some NATO green from Tamiya. Once it was dry to the touch I created areas where the paint was worn off to differing degrees: more on the back and on the thinner metallic parts, and less on the front, where the fire did not heat the hull up that much.

Once the chips were done I sealed everything with varnish.

I put the tank onto the base of the display case I intended to use and realized that it was too long for the external fuel tanks to be mounted… I could have turned the turret around if I had not used epoxy glue to stick it onto the hull… Oh well, more battle damage.

I’ve used ochre and dark brown filters on the whole of the vehicle, and some burned umber washes to deepen the shadows in the crevices.

I’ve glued the tank onto the base using epoxy glue, and mixed some sand with plaster to create a rudimentary terrain; this will -hopefully- be refined further. (As soon as I get some replacement tracks for the tank, of course.)

While we’re waiting for the groundwork to be finished, I went on to further enhance the rusty feel for the tank: I used three different colors of iron oxide (it comes in brown, red and yellow, and dabbed it on using a brush and some flat varnish.

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I’ve also tried Lifecolor’s rust wash set to see how it works; I suspect an airbrush would be a better way of handling it. (It is not easy to use. Well, it’s easy to use, what’s not easy is to get results like you see on the cover. Unfortunately there’s no real guide provided.)
They suggest glossy surface, however it tends to form droplets which is not ideal. (Surface tension is not always useful.)

I’ve checked out the storage box on a museum Shilka, and it was pretty much pure rust… so this is how the tool boxes will look once I’m done with it.

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Some more rust over the burned areas will also be necessary, and also soot. It’s a good question how much soot actually remains after years of being subjected to the elements, but this will not deter me from adding some. In fact I’ve long been wanting to add white soot left over from the burning rubber rims of the roadwheels. I’m fairly certain this would be washed away by the rain in a short order in real life, but I shall not pay attention to this issue.

Anyhow, this is how it is as of now. Keep tuned in; updates will be coming (soonish).

Zrinyi II part 2.

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So, my first ever 1/35 diorama; I used it as a trial for the T-62 dio I’m planning. (The first statement is not entirely true; I did do a snowed-in Mobelwagen long time back, but a small snowy vista is hardly a complex diorama.) It started without a concept; I had two figures and a bunch of equipment to use, so I made use of them… The scene -in retrospect- depicts a Zrinyi II in a prepared position somewhere on the Eastern Front in late Fall/early Spring (probably in 1943, as they are not fleeing). Two German soldiers are discussing the tactics, while one of the tankers is sitting on the tank, uninvolved, having a smoke. Not very dramatic, but there you go. I finally got to use the German figures which -as you might have guessed by now- were sitting in my collection since 2007 gathering dust. The Hungarian tanker came from Bodi.

Disclaimer: I had no idea what I was doing when I started. (I’m not sure I do now.)

One thing is for sure: I’ve learned a lot about how to “populate” a diorama.

The first steps were adding the textured base from Tamiya. It’s supposed to be mud colored, but it’s not very convincing; the color and texture looks something entirely else. Something better would be needed.

I went out to the garden, gathered up some dried-out soil, and mixed it with plaster; using this mixture I added some terrain irregularities. (The German figures came with a small base which needed to be blended in the rest of the scene.) I used a couple of boxes and fuel barrels as well to make the scene look busier. Because the plaster made the color of the earth I used, I went over the whole scene with my airbrush several times using different earth tones. The tank was in place by then, but the little overspray actually helps in this case; it blends in the mud on the lower chassis with the soil. I made some more mixture of soil (and much less plaster), which was “flicked” onto the lower part of the screens on the side. I loaded up a stiff brush, and created the splatters using a toothpick (it is not difficult, but first try which direction you need to move the toothpick to make sure the mud ends up on the tank…) As with everything: the layers are the key. Several slightly different colors were added in several light layers – it adds  to the realism of the weathering.

The other issue with the soil was that it cracked as it dried. It was a fortunate thing for me- it does look like real McCoy. In this case I can claim that it was totally intentional. Absolutely. However if I want to produce a groundwork that is not cracked, I might be in trouble. Experimentation is in order I feel; this is where shortcuts, like pre-made mixtures can help.

I have bought a bunch of different diorama products to prepare the vegetation. The self-adhesive grass patches looked much better once I used the airbrush to spray some brown color on them. The laser-cut shrub has an unfortunate, unnatural color; green and brown oil colors helped to make them resemble actual living plants.

The figures were painted over several years, really; I’m not much of a figure painter. For the face (the most problematic area) I used Citadel’s different flesh colors in layers. I had to get a replacement head for the sitting figure, as the original was lost.

As a last step I put some fallen leaves and other plant detritus into the scene. There’s a tree which has a long, caterpillar-like seed-pod. (Despite of being a biologist I have absolutely no clue what the tree is called… As soon as I figure out I’ll amend this post.) When you  crumb it up, it falls apart, and some parts do look like fallen leaves. I mixed these in with some strongly diluted white spirit, and placed it all over the base. Small details like that actually made this scene a lot more realistic.

On thin ice (DML 1/144 15 cm s.I.G 33/2 (Sf) auf Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer)

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I’ve seen a brilliant little diorama somewhere about a sinking tank; this was my first attempt of creating something similar. (Mind you, I was not ready to immerse myself- or the tank- into cold water yet. I just wanted to show a tank riding over cracking ice. The water is quite shallow apparently, as the tank is not sinking into it. Let’s call this a “study in ice”, shall we?)

Anyhow. All I needed was a small model (the 1/144 DML was perfect for this), and a small base. The display case is made for displaying golf balls; I’m not really sure why you would want to do that, but I’m not playing golf, so who am I to judge? It was the perfect size for the tank, though.

The creation of base was easy. I got a diorama-making set that allowed me to model water. I simply had to underpaint the surface with the desired color (deep blue), and layer the transparent resin over it. I used some blue tac to make sure it does stay in place.

On top of it came a sheet of plastic cut up into small parts -modelling the breaking ice. That was it.

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Placement of the modelWhile it was setting I lightly pushed the tank into it, so that it would not sit completely flat on the surface.pb3yyjtnfhdjj3

 

The tank was given a quick white-wash using the hairspray technique, and glued into place… and there you go: a quick and dirty diorama of a brave tank driver.

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A simple Warhammer 40K dio brought to you by Ferrero Rocher -part 2

This is my second foray into the world of Chaos Space Marines. This little diorama was created to provide a safe base for the Dark Vengeance Astrates I have got from Ebay, using a Rocher Ferrero box as a display case. I did not really have a concept in mind aside from depicting the characters as advancing on an unseen foe. (This was due to the small size of the box; had there been more space available, I could have put in a dreadnought or an Ultramarine Terminator as an enemy to advance upon. (I did buy a couple of models off Ebay over the last couple of years, but only now have I started to actually finish them properly. A lot of the models I got needed extensive surgery or their paintjob stripped, as I got them cheap and used, which hindered the work. Mostly due to my laziness, but still. Buy new if you can help it.) The other big push to actually start taking painting WH40K seriously was the fact that my landlord was giving up the hobby, and he sold me his paintset for ten quid. And we’re not talking about the starter set… we’re talking about a HUGE box of paints, washes and inks. I started to watch videos about blending, how to paint fabric, and all the other tricks of the trade – so I found these little figures a welcome variety from the dull-colored tanks (and they look awesome in general).
Anyhow, here is the second box of Chaos.

The figures themselves are brilliant: their poses are very dynamic, and the details are just amazing. The only issue I had with them was the seam lines which were sometimes on very visible- and hard to reach places. Most of them were filled in, but I’ve left one or two untouched because I was worried about the potential damage to the surrounding detail. Since then I got a bottle of no-sand putty from True Earth; this should help next time.

I tried to give these guys some justice (since they got none from the Emperor…), but this is how far I got. The Emperor’s Children warlock (I think… that third eye must be a sure sign of psychic powers) got completely dark eyes – ever since I’ve read about Daemonhosts in the Eisenhorn trilogy I liked this idea of the absolutely black eyes without the whites around the iris. I guess it’s not far-fetched to imagine a sorcerer who is possessed by a daemon, so this works out fine. The only thing I forgot to do before taking photos was to apply some matt varnish to the cape; it is too shiny to be a convincing fabric.

The most loving care was given to the Death Guard with his axe. His armor is probably not going to be shiny and clean; but I did not want to go for the full-on “puss filled boils and rust” look, either. I made him unclean looking using some oil washes, and the “fuel stain” product from AK, and used different browns, reds and organges to make his axe rusty-looking.

The Dark Angel was the less inspired of the three, as I don’t know much about these guys yet. The whole paintwork started by priming him black, and then trying my hands on the Citadel line of inks – it worked well to produce a deep dark-green color. The orange gem on this chest does need some work yet, I admit.

I used some pigments on the boots and fabric to depict dirt -after all, they are on a muddy battlefield-, and called it a day. The diorama base was prepared the same way as the previous one -using cork as pieces of rock/concrete buildings (at this stage it’s uncertain), and weapons and armor pieces from the spares box to add some variety. I ended up using actual earth mixed with white glue as a base with different shades of pigments sprinkled on top.

A simple Warhammer 40K dio brought to you by Ferrero Rocher -part 1

The Warhammer universe is a very fascinating one indeed. From a (somewhat over the top) space-opera-based table-top game it became a very interesting universe with an incredibly fascinating lore. This is a world, where the Imperium of Man is even worse than the Nazi regime, yet they are the good guys, simply because the others are even worse than them… (Worth reading just to get a sense what the dark AD 40 000 means for Humanity.)

True, most of the books read like fan fiction, but there are true gems in the Black Library. Aaron Dembski-Bowden and Abnet two of the best writers ever worked with Games Workshop, and created some truly remarkable books about Chaos, and what corruption is for people (normal or space marine) who fall into corruption -from their own choice (Eisenhorn), or because someone else made this choice for them (Thousand Sons). Since reading The Legion and the First Heretic from the Horus Heresy series, the Night Lords series, and the Talon of Horus, I became immensely fascinated by Astrates who turned to Chaos. Most other writers simply depict them as quite undimensional characters -as in “hur-hur, we worship Chaos and froth in the mouth”. Dembinsky made a pretty good case that these traitors actually have a point, and they are more than just a bunch of brainless maniacs… So I got myself a couple of WH40K figures (both Forgeworld and GW ones) on Ebay and got on painting.

The question is though- how you display them? The answer, of course, is the eight-sided plastic boxes Ferrero Rocher comes in… (Eight, as we know, is a special number signifying Chaos Undivided.)

Well, for this project everything was new- so I made everything up as I went along…

Base: turn the box upside down; the top will serve as a base. Glue pieces of cork onto it, as it can be used as an excellent way to depict rubble, stones, broken concrete.

Added some Tamiya texture paint (concrete color and earth color). Did some oil washes on the cork slabs.

I glued some pieces of weapons and different debris from my spares box (also from Ebay) on to the base, but it did not look very convincing. From then on, I just said screw that, and used actual dirt mixed with white glue… Once it settled, I sprinkled all sort of earth and dust colored pigments on top, and called the earthwork done. Most everything (weapons, vehicle parts, etc) are covered completely, but hey, it’s a battlefield, right?

The painting of the figures took about six months of work on and off. I kept watching tutorials on youtube (especially about how to paint fabric), and kept doing and redoing the paintwork. Also experimented a lot using inks and washes. I have to say I did learn a lot about figure painting, but I’m still not doing the GW school of painting very well. (Jewels are still not working out well…)

I chose three of the seven Dark Vengeance chaos Astrates, and glued them onto the base. Job done.

I tried to choose figures that complement each other- a sorcerer, a World Eater berserker, and an Emperor’s Children space marine. The paintwork is trying to convey the differences between these characters: the sorcerer is well-kept, the World Eater is wearing a very, very worn, damaged and mutated power armor, and the Emperor’s Children has also seen better days when it comes to paintjob and general armor maintenance. I really like the menacing pose the World Eater stroke: the power claws held slightly apart convey an incredible level of threat. The half-helmet is nice, too; it exposes the pallid flesh on his skull. (At least I chose to see it this way. My minis, my rules.)

Three other chaos chaps got onto another similar base for part 2.

The only thing left now is to clean off the sides of the base- but that’ll have to wait some time. I think we’ve had our fun together with these guys, and it’s time to move on.

AT-ST in the snow

This one is an old build, too… built in Florida, on a sunny Winter week. (This gave the idea for the snow…)

The kit is from a TJ Maxx at the Sawgrass expressway. For some reason they had an AT-ST for 2 dollars -which I had to buy, of course. This is my first Star Wars model. The build took about an hour, approximately.

The base is neutral gray. I decided to do a funky camo, and chose a nice gray-blue – it looks perfect for a winter setting. Took a big roll of masking tape, and started to cut shapes. The results are surprisingly good. (The secret, I think, is to keep it random. It’s very easy to start repeating the same patterns.)

I did not go for heavy weathering; just some light filters, some light pin washes, and scratches. I did, however, apply a couple of high-caliber laser hits.

Once the walker was ready, I used the usual white-glue and sodium bicarbonate mix for snow, and glued the whole setup into a display case for protection.