Thursday, January 3, 2008

Backdrops for the Testbed

Happy 2008!! I spent my time off over the New Years holiday installing and painting the backdrop on my 1'x4' testbed layout. The backdrop is made from a roll of 18" wide aluminum flashing that I picked up at my local home improvement store. The stuff comes in 50' rolls, but I only needed about 6' to do this small layout.

The aluminum flashing is ridiculously easy to work with as it curves very easily. As long as you don't hit it with a sharp object, it will remain flat and smooth. Mounting it was a matter of gluing 1"x2" stanchions to the backside of the aluminum with Gorilla Glue. Then the whole assembly was glued and screwed to the benchwork.

Painting the backdrop is just a matter of observing nature and trying to mimic it. When you look at the sky, the blue color tends to fade to white near the horizon. Check it out next time you're outside. The effect is even more pronounced on a clear day. To replicate this, I started by painting the upper sky blue and left a band of unpainted backdrop at the bottom. Once the blue dried, I painted the remaining band white. Once this dried, I applied a second coat of white (it needed it) and began to feather the white into the blue using a sponge. The keys are to use a small amount of unthinned paint and make strokes parallel with the horizon. I think the effect is extremely convincing.

To make the tree line, I used a hunter green paint that looked like it would match the green of my soybean fields. On drying, it's a much darker green color. I'll go back over the tree line with some of this green mixed with the earthy color that was used to paint the layout base. This ought to homogenize the backdrop with the foreground scenery. The January 2008 issue of MR has a great article on how to blend the backdrop into the foreground.

In the coming days, I hope to:

1. Finish ballasting the track.
2. Finish the ground cover.
3. Build the industry for the long siding (probably a furniture plant).

I'll keep you posted....