Simple Tree Diorama Projects
I wanted to practice making trees and bushes and such. I know here are all different kinds of ways to do them and for all different breeds of tree. Currently, I don't have much (don't know what you refer to it as) but green stuffs or flocking or whatever people use to make trees with. I just have one jug of some Woodland Scenics 'bushes' in light green and a willingness to raid the spice rack. I thought I would try a couple different methods with the materials I have to get my feet wet.

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Melly has already seen this necklace from when we were chatting before (sorry for the repeat) but I have been wanting to use other domes like this that I have and put a mini terrain in it now that I've been collecting some different materials and some new skills. I would really like to make a teeny tree with a micro pond below it or a swing in the branches. Or maybe even just something like a grassy hill with a park bench. I think it would be cool. 

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I didn't start that small (because I think I need to figure out what I'm doing before I do it almost too small to see correctly. :3) but I just tried the most basic kind of tree shape I could using a not special wire I had on hand. I'm going to cover this in wood putty and give it texture and foliage after I've mounted it into some kind of setting.

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I knew that wrapping wire in floral tape would be more time consuming and awkward, but I thought it might give it more texture and look better than just painting. I started with an idea of trying to do it like those Chinese gemstone trees for feng shui where you wrap a bead (in this case, a bush fluff) in wire and twist the tails and then wrap more of them together into bundles until you form a tree. I tried wrapping the wires at different points in the process and it was mostly just sticky and annoying. The tufts also tended to get compressed or the more delicate looking ones started to pull apart during the manipulation. I figured that would be the case, so I just started squishing them down firmly so I could do the twisting and then using that as an anchor to glue on bushes where I wanted them to get shapes I liked. So basically, after getting the wires twisted and a bush locked into the end I put on more puffs and then left them to dry before combining them into a tree bouquet.

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I was kind of worried it would look wonky cause I have no frickin' clue how to make trees, but I decided to stick with it until the end. Since it's wire, I figured I could keep manipulating it until it looked more like a tree. Hopefully.

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I like the trunk alright but there were no leftovers for roots on the brown and green tree like there was for the all wire one. The all wire one can currently stand on its own and the colored tree is like OH GOD I AM SO DRUNK. So I'm going to basically glue the crap out of it to a base and add on roots or give that effect somehow. I haven't yet decided. I think I'm going to try to mount it into a tiny metal tin with rocks and suches and try to pass it off like a miniature bonsai or something (albeit a bonsai without much attention to detail or care over the years. WHATEVER IT WAS MY FIRST TRY.)

I think, as for the wire one, I can't really try the putty and all that until I get it affixed to something too. I think that, for that one, I'm going to use the bushes for the vegetation too. I have seen people do the hairspray technique on some things, but I feel like the texture of the bushes works for that tiny scale well enough and doesn't require more out of pocket at this point since this is technically just still in experimentation/learning stages. Opinions? Do the bushes look okay as treefluff in this size?
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(06-25-2015, 02:20 AM)BlueMeander Wrote: ... I have been wanting to use other domes like this that I have and put a mini terrain in it...

Whoa! I like to build small under bell jars too, but I've never gone that small! Too cool! LOVE IT. Like mini ikebana in a bottle. Or baby terrariums. I give my highest rating: Superlative work!

As for your tree, it's great! Bonsai it up if you want, I've done it myself. When doing wire frame trees like that, some people like to put a clay or something over the wire, then texture the clay to resemble bark. Bakeable polymer clays are popular for this (I use it) as is DAS and homemade mixtures.

For more small ideas, see Caleb's 2mm work.
Do you know where I can find some of it? I searched but I'm not really sure what I'm looking for exactly.
Here is the current thread. There was more experiments on the ol' TG. But I've been a bit out of the terrain building mode, so not done much new on the new forum.
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I don't really know what people recommend for carving bases and stuff. The only thing I really have is this purple insulation foam stuff so I decided to use it. My original thought was to have a tree and maybe a bench sitting at the top of a hill and slope down with a little pond.

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This stuff makes a big damn mess cause it doesn't cut very cleanly.

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After a sanding, it was okay though.

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The tree was sitting a little high and actually looks a little bigger now than I'd intended after carving. I also ended up getting a couple ponds an a stream in because I figured this would be a good piece to practice resin in waterfall form. I ended up with a problem though because I thought I'd use e6000 glue (since I usually use that glue when I'm sticking things with metal involved) only it reacts with this kind of foam and just sort of melted a hole in it. Oops.

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Covering a wire tree with wood putty looked really easy in the video I watched, but it was just kind of a crumbly, delicate mess when I was trying to do it. I think the tree is just so small that it's really hard. I finally figured out kind of a technique, but it's not really working like I thought it would. The good 
news is that the scale is so small, a little sanding has been able to help create the texturing just by accident, without having to manually do it that small.

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I really wanted it to be mega crisp, cute, almost cartoony bright. But the thing is I don't have many good paints on hand and I don't have a ton of money after blowing so much on all sorts of random supplies to get into this venture. So I decided that, rather than indulge in a few more paints, I'd just use what I had. They were actually terrible colors to use-- like candy apple cartoon green, some okay browns, and a baby robin blue. I just mixed them with brown, black, a midnight blue, and yellow and hoped. The kind of tan-ish areas are more wood putty. I thought it made a nice sandy sort of dirt texture.

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At this point, I have tried to add some colors and have put one coat of paint on the tree. I have some grey areas for stone and I was thinking I'd find some way to do some kind of ground cover to practice that skill. I wanted the water to have parts that looked deep and others that were shallow so I tried to paint the water area that way and leave 'sand' on the edge. I plan on tinting the water.

I dunno, stuff. I'm working on it. I want there to be stones walking up and an arched bridge over the stream, more stone path up to the top, then the bench. I want to also add greenery and bushes and crap. The problem I'm currently running into though is that I'm just kind of making up a scale and so I don't really know what to use. And I'm also anxious about buying more supplies so I'm going to try to see what I can make work.

I also kind of just like it like this. It reminds me of some resin houses my grandma buys called "Lilliput Lane". I will end up using ground cover and stuff though because my goal in making these is to practice as many techniques as possible.
You'll never be perfectly happy with your own terrain pieces - there's always something you'll feel you missed or you could have done better. But I've gotta say, this one is looking pretty good so far. Even with the limited palette of colors, it's turning out nicely.

As for cutting/sculpting foam, yeah, doing it the knife and chisel and sandpaper way is colossally messy. Eventually you'll want to pick up a hot-wire foam cutter. WAY easier and cleaner. And don't skimp - you may be tempts to get the little wand-shaped job at the local craft store, but good tools are worth their weight in gold.
Very nice! I, too, think that the variety of colors works very well here. Insulation foam is a great medium for creating the main form for landscapes. Even with a hot wire cutter, the fine angles & shapes you have going on here would be hard to do. I could see this sort of rolling hillside being done by crumpling up newspaper & papermache-ing or using plaster strips over the top to smooth it out and make them durable.
These are really useful tips. Thanks for chiming in!

I have continued to work on this tree one in particular. The one with the 'bush tree' hasn't had any cool looking additions yet.

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I took a feather from one of our chickens to use on making a duck that looks like one of my ducks (Why not use a duck feather? WHY ARE YOU ASKING ME THESE THINGS?) I knew I could just model a tiny duck, but I thought if I used actual feather barbs as whole feathers on the mini duck, it might seem more special. Or maybe it would be a pointless waste of time that you'd never end up noticing anyway. Whatever. I just didn't think I could paint iridescence or create points that delicate with clay anyway.

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I didn't have anything toxic in my work area so my bird was there while I was checking the scale of the duck. He knocked over the tree immediately and then tried to eat my duck. I rescued her though. O.....O That big jerk! I put him back in his den before I lost my stupid duck figure. (My bird is named Skooma. Shout out to Elder Scrolls fans! Big Grin )

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I got her coated in feather barbs and painted up. Although this breed of duck would normally have a darker beak and black eyes (cayuga), I knew at this size it would just make her look like I hadn't taken the time to do the details. So I decided to bend the rules a little. I singed the clay with my heat gun on the beak to darken it in a way that looked more natural and smooth than if I had painted it, then accented it with a paint wash. I made the eyes a sort of metallic white to give a little glimmer, but it's diluted a little so it won't like GLOW hopefully. I also gave her a white bit on her chest to match my real life duck, Natasha. 

The dirt I made out of powdered wood filler bits, dried coffee, nutmeg, and a dash of artificial sand. I've never put down basing materials before and I wasn't sure what order to do it in, but I figured sand bottom layer, dirt would be next, and grass on top? QUESTION: I wasn't sure what order to do basing and resin. I thought if I had the ground covered before I poured the resin, there was a chance some might blow off and land in the resin while it sets so I should pour resin first. Is that so?  I already put on dirt in some areas near the water because I wasn't thinking in a very linear way about when to do what.

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Overall I feel that the three ponds with a stream between them gives the impression this was supposed to be sort of a big piece of land. With the tree and the duck, it points out that the ponds are a lot more like 'puddle' sized so it's kind of weird to have a stream going between them. But really I think the point was for me to practice a couple skills and this will be my first opportunity to create a static waterfall and water motion from things disrupting the flow (the tiny rocks and tiny log pieces.) 

I watched some videos on using herbs for basing scatter (hope that's the right term.) but I decided I really wanted some bright green in here after all so I did order some of the fine turf that Caleb used on their hex pieces. I'm waiting for that to show up and I'll try mixing it with herbs for color variation. Is that something you can do? Mix faux turf with natural herbs?  (And yes, I do understand the herbs will react with PVA and probably change color a bit. Smile )
Right, so I actually didn't update this as I went along. I was kinda sick/doing my own thing and kept taking pictures but... anyway, now it's all finished it so I have a lot of pictures all at once. But I've whittled them down to just the ones that make the real points.

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I didn't find out if people do basing before or after resin but logic told me you'd want hard water without crap falling in it as much as possible so I decided to do the resin next.

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I wasn't sure how to get the pond at the top to stay filled so I used the masking tape suggestion I'd been given and waited for the resin to gel and then tried to pour smear it in.

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It didn't actually go very well because the tape really stuck to the resin anyway, leaving this papery layer on it that I had to file off. Then I was left with a rough side. Maybe the tip was to put the sticky side against the resin...? I don't really know. But luckily I had a static waterfall planned so I wasn't worried about this showing.

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I did some little flowers using some of that grass/hay stuff I used from my goldfish pond. I dipped it in glue and then dipped that into nail accent boullion. After that, I painted the stems green and washed a little yellow over the balls to tone down the gold a bit.

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They made passable flowers I guess. I also painted the tops of the grass by my duck brown to look like cattails. I think her bill is too thick and clunky and it really ruins her look. I probably should have tried harder. Or at least baked it hard and then filed it down some. Next time.

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I made a teeny park bench that I was really proud of at first but now I've seen it so many times all I see is the flaws. It took me four tries to get a waterfall. Coloring the Water Effects is hard since it's already white. It was hard to tell how much white I was putting in and on a setting this small, it was really easy to make it look ALL white. I had to paint it on with the sharp end of a pin, but it's still pretty white. 

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I added some wood steps, a little alcove with mushooms growing in it, the bridge, bushes and crap, and tried to make it look nature-y and stuff.

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My friends suggested I add weathering to the wood and wrought iron. I wasn't really sure how to do that, so I guessed. I'm afraid the detail on the 'iron' at this size just looks more like fingerprints. I should have done better with that. I feel like the whole thing should be more intricate as far as texture or more delicate in the thickness of the lines. The boards are kind of wide for the scale of everything else too and I admit to rushing it a bit. :\

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I did file the fronts of the steps so they'd look old and walked on and I think that helped. I like the gel Water Effects stuff on the water. Static grass applicators are something I've seen around a lot but don't have one. So I was honestly worried that, without one, my static grass might just lay flat and matted. To my happy surprise, it seems pretty 'stand up' to me. I clumped some on top of tacky glue and then held the piece upside down and let gravity do a little magic. Maybe I don't have much experience and so my expectations were low and it's capable of looking better, but it exceeded the expectations I personally had for it, so I'm okay with it.

I'll say that, honestly, the piece looks pretty much exactly the way I envisioned, which is super satisfying. I also got to practice lots of skills to get more familiar with the whole business and that was pretty cool. YAY. Stuff. Thanks again for all the advice from people along the way.

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This is amazing! Really nice work!

I would add one small detail personally.

I would hit the top of the tree with a light spray of yellow spray paint. Just mask everything else off holding the can above just give a very light dusting from one direction.

If you look at a tree in the daytime. The leaves are lighter on the top where the sun is shining and darker underneath.

The yellow paint will make it look like the sun is shining on your idyllic scene.
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