View Full Version : Backdrop painting for dummies

Gavin Miller
04-11-2010, 04:23 AM
Backdrop painting for dummies
If you are artistically challenged (like me) but would like a backdrop for your model shelf or model airport you may find my "paint by numbers" method useful.

First I cut some plastic sheet to the height I wanted (about 13cm) then painted a coat of flat blue for the sky (I used Taubmans "North Bay").


Then I painted the ground up to the horizon line using Taubmans "Mossy Bank". As the horizon behind my model airport is a dead flat coastal plain my horizon isn't as exciting as, say, mountains.


Next step was to "mist" some flat white over the ground and horizon using a spray can. I allowed some overspray into the sky to lighten the area near the horizon (the sky always appears lighter towards the horizon because of the atmosphere). The blue at the bottom is just masking tape (masking off the area where I want bare plastic to attach a strip of Velcro).


I then applied a fresh coat of the ground colour slightly below the original horizon line to represent a closer "horizon" (tree tops).


Another mist coat of flat white was sprayed across the ground area to give the effect of distance. Then the process was repeated again.


After the final mist coat, I now had three "horizons" all faded into the distance to varying degrees (the main horizon faded the most because it had received the most mist coats). I then stippled on two tones of foliage green to represent the nearby treeline.

You could leave it at that if you are happy with a cloudless, clear day. I decided to represent clouds by cutting cloud shapes into plastic templates, holding the templates against the backdrop and misting more flat white in the sky area. By overlapping cloud shapes you can get some interesting effects. Caution, less is better when it comes to clouds. It is very easy to overdo it and produce heavy-looking unrealistic clouds.


If you are not an artist or you don't have a good double-action airbrush and the skill to use it properly, templates are an excellent way for a dummy to paint clouds with just a spray can. The templates control the spray pattern - otherwise it would just look like haze (or fog!).

Finally, a test fit behind my Perth Airport diorama which is curved at the ends to avoid corners in the sky (something I learned from a photographic studio). I scattered some Woodland scenics foam "foliage" (two colours) in front of the backdrop to provide a transition from the backrop to the three-dimensional diorama. The last thing to do is put some aircraft on the apron and take a test shot -


What do you reckon? As a total non-artist, I reckon it's an easy way to create a scenic backdrop that anyone can do over a weekend.


04-11-2010, 04:46 AM
This looks fantastic but unfortunately I can't apply a backdrop to my diorama due to the black border between the display and the wood frame.

05-19-2010, 06:50 PM
Brilliant Gavin, absolutely brilliant!!!! There used to be a show on the local public broadcast station that gave the basic tips for oil painting just as you have provided in this thread. The outcome is self evident....you might have quite possibly made some of us "artists". Thanks for the tutorial sir.

10-23-2010, 01:32 AM
Gavin thanks for the tip now I can do it!