Friday, March 15, 2019

Cheap Trees Are Made of This

The following blog post isn’t about a specific recipe or a short cut to make el cheapo trees but rather a proof of concept. The idea was to create a quick Eastern pine tree and see how it could fit in various scenes and environment. In this regard, my goal was to replicate the shape of the tree and not the correct texture or color.

Not bad when seen from afar...
The tree itself was built in about 10 minutes using a wood skewer (not bamboo), small twigs and pre-flocked netting found at a local gardening supplier. I used the true and tried method of drilling holes into the skewer and inserting branches in it. As previously stated, I cared much more about getting the shape right than the colors.

Making this tree proved me a few things I didn’t expect. First, modelling conifers such as pine is indeed as fun as building a structure or a freight car, with a certain dose of artistic freedom. Second, when you get the basics right, using finer texturing methods, improving branches and needles and coloration aren’t that hard.

...but it doesn't hold up under closer scrutiny.

While making this tree was quite fast and yielded surprisingly decent results, it is evident ones would be better off making them with more care. The pre-flocked netting saves a lot of time (applying needles and painting) but the results is not that much realistic and if you start airbrushing more realistic colors, it defeats the gain in speed you are going after. It must also be noted pre-flocked netting isn’t the most geometrically realistic material to use to replicate branches.

Another word of caution is the tree looks quite good on pictures, but is not that great upon closer inspection.  It means depending on your available time and the context of your work, such tree could indeed be a solution. But in most of the cases, taking a few hours working on maybe a half-dozen well done trees would be much meaning in the long term.

Tapered trunk, bark texture, more realistic branches and colors are a few areas that would significantly benefit from improvement. Also, looking at real Eastern pine growing in a nearby park, I found out most of them didn't have a perfect trunk but were a quite asymetrical.

However, given I’ll have to create a very dense forest on the layout, small trees made of netting that are to be hidden and embedded within the vegetation without protruding over the canopy could be a solution to bring some colors among leafless deciduous trees.

OK for background use? Not so sure...

Anyway, point in case, modelling trees is much more interesting than I thought and relaxing too. Given I’ll probably have to create about a dozen of pine maximum; I’m ready to do a better job than trumpet about a half-baked solution.

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