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The San Jacinto Branch: Backdrop Test

May 22, 2008

Teaching yourself to paint a backdrop is a lot of fun. The best part is that if you have the paint, the brushes, water, a damp rag, and your backdrop material, you’re set to go.

There have been plenty of books on how to paint backdrops, and personally, the one I most enjoyed was the backdrop article that accompanied the magnificient Alkali Central project layout done by the staff at Model Railroader back in December 1995.

Another good resource was the 2003ish cover story MR article about how to paint backdrops in Colorado.

Of course, no amount of reading will pay off unless you don’t pick up a brush, like I did.

I just did a small 8X10 inch space to see what colors I wanted to use, what scene I wanted to portray, and how I wanted to blend everything together.

It’s not superdetailed, and it doesn’t have to be. However it has to be done with colors that either COMPLIMENT or MATCH the layout in front of the backdrop. the line of trees is obviously a continuation of the orange grove that exists on my layout. you can see that the grove goes downhill, out of sight, then reappears on a second hill behind the larger trees. The line of darker trees in the middle left are trees being used as windbreaks, usually gum trees.

I has an interesting dilemma: I ran out of black before I started, so I thought logically. For any point above my horizon line, which is where the orange grove stops, I used dark blue as my shadow color, anything below the horizon line I used a dark brown. I think it was successful, don’t you think?

You can see that the snow atop the distant mountians isn’t snow white…that’s because of the air between the mountain and the viewer is somewhat obscured by desert sand and dirt, creating that hazy look.

If I was modeling the LA basin, I probably would have only drawn a faint outline for the mountains, due to to smog, which was the worst in the L.A. basin in 1948 than at any other time before or SINCE. It got so bad, many people were getting VERY sick, so politicians were called called to action. The Smog being so bad was mainly due to the (now banned) trash incenerators, power plants, and vehicles, and oil from orange grove smudge pots.  

It’s amazing what a difference just what just a blue backdrop makes, but It’s really stunning what a difference a range of painted mountains, orange groves, and hills make.

Now that I’ve got my basic plan for what I want my backdrops to look like, It’s time to get some more backdrop material and paint so I can do the rest of my layout.

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