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  1. #1
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    Diorama Scenery Ground Cover Methods

    So, you want to design a layout for your model railroad, or perhaps a wargaming diorama, and you have this giant sea of white or pink foam core insulation board sitting in front of you. How do you get ground cover scenery elements like grass, shrubs, and dirt onto your dynamic scene?

    Ground cover scenery is a make or break design and construction consideration that will determine the level of realism of your model railroad or battlefield depiction, dependent totally on how well it is done.

    There are three basic types of ground cover:


    1. Low – includes the coloring of your layout surface and the addition of small grasses, small weeds and other plants that are low to the ground.
    2. Medium – includes medium-sized underbrush, weeds, vines and other plants.
    3. High – includes larger bushes, grasses and shrubs, but not trees.


    Let’s look at each of those a little more in-depth...
    "Life begins at the end of your comfort zoneĒ

  2. #2
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    Low Ground Cover

    You should start by painting the layout/diorama surface with a tan or earth color, in all areas where you will be adding ground cover. Acrylic paint is best, especially on foam core insulation board. You could use a green color instead, but since you’ll be adding “grass” and other earth vegetation, think of the paint color of being sand or light dirt, which is typically the ground most rails run on. Adding green ground foam to the tan or earth color painted surface will add to the effect of seeing the ground pop up underneath the grass and shrubs, for instance.

    Some model railroaders like to use something called “Ground Goop” for this step. This is basically a mixture of coarsely textured plaster and/or paper mache with water, typically with earth tone color(s) added in. When the goop is spread on the surface area, the goop adds a thick (or thin) layer of textured surface to apply the rest of the ground cover elements. Ground foam can be bought online it at hobby stores.

    METHOD: Added to wet paint.

    Add a first layer of ground foam while the paint is still wet. Work in small sections so the paint doesn’t have a chance to dry before adding the ground foam!

    A blended turf is good for initial application because it looks more realistic for turf around railroads. Various shades of green or tan can be added, depending on whether the scene you’re modeling is in a forest, a grassy meadow or a rocky hillside that doesn’t grow much grass. If you’re doing a desert scene, you will most likely be using more tan ground foam with little pockets of medium green underbrush here and there. Pinch and grab the ground foam, and sprinkle onto the layout/diorama surface. You can also use the canisters many of these products are sold in, but that is generally better used when laying large areas of ground for a down. I like a more controlled approach!


    METHOD:
    Another method is to wait ‘till the paint dries, then apply the ground foam after brushing on a layer of diluted white glue or flat matte medium.

    Let the paint dry first, and then sprinkle the dry ground foam into the appropriate area. You’ll then use very diluted white glue concoction of 1 part white glue, 1 part isopropyl alcohol [rubbing alcohol] and 4 parts water. Using a pipette, close to the surface, apply drops of the diluted glue gently upon the ground foam, trying to avoid scattering the foam particles. The diluted glue will spread very thinly and evenly over and under the ground foam. You should put enough glue in the area slowly and gently to saturate the ground foam so you can see the white glue coming up through the ground foam when you’re finished. Let this dry overnight.

    The next day you can add more ground foam, perhaps different shades, blended in to the first layer in various places. When you’re happy with the results, drip on the glue like you did before.
    Remember that a variety of shades and textures is much more realistic than one color and shade for all your ground cover.
    "Life begins at the end of your comfort zoneĒ

  3. #3
    Administrator Whiterook's Avatar
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    Medium Ground Cover

    The next thing to do is add coarse turf to different areas where you don’t want that cultured lawn “mowed golf course” look! You want to add a variety of texture to the area, for enhanced realism. Put down some coarse turf, and then apply a little of the fine turf over it (sparingly) to help blend it in. Use one of the glue methods mentioned above.

    Note: If you decide to use a spray bottle to get the diluted glue mixture down, take care with making sure you not blow the ground foam around....remember, it’s foam!

    Once you have the course turf medium cover down, you can start to apply underbrush for that overgrown appearance. Add vines and rocks, and whatever elements you think will give you the look your after...that might even include trash, rail ties, retaining walls, etc.
    "Life begins at the end of your comfort zoneĒ

  4. #4
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    High Ground Cover

    Adding larger bushes and shrubs to your ground cover is the next step to adding greater realism to your layout/diorama. You can purchase these bushes as clump-foliage, or you can use lichen for many of your bushes and shrubs. Lichen can be purchased online, or at most hobby and craft stores...itís very user friendly! Break it up into small pieces and plant them anywhere you want this kind of foliage. It looks more realistic if you apply a little sprinkle of fine turf on the lichen to look like small leaves.

    This goes well along water features (ponds, streams, etc.), and even as far as decorative landscaping around your structures. These items can often be glued separately by adding a drop of white glue to one side of the bush and planting it where you want it on the layout.

    "Life begins at the end of your comfort zoneĒ

  5. #5
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    The world is your oyster! You are limited only by your imagination and daring. And the best part of this is, it’s all fairly, easily removable, so you can re-do. Look in magazines, books, photographs...tale long walks and snap some pics...the world had plenty of examples right in front of you! Good luck and have fun with it.
    "Life begins at the end of your comfort zoneĒ

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