Cute Clouds!

After some preliminary work yesterday of filling small holes with spackle and putting on a base of white ceiling paint I got into the serious business of painting the backdrops on two of the three scenic segments of Morpeth MkII. However before I get into the detail of that process I’ll answer a question posed to me by Jeff in the US who asked me how much the segments weigh. I grabbed the bathroom scales and trooped downstairs to see what the answer was. I weighed the segment with the turntable on it and the scales showed that it weighed 22.4 kgs (that’s 49.5 lbs for those among us who are metrically challenged) 🙂

As you will see in the photos I will post of the result of my efforts today the backdrops do make a difference when painted. My aim is essentially to make them disappear. I don’t want viewers noticing the backdrop but I also don’t want them calling my clouds “cute” as my better half did when she came downstairs to see the results of my labours. CUTE!?! She knows that word is banned in the train room 🙂

Steps to backdrop painting using my method:

  1. Paint on a base coat of white allow to dry overnight
  2. Get 1Litre of an appropriate blue colour (I use an old Dulux colour called Harbour Sky) in flat acrylic interior house paint. Choose one that needs a light base as deep bases are more expensive. My can cost $28. Paint the top two-thirds of the backdrop in this colour and then, before it dries, paint the bottom third in white. Overlap the colours and blend them so that you get a graded transition from full blue at the top to almost pure white at the bottom. Allow to dry.
  3. Cut out some cloud stencils using cardboard purchased from the local stationers. The colour of the cardboard does not matter 🙂 You can purchase ready made cloud stencils from various sources in the US. Google them if you don’t feel confident of your cloud making skill. I just cut a few 5 inch wide strips from the sheet of cardboard and then draw a random line on the lower half which I then cut out with a pair of scissors.  Hint: this is a great activity to get kids involved in.
  4. You will need cans of flat white and light grey spray paint. Take the stencils and lay them against the recently painted backdrop. Spray 3 or 4 light passes with white allowing the top edge to show on the backdrop. The bottom edge can be left to its own devices. This is important: the top edge of the cloud should be sharp and the bottom edge fuzzy. You don’t turn the stencil over to the bottom edge of your clouds. Just let the can do the work and make the amount of paint you use light. You can always put more on but it’s ard to get it off again.
  5. When you have sufficient clouds take one of your stencils (it doesn’t matter which one) and hold it upsidfe down about 3cm from the backdrops surface a bit lower than the sharp line produced for the top of the cloud. Spray a very light (and I do mean very light) squirt of grey on the bottom of each cloud.
  6. Take the white spraycan and blend the clouds and grey bases. Dull any sharp edges (not the top edge, these are supposed to show) and lighten the grey with some quick squirts.
  7. The hills are simply drawn on with pencil and painted with a combination of three colours of student’s acrylics: violet, white and a deep blue. The further a hill is from the viewer the lighter it will be. Start with a blob of white and put a little violet and blue in it. Paint the two furthest hills. Add some more blue and work along on the next two and so on.
  8. When you’re happy with the hills overspray them lightly with white spray paint.

That’s it. You have a backdrop. The backdrop you can see in these photos took me about 4 hours to paint over a weekend and cost me about $60. I’m happy with them although I’m sure someone with even a modicum of artistic talent could do much better. As I say, the aim of the exercise is to make the backdrop disappear. I’ve seen some lovely photo backdrops recently, not least the ones on the 7mm layout Arakoola. However someone told me recently what they’re backdrops cost them and my jaw nearly hit the floor when he revealed the price! I’ll stick with my painted efforts for the time being.

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