Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Modelling summer grass

Damian asks: 

I’m just making an English seaside summer model railway, and i have a problem with grass colour. My colours assortment is limited to Woodland Scenics turfs. I don’t have a static grass applicator. I tried to make a turf mix to match the grass colour to the photographs, but wasn’t successful in recreating the nice green. Knowing that you have experience in modeling, which WS colours would you recommend to mix to get that summer grass colours.

This has taken quite a lot of thinking about, and I'm still not sure I have a definitive answer. In fact I'm not sure there is a definitive answer.

My first suggestion is to forget the idea that you can mix a single grass colour. Grass, like so many other surfaces, varies a huge amount on anything other than the most manicured of lawns. Assuming you want "normal" grass then you need to adopt a slightly random approach to sprinking flock powder around.

I tend to work with Woodland Scenics green blended turf. I use it everywhere, on the grass, over static grass, on hedges, as tree foliage. My layouts are set in an idyllic UK countryside full of sunshine, kids having their ears clipped by smiling bobbies and village nurses cycling between patients. It's always sunny because that's how we like to imagine it.

But I don't use it on it's own. I'll lay down a base coat but then quickly sprinkle both lighter and darker shades around the place. There's not pattern to this, it's random. I might aim the darker stuff where there should be shadow and the lighter version on the top of hedges, trees and into the middle of fields.

Extra hold hair spray is your friend when adding extra flock. Blast it around, throw the flock willy-nilly and you'll get a more natural result.

Beware though, summer grass isn't green. It often bleaches out. This video from the BBC shows the effect it has revealing buried buildings. For this you'll need some yellow grass or earth (better still a mix of the two) and work this over the areas that will get most sunshine.

Sorry if this isn't the perfect answer, it's an area where art plays a big part.

I'd also suggest that while an electric static grass tool isn't essential, a £4.95 puffer bottle is very useful. Get mid green and beige fibres and mix poorly so the tufts blasted out are random shades. For summer, 50% or more beige is the way to go. Finish with more hair spray and a sprinkle of you flocks for undergrowth.

Colours on a model are subjective. You need to consider the lighting too, incandescent bulbs make things look warm, as do warm LEDs and florescent tubes. Cold tubes and lights make things look blue.Work under the lights the layout is to be displayed under if possible.

I'll admit to aiming for a consistent colour palette as ultimately, this will look much better than widely differing greens.

Final thought - don't forget to sprinkle a few white and yellow flecks in there for daisies and dandelions. A simple job, but one that really catches the eyes of people looking at the model.


Damian Chmielewski said...

Thank you!

James Finister said...

I'm struggling with the grass on Rails Around the Rectory. The techniques I've used successfully to represent a Welsh or Irish hillside aren't working to represent a "slightly" neglected garden in lush Leicestershire.

Three thoughts have occurred to me.

1. You need a very clear vision of the type of grass you are trying to reproduce, including the location, time of year, and use of the grass.

2. Relative colour values matter more than absolute ones. What can appear dark on one layout can look light on another

3. Sometimes our adult mindset stops us seeing just what colour grass really is. That is a dummy whammy because we have to be brave enough to go for quite an intense colour, but it still has to be believable to the audience.

I think many model grass products fail to capture the intense and complex green of a lush garden or field