Monday, 15 June 2015

Painting blue skies blue

Model railway backdrops can really be as simple or as elaborate as you like. But even when painting a blue sky blue, the secret is to get the simple things right to avoid making your blue sky backdrop look fake. Making a quick trip to my local Bunnings store, I discovered this neat little 75 mm disposable paint roller kit for only $2.26 that even came with its own paint tray.

I bought this awesome disposable paint roller kit for just $2.26 at my local Bunnings store.

I then set to work mixing the paint in the plastic roller tray. I mixed about 85% Jo Sonjas brand sky blue artists paint I already had in my possession, with about 15% Crafty Colour blue mist, which is an acrylic paint tube I bought in the craft section at Bunnings and is by far a lighter shade of blue. Next, I added a toothpick sized scoop of black and white acrylic to the mixture to give it that almost unnoticeable element of a hot, dusty, inland New South Wales summer sky. My removable backdrop made it a breeze to paint. I simply slid it out, lay it across the layout base and rolled a coat along its length, the book-end sections of the backdrop and the support beam for the lighting and perspex lid that runs across the top of my layout. All that was left for me to do was use a No. 12 artists brush to hand paint the areas where the roller couldn't reach. Even along the edge of the timber strips that hold my backdrop in place, this didn't prove too hard at all.

After the bath towel incident, I was very careful not to get blue paint on my wife's hairdryer.

I then found another way to get my wife involved in the construction of my model railway, (who can forget the bath towel incident when I was staining the layout frame?). Using her hair dryer, I placed it on medium heat and spent 2 to 5 minutes blowing it back and forth over everything I'd just painted. It saved waiting a couple of hours before applying the next coat. The time it took me to mix, apply and blow dry 5 coats of sky blue background, was less than the game of Australian Rules Football that was playing on my TV while I worked. Even allowing for a few cups of tea and regular checks of the footy score, it was an easy afternoon project.

The finished backdrop took me about as long to paint as the footy game I was also watching on TV.

It's amazing what a plain blue backdrop can do to change a layout's appearance. Once the backdrop was slid into place and I stood back to admire my afternoon's work, I could start visualizing the scenery in my head. I also love the fact that there is no shine or even one single brush stroke or roller mark on my backdrop. But I guess the real test for any layout comes when you place a model in front of the backdrop.

I think a good backdrop should never distract the viewer from the models you're wanting to showcase.

Taking out the same NPRY cement hopper I had photographed back when I was drawing up the plans for Philden, I placed it on a strip of flex-track and shot the above photo without the use of any extra lighting. Ignoring the plain plywood layout base and un-ballasted track, I can almost see the same hot summer sky I've photographed when visiting places like Moree, or Coonabarabran in the north-west of New South Wales. Next up, I need to add a low strip of distant mountains giving off their blue-eucalyptus haze in the middle of an Aussie summer. But as usual, that is a story for another day.

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Thanks for taking the time to visit Philden. I hope you'll book a return ticket soon. Cheers, Phil