Skip to content

Terrain – Keeping it Simple

Keeping it Simple
Working Foundations

A model is made up of individual components all related and connected. Sounds a bit too simple? Not really. Even the most complex diorama is a series of sub-assemblies that will eventually join together to form the whole. It is with this in mind that I approach all of my projects. In many cases the various components are constructed months apart, but what blends and ties them together? Color and weathering. The colors all fall within a narrow range of tones. They are never bright, nor do they stick out. That is not to say they are dull or boring! The weathering blends the colors. The various diorama elements appear to be about the same age. The weathering is done in such a manner as to enhance, not overpower the scene. A beautiful model will be remembered or judged by its most dominating visual feature. It is a mistake to make this a bunch of brightly colored springtime flowers, or a shiny new vehicle right off the showroom floor. While these may be very prototypical, they do not translate well into miniature. Not everything in the "real world" looks good reduced to scale! Subtlety will always be my number one rule of thumb!

A Rusty Old Tank Notice the way the colors are natural and blend smoothly from background forest to foreground rusty tank and wood.

The Modelling Philosophy

Every modelling project requires a goal from the outset. This can vary from modeller or even between projects. The best goal is to finish the project! It may help to look at the modelling process as three distinct levels of craftsmanship. Each plays an important role since every aspect of construction will be affected by the level. While these are very different from one another, they can effectively be mixed within a single project.

Contest Quality

Do not let the name fool you. Many modellers raise their standard to this level for every project and kit they build, regardless of whether or not it will ever be entered in a contest. A contest quality model is complete is every way. Every single visible detail is complete and done so to the highest possible level of detail. Nothing is overlooked or left to chance.

Foreground Quality

A foreground model is visually complete. It is highly detailed, but the selective completion of the details suggest that any missing details are also present. If the most visible bottles on a cluttered shelf are individually painted, then so are the rest! The actual quality of modelling is identical to that of the contest model, it is in the smallest details that a compromise is made to save time. (Most of us fall into this category.)


The background model lacks many important details making it suitable only where it will be obscured from view. Short cuts can be taken and construction is made up of a series of compromises. The background model is effective when used correctly.

Range of Colors The mottled rust varies in brightness quite a bit however the tone or range of shades is narrow.

Make it Interesting

If all of this sounds like there is no way to make your models interesting, you are wrong! Even the most basic element can be modelled with character. For most of us wood is the foundation of most structures. Wood can be given depth with the use of wire brushes. This brings out the texture and add instant age. Coloring the wood with a variety of stains thus achieving random natural colors will greatly enhance your models. The detail castings we so love can also be finished with texture and character in mind. In addition scenery can be made using several layers to create a more natural ground cover. All of these add up to a well detailed, complete diorama, and that is the point! (Click here for clinics on wood or detail painting.)

An old Barrel This simple barrel is full of texture and character. The bands are nicely rusted as well as the wood slats.

Reprinted from Sierra West Scale Models

Posted in Terrain Building.

0 Responses

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

You must be logged in to post a comment.