Saturday, July 14, 2012

Waste Not, Want Not: Making Foliage Flock

While I take a break from the monster post that is my tree-making tutorial, I figure I might as well post a quick how-to for super-cheap foliage flock. The best part about this stuff is it is made entirely from reclaimed waste material.

At least, so long as you happen to drink super-cheap tea in bags.

Even if you don't drink crappy tea, this method is still probably cheaper than any other coarse flock option, since the box of 100 tea bags cost me under 4 bucks, and will provide me with at least a year's worth of flock in any variety of colors I choose. And anyway, you just need to brew the stuff, not drink it.

Note that it IS important to brew the tea first-- otherwise the tea might change the color of the paint when you paint your flock.

Fortunately I DO drink it, so it's a win-win. Since it's been a record-breakingly hot summer in Chicago, I've taken to brewing a couple bottles of iced tea every morning. Each one takes two tea bags. So that's four tea-bags that I can leave to dry during the day and then add to my stash that evening. Just squeeze any liquid out when you are done using it and place it in a dish in a sunny spot.

Note that it is not necessary to dry the tea first if you want to color it right away. In fact, it actually saves time since you only need to let it dry once.

To color your tea-leaf flock, simply empty your tea-bags into a jar. Add a squirt or two of acrylic paint--crappy paints are perfect for this- and stir it in with some kind of pokey device (I used a bamboo skewer.) Make sure to mix it until the color is evenly coated and try to break up clumps. If the color is not intense enough, Simply add a little more.

Here you can see that I am coloring my flock red for some nice autumn foliage.

One thing about using tea is that it might not take the paint very well, depending on how dark the tea is to start with. If you find that your tea does not seem to take color very well, just color the tea once, set it aside to dry, and then color it again. The accumulation of pigment should make it more vibrant.

Once you are satisfied with the color, spread the wet flock onto some wax paper and let it dry. I store mine in a zip-lock until I'm ready to use it.

Below you can see two different colors of autumn foliage that I mixed up. I then combined these to make a custom blend for a foliage that appears to vary naturally from leaf to leaf.

So there you have it. Super easy. Super cheap. And this can be used to make coarse flock for any application. I plan to have all kinds of colors around for a wide variety of trees and bushes.

Let me know what you think, or if you have any of your own methods of reclaiming waste for modelling purposes.

P.S. The brand of tea I use is 'Royal World Teas: Ceylon's Finest Black Tea.' If this box says true, then Ceylon must be a sad, sad place tea-wise. 


  1. To get massive amounts just volunteer to make the drinks for your next church function. Making 5 gallons of tea at a time leaves lots of tea leaves!

  2. Coffee grounds work too! You'll get a finer texture, depending on the grind setting. And your terrain will smell good...

  3. Am trying your tea leaf foliage, will try the othr tutorial soon. Thanks, looks good.