Monday, March 3, 2014

An Update on Scratch Building Trees: the Roots and the Rocks

Welcome to another chapter on what might fairly be called my obsession with scratch-built trees. Some of the most popular posts on this blog are the ones I did on building cheap, realistic trees.

I've updated my method since first writing those posts. For one thing, I noticed how good lichens look when used for foliage when I found Asslessman's Leadplague blog. For another, I started experimenting with Aves Apoxie Sculpt for making terrain. So what follows is a two part tutorial on those two changes in my process. First, we'll cover using the apoxie sculpt to make the root systems and other details on the base.

The tools: a size 0 color shaper, a homemade paperclip spatula, and a large, stiff-bristled brush. If you have none of these, a plain old pencil will do just fine.
In my previous tutorial, I recommended using gardening twine and glue to make the roots - but that method doesn't give the kind of bulky, looming tree boles I decided I wanted. It's also very very sticky. So out came the Apoxie Sculpt and a few tools.

The nice thing about apoxie sculpt is that its water-soluble and works a lot like clay, so all you need to keep it from sticking to you is a little water. I keep some in a jar while I work. I just roughed-in and smoothed the putty with my dampened fingers  until I had the general shape of the root mass around the base of the tree. Having such big wads of root-mass has the added benefit of stabilizing the trunk. Apoxie sculpt cures hard, so the end result is quite sturdy.

Next I went in with my color shaper. I pressed in with the point to make the crotch of the root, and then dragged down to make the space between. I cleaned up the ends with the spatula tool. Finally, I used the stiff bristled brush in gentle strokes to make a barky texture. Again, if you're at budget on this project after buying the putty, then using a normal pencil will get you pretty much the same results.

I had some extra putty and some extra space on the CD, so I decided to add some rocks. This was as easy as smoothing the lumps of putty with my fingers and then texturizing with my highly specialized texturizing tool (a rock I found).

Finally (after the roots and rocks had cured), I added some mushrooms. I decided that I could go pretty crazy with these, as I imagine mushrooms are the only things that can really  thrive on the wyrdwold. I used green stuff because I had it and it's what I'm used to, but the Apoxie Sculpt will work for these too.

That's pretty much it for the roots. You can get as fancy or as simple as you want with them. Add mosses, ivies, skullz, the legs of rapidly-vanishing hobbitses, angry tree faces, whatever you'd like. You can see above I've added sand and some rocks, and I decided to leave some areas bare to become puddles later on.

Stay tuned next time for the painting and all the leafy bits. And let me know what you think below...if a keyboard is out of your budget, then a normal pencil will get you practically the same results, with the added benefit of personalizing your computer monitor.


  1. Thanks for the plug! Your trees look terrific. I'm really liking these and I'm eager to see the finished product.