The Most Realistic Model Tree

The Most Realistic Model Tree

When I started making models, trees were the last things that I focused on. They were noting but extras, a mere background element that you just have to put there just because you cannot leave the place empty! I was not the only one. You see, I realized now that out of everything in the miniature world, trees (or neature as a whole) gets the least amount of attention and care. Much like their full scale selves, they are always taken for granted by many. Most miniature artists’ focus on the city and the industry, the war, the machines and monsters. Nature, just like in our real life considerations, take a back seat even when building a model. You see special attention to nature, or the intention to strike the right balance only in handful of very matured and extremely talented miniaturists.

My stupendous ignorance was first pointed out to me by none other than one of the best miniature artists in this part of the world – Vikas Chander. And that’s when I realized the missed opportunity in my work so far. If you’re following my work, then you know that from 2018 I’ve been paying special attention to immitate, invent and re-invent various techniques to make better trees. In case you’ve missed all that, please feel free to watch the playlist at the bottom of this post. But no matter what I tried, they never looked beyond a detailed ‘model’… they never looked real!

That’s when I started observing real trees instead of models. More I stidued them, more I realized how detailed they actually are! How many different types there is. I started studying tree shapes and varioations in branching. After all, if my miniatures don’t look real, then what’s the point?

Various Tree Shapes as seen in a simple Google Image search
Dichotomous branching. The only way to replicate this in miniature is using wire armature
Typical branch structure that wire armature trees excel in – From Wikipedia

And finally I went back to what Vikas told me long time back – ‘If you want a realistic tree, then look no further than a wire armature tree.’ Back then, Lazy Me was winning over the Perfectionist Me. After all, a wire tree is a big deal – ‘I can build so many things in that time…’ etc. etc. But as it always happens, the Perfectionist Me emerged vistorious and forced Lazy Me to park its big ass on the workshop chair and start twisting wires.

And what a reward it was! At first it seemed daunting and Lazy Me was constantly trying to figure out a way to find a short cut. But the Perfectionist Me kept a keen eye on the results and whipped Lazy Me’s butt to stay on track. This time I chose trees that are closer to me – trees that I’ve seen and know about. The first one was none other than a banyan tree, the national tree of the country.

A Google Image Search of banyan tree
Wire Structure of a banyan tree
Completed banyan tree in natural daylight.

The focus was on achieving realism – the bark color, the smooth bark texture of a banyan tree, the aerial roots, and individual leaves. Needless to say that at that point it was the best tree I’d ever made.

I got hooked, and started making another one, this time taking another iconic Indian tree as a prototype – Mahua. Taking a step further I started paying extra attention to the density of bracnehs and twigs. We often don’t realize how dense twigs and branches are in a real tree. So to replicate that in a miniature – I had to take a 3 step process – main wire branches using florist wire, smaller branches and twigs using thin strand of electrical copper wire and then finally terminal twigs and stems using poly fiber.

Density of a typical Mahua tree.
Replicating small branches using copper wire strands.

Then came the bark. Mahua bark is deep grey and cracked when matured. Instead of trying the traditional ‘hacksaw technique’ I decided to go for real cracked bark using crackling medium and paste used by painters and mixed media artists. I did hit a roadbloack, but I turned it around to create a really wonderful trunk with real ‘cracks.’

Cracked matured bark of the tree

I also paid special attention to leaves. Generally, most model trees are made with either coarse turf, or clump foliage and sometimes with fiber clusters with some leaves sprinkled on top. The moment you look closely, you can tell that it doesn’t give the right ‘look’ to a model tree. So I decided to use individual leaves for the entire tree: A healthy mix of Noch Leaves and ground dried almond leaves. These individual leaves go a long way in creating that fins-scale look that I was craving so much.

My collection of leaves at the moment – different colors and sizes
Leaves and branches of my miniature Mahua tree
Rust color leaves on a particular branch of the tree

Finally, I have a tree that does justice to this wonderful craetion of nature! I think I can now proudly say that nature is not ‘overlooked’ in my considerations anymore and going forward it will always deserve extra attention to achieve well balanced details and realism in my work. Since the Mahua tree, I’ve built a highly detailed set of trees suitable to build a forest and also a nice little scenic diorama. But let’s keep them for another time.

Isn’t she a beauty!

If you’re keen, you are more than welcome to see the full demostration of how this tree is made. Here is the video on my channel:

It also takes you to the playlist showing other trees I’ve build using various techniques in past. Future adventures with trees will also be added here, so feel free to save it if you’re into these little trees.

5 thoughts on “The Most Realistic Model Tree

  1. Well explained. Is all the material for making tree is available in India. I am from Kolkata and you hardly find any model railway store here. Please give some references.
    Loved the tree you made.

    1. Thank you Amit. Yes, most of the the materials are available in India – all you need are some aluminum wire, emulsion paint, sculpting clay and paint to finish the structure. Leaves are the only thing which is not available, but I have used finely ground dried leaves and if you can grade it properly, the results are pretty convicing in HO and N Scale, I would say better than commercial leaves. You can check out Kolkata based for Hornby trains – they have some stock left. Hope this helps, and good luck. 🙂

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