Tutorial: Plants & Vegetation

Adding Foliage, Grass, & Assorted Plantlife
[Page 4 of 4]

Never underestimate the power of static grass.
The small purple flowers in this photo can be made by dipping a thin brass rod into static grass and then painting appropriately.
hus far, everything has been a snap to make. Yet two very important types of plant has been missing until now: leafy plants and flowers. This can get complex fairly quick, so for starters let's warm up with a simple flowering plant known as the swamp pink.

In miniature scale, we don't need to be extremely precise for this particular plant. Put a drop of Zap-A-Gap is an excellent super glue used for miniatures and modeling. For particularly small parts, put some Zap-A-Gap on a space piece of plastic and, using tweezers, dip the small part into the glue -- it's a lot more accurate than using the tip of the bottle.Zap-A-Gap on the end of a brass rod and dip it in static grass. Let it dry, prime, and paint. Quite simple indeed! You can use this same technique on a longer length of rod to create purple loosestrife as well. After you've had your fill of the simplest plants in this tutorial, roll up your sleeves and let's get cooking with the more advanced stuff.

We'll be using a lot of paper techniques for other types of leafy and flowering plants, so be warned that things may get quite fiddly. Patience, a sharp hobby knife, a good cutting mat, and perhaps even a magnifying aid may be required!

Leafy Plants
Now it's time for those leaves I'd said we'd revisit. For the purposes of this tutorial, the sort of leaves we're looking at will be those that belong to wide, low plants like amazon sword or any of a variety of hosta (such as samurai, Saint Elmo's Fire, or sweet susan). I won't be delving into tree leaves here since making trees would be a tutorial in and of itself!

Floppy green leaves for an interesting addition to a miniature base.
The leaves on the left are generic, useful for many purposes. By varying the shades and patterns, you could instead match any leaf you want.
The creation of leaves will mirror the techniques detailed in the elephant grass section. Much of the process is precisely the same: painting the parchment, cutting out the shapes, and gluing to rod or some other structure. Where the construction of leaves varies is in what we're specifically painting and in how we'll attach the finished leaves to a base.

I already covered the painting process back in the elephant grass section, but here it is again for review: Use a fine pencil to outline the general teardrop shape of a leaf then colour it in with your favourite shade of green, basecoating, shading, and then highlighting as you would any painted element. I go another step further and add veins in a lighter shade as well as small speckles to add variety. And, as always, refer closely to nature to get the effect you're seeking.

Once you have a good number of leaves finished and dry, use a sharp hobby knife to carefully cut them out. It's a good idea to paint more than you think you'll need. Not only is this useful in case of a gluing or cutting mistake, but it's also useful when positioning them together on a base.

For some plants, it may be fine to pin the individual leaves and glue them to the base in a cluster, but most plants will need a little more effort. I made a small trunk by twisting wire together, gluing it, and dipping the main portion in sand. The ends of the wire were left exposed, positioned appropriately, and leaves glued to them. I left the example plant in the photo is purposely thin so that the structure is easy to understand; when making your own plant you'd want enough places to give good coverage.

Flowers & Ferns
Comfortable working with tiny pieces of paper yet? The most advanced sort of plant are ferns and flowers. Though they're only a step or two more complicated than our elephant grass and leaves technique, we're dialing down the scale of things which makes cutting, painting, and gluing these slightly more tricky. You're going to need a good pair of tweezers a cutting mat, and to make sure that your hobby knife is sharp to really pull this off. It'll also help to use magnification.
Examples of paper flowers and ferns.
All the small plants and flowers in this photo had their basis in simple shapes cut from paper. Never underestimate the illusion created by stacking and bending paper!
The first step is to trace out some basic shapes on parchment. Take a look at some of the shapes I used and note how simple they are. With these building blocks, we can construct just about any sort of flower we want, so let's start there.

Notice the round spoked wheel shape in the top right corner as well as the fat "plus sign" shapes near the bottom of the parchment. These are our basic flower shapes. To cut out the wheel shape, first slice down the spokes, nipping the edges into a petal shape, and then cut out the circle. The fat "plus sign" shapes are much more straightforward; just follow the lines as you cut them out.

After you have the shapes cut out, poke the center with a needle. We'll use this hole to slide the petals onto a length of 0.020 brass rod and then glue it in place. Repeat with the next layer, but turn it slightly so the gaps in the petals overlap. Glue in place, but now bend the individual petals to give them the flower fullness. Once this is dry, prime and paint. As I said, the hardest part about this is the size of the pieces -- the process itself is quite straightforward.

It's not a good idea to cut out individual leaves at this scale as they'd be extremely difficult to attach and very fragile once you manage to do it. The get around this, cut out a shape like a "bow tie" and pierce it with a needle through the center. Slide it onto the brass rod "stem" and glue into place for a sturdier method of attaching small leaves. Once dry, you can crimp the middle portion so that there's no ring around the stem.

If you're feeling particularly brave, you can even create ferns using this method. The shapes needed would be considerably more complex, require more patience when cutting and assembling, and be far more fragile than flowers or grass.

Even using parchment, plants made using paper are going to be more fragile than their etched brass counterparts. You can combat this by ensuring all paper components have been hardened with a few drops of Zap-A-Gap is an excellent super glue used for miniatures and modeling. For particularly small parts, put some Zap-A-Gap on a space piece of plastic and, using tweezers, dip the small part into the glue -- it's a lot more accurate than using the tip of the bottle.Zap-A-Gap (before priming and painting, obviously!). Careful placement on the base will also help. Try to avoid the edges and place your paper plants near the center.

Bringing it All Together
The finished tropical plants on a 40mm miniature base.
The finished base, showcasing a mix of the techniques from this tutorial.
Throughout this tutorial, I've been applying each of these techniques to a single base for demonstration purposes. The end result is a good example of tropical (or wetlands) terrain. There's no reason to take things this far on every single base. In fact, quite the opposite. These techniques I've outlined are best as finishing touches, used in conjunction with one another to refine the theme of a miniature and its base. Still, the sky is the limit -- there is virtually no plant life that you can't recreate in miniature somehow.

Now whenever you take a walk in the woods or browse online for images of plants, you should be able to apply the techniques you've learned to make virtually anything you find. Whether inspiration brings you to turn a miniature's base into a rolling field of flowers or to merely add a single small plant to make it interesting, let's give an overdue farewell to those boring Goblin Green bases.


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