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Palm Trees
(from masking tape)

This method is the best way of making palm trees I have found (and I've tried quite a few). These are relatively quick to make, very tough, very cheap and look more like real palm trees than anything else I've seen.
The original inspiration for using masking tape came from some trees by Paul Aslin on the Worldmakers site.

1) Leaf 'Blanks'

Wrap tape over wire
Take a piece of wire about 3" (8cm) long. Stick the wire onto the end of the masking tape, leaving just over an inch of naked wire. Next fold the masking tape back on itself, leaving about half an inch of masking tape at the end of the leaf with no wire in it. This is the standard size of leaf, but it is good to make some more which are slightly larger or smaller. However, keep the exposed wire stalk the same length on each.

2) Shaping the Leaves

Cut overall shape
Start at the stem end of the leaf and cut towards the tip with a scalpel. The leaf should widen to the full width of the masking tape before tapering off again.

Feather leaves
The next stage is to feather your leaves into fronds by making hundreds of small cuts in them.

Making the head
Once you have between 7 and 9 leaves you can make them into the 'head' of the palm tree. Bunch them together, and don't worry about the shape. The only thing to remember is that the smaller leaves should have slightly longer stalks, as they will be at the centre of the clump. Dab some epoxy resin on and then wrap a piece of masking tape tightly around the wire. When the glue has set, slice the wire and tape off, so that only a tiny ring of tape remains (about 3mm or 1/8th of an inch).

3) Trunk

A quick and effective trunk can be made using a twig from a pine tree. Cut it off flat underneath then twist the pointed tip of a scalpel round and round to make a hole to stick the leaves into.

Sticking to base
Trees need to be stuck down at this stage. Cut a small piece of mounting board or heavy card and glue a coin or washer to it with epoxy resin. This weights it and makes it harder for your tree to be knocked over. When this has set, glue the trunk to the top of this, also with epoxy resin.

Gluing head to trunk
Glue the palm head into this hole with lots of epoxy resin. (I really can't imagine any other glue being right for this job, so I don't recommend using super glue or PVA as you are unlikely to get a strong enough bond). Once the glue has set, you can arrange the leaves in a realistic way - the wire allows them to be easily positioned.

4) Base Texture and Painting

Texture and paint the base - for the trees above, I have used the arid basing method described here.

5) Painting

It is important to achieve the right level of saturation. Drybrushing light colours over dark will tend to de-saturate the colour (making it greyer) so use paint which is 'greener' than you want the final result to be.

  • Paint the leaves with dark green. You will need to support the back of the leaves with your fingers while you paint them, then when the paint has dried on one side, you can repeat the process with the other.
  • Semi-dry drybrush with mid-green, again supporting the leaves. Keep the brush reasonably moist to get plenty of paint onto the leaves.

  • Drybrush gently with light green.

    If you have used a pine twig for the trunk then simply give it a gentle drybrush to bring out the texture. I used my favourite - 'Beige' Sandtex masonry paint.

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    2002. All rights reserved.