I like to use plaster cloth, foam and paper when creating a base for my landscape. This post is about how I do that.
For this diorama base I use Woodland Scenics plaster cloth (Woodland Scenics #C1203). I find this particular plaster cloth to be good, because it contains a fair amount of plaster and this is really important when creating a solid base. Cheaper brands of plaster cloth, made for other purposes, may not contain the same amount of plaster and my experience is that this can become a problem later.
Alternatively, you will have to use more plaster cloth, and this will delay the drying process, you will not save any money, and your inner landscape artist will have to wait longer as well.
There are other brands of plaster cloth designed for landscape modelling, I can also recommend using plaster cloth from NOCH (NOCH #60980).
First, I layout the news paper and the track-bed (Woodland Scenics #ST1474) to make sure I can achieve what I want. This particular example is a simple diorama, but the technique can be used on a much larger scale as well. This is the beauty of this technique.
I layout the newspaper wads and the track-bed to get an idea on where things will go.
When the basic outline of the landscape is in place, I cut pieces of plaster cloth to fit the base. This can be a bit tricky, because you almost always end up using a bit more than anticipated. The idea is that the plaster cloth pieces should be able to overlap by 50%. This will create a hard shell for you to build your landscape on.
Try not to skimp on the plaster cloth it is the base of your entire landscape.
Note: I find it important that I resist to skimp on plaster cloth, my experience is that I will regret that later on. The hard base is really important.
Applying The Plaster Cloth
You can dip the plaster cloth pieces in a tray of water and then apply them to the diorama- or layout base, but you can also just lay them out and "paint" them with water. I used the latter method for this particular diorama, but it is not that important. The important thing is that the plaster cloth becomes wet. You can then smooth it with your fingers. If you feel a spot to be a bit dry, put some more water on it and smooth it some more.
For this project I "paint" the water onto the plaster cloth.
As you progress you will see the contures of the landscape take form. This will also give you an idea on how the finished landscape will look like.
Then contures are taking shape...
When the plaster starts to dry, you can push it a bit with your hands to remove some of the bubble-like contures that the newspaper wads may create. Depending on how hard you press, you can roughen the conture of the landscape. If you press too hard it may become more of a rock than a hill, so take care when you do.
Pressing the newspaper wads with your thingers can break the "bubble"-shape that some newspaper wads have. This will help the landscape look more realistic.
Let The Plaster Dry
Now let the plaster dry thoroughly. In this process it is really important that you resist touching it. Also make sure that you resist on pulling the small threads that the plaster cloth has sticking out everywhere. They can create a mess if you pull them, because you do not really know where they go. You risk pulling up entire sections of plaster cloth.
Tip: Try to remove any loose threads with a scissor when you cut the plater cloth pieces or just after the plaster cloth is applied. You can also try to smooth them into the plaster. At the end of the day you will not see them when the landscape materials are applied. I guess it depends on your level of OCD. ;-) Important: No loose threads on the dry plaster though.
A view from the front.
...and from the back.
That is it. Now the diorama base has to dry before I can begin the next step which is the track work and the ballasting.