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various types of clouds exist; the colors and shapes depend on many factors moisture content, sunlight, other clouds, elevation and wind to name a few. I am sure a meterologist can provide a more exact science for them. However, being an observer by nature (sounds creepy) and as I reviewed an old Model Railroader article on clouds I came to realize that my impression of clouds came from cartoons and paintings and not necessarily from reality.


The article said to observe clouds, so I did. The clouds I was looking for were particular; being clouds nicely defined by a vivid blue sky. The ones used in the MR article. The observation revealed that clouds are sharp and defined at the tops and gradually become more difused at the bottoms. WHY? Because as our sun hits the atmosphere the higher cload forms get more direct light while the lower parts of clouds get light filtered thru other clouds so they tend to be more difuse. 


Also, clouds at the horizon tend to be vary difused because we are looking many layers of clouds that circle the planet at that point. SO how to model the clouds as observed.  The MR author used stencils of actual cloud forms. How? He taped light colored thin posterboard on his windows and traced the cloud shapes he saw thru the board on the board.


Next he cut out the shapes and had a stencil. He did this a few times with different clouds to get a few unique stencils. Now after painting the wall a specific shade of blue, he held one of the stencils up to the wall close to the wall and with a spray can of white paint painted the top of his cloud. 


For a larger wall he used many stencils and parts of stencils to cover his wall with the TOPS of clouds. Next he went back to his first set of TOPS and moving another stencil a bit away from the wall he sprayed the diffused part of the cloud BOTTOMS.  Using multiple stencils across the wall to create unique clouds.







THERE IS ONLY ONE WAY TO DO CLOUDS . . .the way you feel most comfortable about. This is mine.


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I have always done backdrops with minimalist clouds using wet-blending over masonite. Since I am just beginning "Phase II" of my layout, I decided to try something different, just for fun.


There are many beautiful pubic-domain panoramic images out on the Net and Google knows how to find them. I did some searching and came upon this:


I have access to a large-format inkjet printer at work that can print continuously from a roll of paper. So I took the Bald Eagle image, scaled it up and re-proportioned it a bit in Photoshop and ran off a copy. The image is about 15 feet long.  Here's how it came out:




The finished grade of the terrain is going to be quite a bit higher than the table, so most of the foreground of the image will be hidden, and I will transition the rest with hill flats and trees. Should blend pretty well.   The sky is much more vivid than anything I've done before.  It will be interesting to see what the final effect is.   Stay tuned...


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Originally Posted by Lee 145:

Would a similar service be available commercially?

Yes. Most cities have commercial print shops that do this kind of thing. Prices vary widely, so shop around.  There are also on-line places.  Search for "banner printing".  I can't recommend any particular place. I know Fedex/Kinkos does it.   Here is another one that I found that looks cheaper:


It also looks like WalMart will print a 2'x8' image for $30:


Again, I am not recommending any particular place, since I've never used a commercial service large format printing.

You have some nice looking backdrops but I will give you a simpler solution used by many artists. My father who did both fine and commercial art taught me to use a sponge. Dip the sponge in white paint and blot it on your blue background. You can brush in gray at the base to make storm clouds. Keep a paper towel to blot out some of the whiteand make the cloud more transparent.  A little practice and you will be surprised a how easily you can make a dramatic sky.  I have used this technique on fine art and will use it in my backdrop. Much easier than brush especially in a large area. Hope this helps.

"I have access to a large-format inkjet printer at work that can print continuously from a roll of paper. So I took the Bald Eagle image, scaled it up and re-proportioned it a bit in Photoshop and ran off a copy. The image is about 15 feet long."


Avanti, I tried sending the photo of Bald Eagle Mountain ( to Vistaprint to have a banner made but they said the resolution was too low and the banner would be grainy.


How grainy is your wallpaper? Did you do something to the original photo to increase the number of pixels?



Originally Posted by billshoff:

Avanti, I tried sending the photo of Bald Eagle Mountain ( to Vistaprint to have a banner made but they said the resolution was too low and the banner would be grainy.


How grainy is your wallpaper? Did you do something to the original photo to increase the number of pixels?



Well, I wouldn't call it "grainy". More like "soft". It is obviously low-res.  That image is 6254 pixels wide.  At the size I printed it, that comes out to just under 30 pixels/inch.  That would look awful on your computer screen, but at reasonable viewing distances I think it looks fine--the limited resolution adds to the sense of distance to my eye.   I used Photoshop to re-proportion the image a bit, but I did not increase the resolution. The printer probably "dithered" the image to reduce pixelization, but i just let it do its thing. It is possible that different printers might behave differently in this regard.  If you want more control, Photoshop can certainly resample the image using a number of different techniques--you would end up with a much larger file, of course.


I took some extreme close-up pictures to try to give you a feel for what the image looks like up close. The ruler is right up against the image, and the locomotive is close. The bottom line, though, is that this resolution works fine, at least in my case.


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Last edited by Avanti

Russell, that's what I sent to the printer....but there are several problems. Vistaprint says that resolution is too low (but Avanti got the same picture to work for his backdrop) and they can't print a banner on anything but vinyl. I would prefer card stock or heavy paper.

If my walls were straight then 10 ounce vinyl might work but my walls are sloped. I guess I could use wall paper glue but they can't advise me on that so I'm afraid to order it.

I have a Groupon for $70 worth of printing at Vistaprint; I paid $17 for it.



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I can't help you with the vinyl problem (although I suspect that stretching it tight with staples around the edges might work in your case).  But, if they insist on a high-res image, you can always use Photoshop or some other image-processing program to resample the image at a higher resolution. Find out what their minimum resolution they require and resample accordingly.

I don't know how to use Photoshop but I decided to order the banner anyway. It'll be here in about 2 weeks so I'll leave a post then and let you guys know how it turned out.

I looked at a lot of panoramic pictures and none of them is any better than the Bald Eagle Mtn. shot on Wikipedia...and it has a free license.



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Last edited by billshoff
Originally Posted by AlanRail:

the poster board is clearly not as strong as Masonite as the paper does get wet and folds easily . Using very thin Masonite would be an improvement.

Wouldn't a thin wood or Masonite strip with a hand grip shape at either end, bonded across the middle of the cardboard cloud stencil...but well off the cut line...serve as well to keep the stencil stiff as well as maneuverable during the painting?  A keyhole grip shape could even provide a quick, convenient way to hang the stencil for drying between paint sessions?


I have a set of these stencils....haven't used them yet....this encourages me to give it a try....think I'll try the grip/reinforcement on one of them based on the comments in this thread.


My wife has painted the drywall around the room a nice blue, graduated/blended dark-to-lighter top down to the layout bench height.  Since the basement is not well vented (security glass block windows with small center vents), I plan to use my airbrush with acrylic/latex paint....minimize volatile hazard.  Besides, I suspect there'll be a lot of 'hmmmmm-ing' between paint shots as we consider how to make the clouds believable.


We're way late on doing this....shame on us!  Gonna be a lot of stretching, grunting, and groaning to hold the stencil across the cantilevered benchwork.  Some of the commentary may be as 'blue' as the sky!!!


Nice thread.  Nice cloudwork.



Last edited by dkdkrd

I could not put anything against the basement wall and since I tore down the layout this year, you can see my freehand painted clouds.  Painted with an extension handle on the brush after I built the layout that had a one foot gap between it & the wall (needed lots of air movement), so dripping paint was not an issue & I didn't have any shadows from anything on the layout appearing on the sky & clouds. It was 4 feet from the front of the layout to the wall.... a good reach.

Mark (Kunde) I love your clouds.  They look great from here.






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Last edited by Hartman
Well this is my first attempt of my cloud backdrop. I used 1/4" MDF board. I painted the color suggested here from this post similar to sky blue. I decided to create my own cloud template. Then used the technique suggested. I think it came pretty good. Just got to fill in some gaps. I used 3mm mesh sticker that are removable. I still have one more piece left.


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