2014-01.5 Backshop Clinic - Painting backdrops

30 Jan 2014

Average: 5 (24 votes)
Video type: 
1:13:01 - Chris Lyon teaches Lionel Strang how to paint a backdrop (2014)

In this four-part series, Chris Lyon shows Lionel Strang how he creates his backdrops with water-based acrylic artist paints. In just over an hour you'll learn what you need to know to get started on your own backdrops.

•Chapter 1: Tools and Materials (13:59)

•Chapter 2: Painting clouds (18:48)

•Chapter 3: Painting hills (21:27)

•Chapter 4: Painting trees (18:47)


I was pleasently surprised, made it clear and easy to follow.  Def. worth watching!

I have an O scale modular layout crammed into a finished, albeit ugly,  dark paneled basement and never gave a thought to doing anything with the back drop.  But, after seeing the first 2 chapters I am beginning to think doing a backdrop is within reach for me, especially if I decide to re-finish the basement.


This is great. Looking forward to more!

excellent; looking forward to the next installments

I really enjoyed his simple technique. 

Like it very much so far.  I hope the next 2 installments come out soon.

Yes, this is very good! I hope the next two segments come out very, very soon. I'm impressed with the way the clouds went. Very clear, easy to follow and understand the artistic aspect behind it.

Definately learning something new here.


TMTV Station Agent's picture

For those who might be interested, we used Valspar 4007-9b "Perfectly Blue" flat finish for the sky color on the wall.  Based on the results this is probably as saturated as you might want to go, and depending on the boldness of your cloud treatment I might even suggest a slightly more washed-out blue to keep the sky from drawing attention away from the models.

Barry, TrainMasters TV

I appreciate the techniques that Chris demonstrated in the videos.  However, I prefer the bold oranges and purples of the desert for my backdrop, similar to the "Painted Desert" of Arizona.  Also, the sky is sometimes a royal blue with clouds that appear to be on the same plane.  So, my question is.... has Chris painted desert backdrops?  If so, can he demonstrate that technique in the future?


Very intresting and educational. Is Chris using a two inch brush (rather then a three inch brush) when painting the horizon and clouds?? I have tried it once so far and it does not look right, its blue all over again. Waiting for that to dry and try agian.


I'm off to the hobby shop to buy brushes--I can't wait to make many mistakes learning how to do clouds.  Can you come back and do a sequel doing desert mountains which is where I spend time amoung the rock and, for the coastal modellers the high ranges with your fan-brush??  Thank you Chris!!!


After watching all 4, all I can say is more...more...

Very nicely done, saw similar at clinic at Narrow Gauge convention, but this was easier to follow.  Can another episode be done on western mountains?  Thanks Cameron

Good clinics with inspiring and useful information.  I, too, would have liked to see more close-ups and less views of the back of the clinicians heads.  I think probably this will come as you gain experience producing clinics of this type. 


I really enjoy the technique, but it doesn't look like Appalachia. I've lived here all my life and the color palette is way off. Everything is much bluer in real life, and with a lot more variations in color. Even from an impressionistic perspective. They don't call 'em the Blue Ridge Mountains for nothing! ;-) But I really enjoy watching Chris at work. I've also watched all his YouTube videos. I love his "plop plop" method of making trees. If nothing else, you'll have a lot of fun just with that.

Hopefully Joe will let these URL's stay-- they're mostly from Wikipedia showing various photos of the Appalachian Mountains:


First a shot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. You'll see a big difference in the color Palette. A lot more blues for one thing.



Here are some other photos, again from Wikipedia to help with the color palette. This is Back Allegheny Mountain near Cass, West Virginia:



Winter time in the Allegheny mountains. A completely different, much more brown-toned palette:


Mount Le Conte in Sevier, Tennessee:


In the late fall, the colors change dramatically. Here is one of the Bald Mountains near Tennessee / North Carolina:


Here is the same general region (not the same mountain) in mid Summer:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pigeon_River_(Tennessee_-_North_Carolina).jpg  (This URL is hard to open because of the parenthesis)

Here are the Cherokee Mountains near lake Watauga, a place I've been to lots of times growing up. Again notice the bluish tinge to the hills.


This is Linville Gorge in the Pisgah National Forest. With a large variation in colors, late summer:


This is Unicoi. Notice the color difference. This looks like mid summer in the late afternoon / early evening. So the colors are much more subdued.


Here is Hawksbill Mountain, in the Shaenandoah Mountains, one of the most beautiful places on the planet. Notice the distinct bluish hues in the photo. Also you can see lots of individual trees stretching out into the distance. You don't have to be superman ;-)


This is Sluice Mountain, in the George Washington National Forest, in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Northern Virginia.


Here is Pilot Mountain, along Skyline Drive in Northern Virginia. The photo says October. The hues are subdued and much bluer:


This is Pinnacles Overlook, also on Skyline Drive in the mid summer:


Here is a photo from Southern Virginia / Northern Tennessee, near Bristol, where I grew up. While the general tone is somewhat similar to the palette Chris was using, there is still a very large variation in the palette, more browns, This photo is also looking down, instead of looking "out" to the hills. So that will also make a difference in the colorations. If you were looking "out" to these hills, they would look a bit more like the ones previously, but with the richer green tones. As you move down through Virginia and into Tennessee, the colors go from bluer tones to greener tones-- lush greens in the spring, toned down a bit in the summer, and with distinctly brownish tones in the winter. And of course an explosion of color in the fall.


A google image search with the terms "Blue Ridge Mountains Autumn". The mountains just come alive with color:


Here is a google search for "Appalachian Mountains" which should give you a whole page full of examples to experience the color palette:



The Appalachian Mountains are one of the most beautiful areas on the planet. They are wonderful to live in and near. They have rich textures and hues and are not simply two-tone green from yellow and black. I am in awe of Chris' techniques for creating backdrops, but the color palette is all wrong for the mountains in this region.


Hope this helps someone!




allanbishop's picture

Gotta admit that I would never have even considered painting any of my backdrops. I was actually thinking of buying some photo backdrops when I get to that point in my layout construction. After watching Chris and "that other guy" ;-) , I think I will be doing some painting after all!!!!


Great stuff here on TMTV!!! Keep up the terific work!!!



Thank you for a traffic video .They say a picture can replace a thousand words .That video has explanded everything .

Well done to Backshop Clinic , Lionel Strang and our Backdrop expert Chris Lyon.

Smokey Dawson     Australia



I have to make it a habit to PREVIEW my comments .Traffic , should have been written as TERRIFIC video.Sorry for the bo bo .Once again well done Lionel and Chris for a v

ery powerful video.


Smokey Dawson       Australia

Well done, very good clinic with Chris Lyon and Lionel Strang. Chris takes some of the fear out of "Art Work" in doing back drops. Almost any one can do it. Great tips on perspective and "drawing the eye" in getting the illusion of distance. Thanks for doing this.



Excellent tutorial!

What were the colors Chris used?

Also, could you hace Chris give the same sort off tutorial with a southwest desert theme?

Hi, this is 2019, 5 years later, any final video showing the end product? I've look in the video's archives, and no finish tutorial anywhere.

A great get started tutorial, but what about "get to the end" video ?


Hi, this is 2019, 5 years later, any final video showing the end product? I've look in the video's archives, and no finish tutorial anywhere.

A great get started tutorial, but what about "get to the end" video ?

This tutorial was the first one we ever video'ed, so it's rather rough around the edges. So what you see is what you get ... for better or for worse.