How to make bushes

bush plantingShortly after publishing a recent article on making stone bridges I got a number of messages from modellers wanting to know more about the vegetation seen in the photo. Here’s how I make my bushes.

On my layouts I use a variety of materials from all over. Some things I buy the off the shelf products, some I start with these and modifying them (kit bashing) and for some items where I want realism I make my own.

Bushes are one of the latter.

While there are ready-made bushes available they seem a bit big for N scale – even though they’re marketed as suitable for 1:148 scale. Also, they seem very repetitive, all looking very similar and don’t have the variation of natural vegetation.

For these reasons I make my own.

Note: While this guide is for N scale, the technique will work perfectly for OO, HO, O and other scales.

I start with a visit to a Chemist or cobbler.

What I’m looking for is a clothes brush. Other brushes can be used as long as the bristles are stiff but very fine. They will become the branches of the bushes and so need to be a dark colour and strong but equally very thin given the size needed.

Once aquired, shave the bristles off and cut them into lengths of around 3mm.

Then take a heat glue gun and and place a small drop of the glue on some paper.

Now comes the fiddly bit.

Place around 5 or 6 bristles upright in the glue. This needs to be done quickly as hot glue sets quickly. And given each bristle is around 3mm you’ll probably need to use tweezers.

With this done leave it a few minutes for the glue to dry.

I make lots of these bushes and so use the drying time to make the next one, creating a series of small mounds of erect glued bristles.

how to make your own bushesOnce dry, deposit a few drops of Latex liquid over the bristles and glue droplet. If you don’t have Latex handy, PVA should work just as well.

Now before the Latex/PVA dries sprinkle fine Brown scatter over them and then turn the sheet of paper over and dab them into a tub of 1mm flock. It will clump up so give it a good shake to lose the excess. (The scatter is to add texture to the “branches” while the flock creates leaves/smaller branches)

Next comes another fiddly bit.

Examine the bushes carefully and with the tweezers pinch off some of the flock so the bristles are exposed. This isn’t strictly necessary but looking at a lot of natural bushes I noticed how the the branches inside the bush are often visible. Exposing the bristles creates this impression and gives a more realistic finish.

In the photo here you can see the results.

Finally, spray them with a thin dusting of hair spray to hold.

Once they are all done, cut each bush free of its paper and paint the exposed paper under each bush with a colour reflecting the ground colour where the “plants” will be planted.

The result can be seen in the photo at the top of the article. The new busy is in front and to the right of the loco.

What do you think?


> A final, personal, note: I spend a huge amount of time testing, photographing, writing and researching techniques for these articles and pay for all the running costs of MRE out of my own pocket. If you found this article useful you can support me by making a donation on my fund-raising page. Thanks and happy modelling, Andy.
Founder of ModelRailwayEngineer, Andy Leaning

Andy is a lifelong modeler, writer, and founder of He has been building model railways, dioramas, and miniatures for over 20 years. His passion for model making and railways began when he was a child, building his first layout at the age of seven.
Andy’s particular passion is making scenery and structures in 4mm scale, which he sells commercially. He is particularly interested in modelling the railways of South West England during the late Victorian/early Edwardian era, although he also enjoys making sci-fi and fantasy figures and dioramas. His website has won several awards, and he is a member of MERG (Model Railway Electronics Group) and the 009 Society.
When not making models, Andy lives in Surrey with his wife and teenage son. Other interests include history, science fiction, photography, and programming. Read more about Andy.

Afflliate disclosure:The links on this page may take you to carefully selected businesses, such as Hornby, Amazon, eBay and Scale Model Scenery, where you can purchase the product under affiliate programmes. This means I receive a small commission on any orders placed although the price you pay does not change. You can read my full affiliate policy here. I also sell my my own ready to use, pre-made and painted buildings and terrain features. browse the range.

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