Thursday, November 1, 2012


With the backdrop spine installed for the middle third (“Valley Core”) of the layout,  it was time to apply the full sky effect.  Though the backdrop was primed with a light blue, the full sky effect needed to blend from a deeper blue at the top of the backdrop to a near-white haze layer near the horizon.  I reviewed backdrop painting techniques in print, video, and what I could remember from live demonstrations (thanks MFK!).  I am not a trained artist, but I understood the desired blending effect.  The best technique—one even a “mechanical” person such as me could accomplish—was provided by Pelle Soeborg in his “Mountain to Desert” soft cover book for Kalmbach Publishing. 

Pelle created six shades of blue by mixing varying amounts of his sky blue color and white.  He then applied them as six color bands and blended each band to its neighbors with a brush.  This technique is as close to “paint by numbers” as most of us will get for the desired sky blending effect.

 Band 4 of six blue bands being applied to the backdrop.

 Blending Bands 4 and 5 with a brush.

 Blending Bands 1 and 2 near the backdrop base.

As the pictures illustrate, I found it best to start with the top color band (my Band 6) and work down.  I also found it best to work in sections of about six feet length (arm length to arm length for me).  This kept the paint edge wet long enough to come back with the blending brush.  I also used a latex paint extender to lengthen the drying time.  I used both 2” sash brushes and other 2” and 3” brushes for blending.  I’ll probably pay for additional sash brushes for subsequent sky treatments.  The sash brushes were that much better to use.

I mixed six cans of paint ranging from my chosen sky color, Sherwin Williams “Blissful Blue,” to an almost white using the white base as the other color of the mix.  I used simple ratios: 6:0, 5:1, 4:2, 3:3, 2:4 and 1:5, blue to white.  Though I obsessed about the sky blue color for weeks, studying photos and the actual sky, in the end I selected a compromise color, using Sherwin Williams paint (not a lot of blue cards in their line) as the local store personnel were very helpful and knew their product.  I mixed the paint in quart cans supplied by my paint dealer.

I labeled all of the paint gear with the paint ratios (paint cans, mini-roller trays, mini-rollers) and the brushes used for the blending (e.g. 2-3 for Bands 2 and 3).   Clean up was a chore.  Six cans of paint, six mini roller pans, six rollers, six brushes.

The completed backdrop sky seen in the image below is fairly well blended, though some color banding still appears.  Addition of other backdrop details (terrain, cities) and clouds will complete the blending.  For now, I am very happy with the six-band sky treatment and blend.  It’s a good non-artist technique.

Completed backdrop sky in the Eugene Depot area.  Note that the post  (with thermostat mounted on it) blends into the backdrop even though the right side of the post has a firm end with the backdrop inset on this side just beyond the post.

1 comment:

  1. The best thing I can say is that I've never particularly noticed the gradation of Bill's blue sky -- which is probably the effect he was going for.