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Cheap & Easy Way to Make Amazing Miniature Trees (How To)

    This tutorial on how to make miniature trees easy will demonstrate the process I settled on to get reasonably convincing miniature trees without breaking the bank.

    Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. The commission earned helps maintain this site.

    How to Make Miniature Trees Easy – Item List

    First up, here’s a list of items you’ll need:

    Some of this stuff is basic supplies you should already have.

    Making the Wire Armature

    The wire armature is the primary component of the miniature tree.  I am using plastic coated garden twist tie to make my armatures because it’s a cheap way to get lots of material. 

    You can use any twist ties, or even pipe cleaners, you have available.  Un-coated wire could be used but you’ll need much more of it to build up bulk.

    Miniature Trees Materials

    Start with a bundle of twist ties.  The number you use will determine the girth of the tree and number of branches. The length will determine the height.

    For this miniature tree I am using 12 strands cut 6-8 inches in length.  Don’t worry about lining them up as you bundle the twist ties.  Just group them up and twist the whole bundle to start forming the trunk.  Leave about an inch untwisted at one end and work toward the other end.

    Creating the tree trunk

    After you form the trunk you can start forming the branches.  Separate a few strands from the bundle, making sure to take one or two from the opposite side, and pull them through the bundle.  This will help lock the branch in place.  More strands means a thicker branch.

    Start adding branches to the tree

    Twist the branch, starting from the trunk, and moving toward the end. 

    As you work away from the trunk you can further split the bundle to form smaller branches off the first.  Leave about a half inch to one inch of each strand untwisted so you have something to glue the foliage to later. 

    If you’re making dead or winter trees you can twist them all the way to the end so they aren’t so flat.

    Creating a thicker branch

    After forming the first branch, continue twisting up the trunk and splitting branches off as you go.  Continue this process until you’ve twisted all of the strands into branches.

    Tree is taking shape
    Setting up more tree limbs

    Now that you have the basic miniature tree formed, you can address the loose strands where you started. 

    Split these into two or more groups and twist each into a root.  These will create the impression of exposed roots, and they also give you something to glue down to the base.

    If you don’t want an exposed root system you can spread the bottom strands out without twisting them, so they are easy to cover up after gluing down.

    With the roots formed you should be able to stand the tree up. 

    Bend the trunk and branches around until you have the miniature tree shape you are looking for.

    Creating Roots

    I decided that the lowest branch looked a little too thin.  If you want to bulk out your tree at this point it is easy to add more twist ties.  I start by lining the new strand up with an existing branch.

    Thickening Branches

    Then I twist the new strand onto an existing branch to make it thicker.

    Thicker tree branch

    I continue to work my way down the branch and trunk until I’ve twisted the rest of the strand around the tree. 

    You can add as many new strands as you want to thicken branches or even add new ones.  Make sure the strands you add are long enough to make it all the way down the trunk.  This will ensure that the trunk appears thick enough to support any branches you thicken/add.

    Base Mounting the Trees

    Now that I have a tree shape I am happy with, I am ready to mount it on a base.

    Whatever you use as your base, make sure it is large enough to be stable.  The only reason trees stay standing in real life is that they have extensive root systems hidden below the surface.  Without that in your favor, you need a wide and/or heavy base to keep your miniature tree stable.

    For the test trees in my earlier post I used some flying bases I had sitting around.  For this one I decided to use a chunk of vinyl composite flooring because it’s heavy and the more random shape is fitting to scenery bases.  It’s also pretty cheap at 70 cents per square foot.

    There isn’t much flat surface on the roots so I used an epoxy putty to attach the miniature tree to the base.  This is a two-part putty similar to Kneadatite (green stuff), but it is stickier and only has a 5-minute work life.  It’s crap for sculpting but it’s great for holding things together.

    Mounting the Tree

    Coat the Trees

    After the putty is fully cured, I trimmed the root tips flush with the base.  Then I used pre-mixed grout to add “dirt” to the base, leaving the tops of the roots exposed. 

    Then I coated the tree with all-purpose joint compound.  This hides the twist ties and creates a nice, knobby bark texture.  It also makes the tree more rigid.

    Coating the Tree - adding bark

    Step #4) Painting the Miniature Trees

    Now, it’s time to paint our miniature tree!

    I used an airbrush for this but you can go with bristles or spray cans if you prefer.  First a couple of coats of black primer.

    Priming the miniature tree

    Then brown…

    Painting the bark

    and a tan highlight…

    Highlighting the tree

    Then some golden brown for the base.

    Base Paint

    And finally a light tan highlight for the base.

    Base Highlight

    Step #5) Details & Foliage for the Miniature Trees

    I don’t worry about getting as detailed, or clean a paint job as I would with most of my other models.  Trees don’t require much to look good.

    Next I decorate the base using similar methods as I used on my stepped hills.  I coat most of the base with watered down PVA glue (Mod Podge in this case.)

    Glue on Base

    I add clumps of static grass.

    Adding Static Grass

    And with the glue still wet, I submerge the base in a small container of green flock.  I hold the base over the container and tap it to knock off any excess.

    Adding Flock

    Next I add foliage.  I am using clump foliage for this.  It’s a lot like flock but in big chunks.

    I separate some nice big pieces from the smaller bits.

    Clump Foliage for the miniature trees

    Then I use superglue to attach them to the ends of the branches.

    First I glue a piece to the top side, then I add a second piece to the bottom.  I haven’t had great luck using PVA for this, but it does work well to attach clumps of the foliage together.

    I put a little superglue on the twist tie, then add some PVA to the clump foliage itself.

    Gluing on the Foliage to the tree

    Keep adding foliage to the branches until they’re all full voila, tree!

    In some places I’ve used PVA to add more foliage directly to the larger clumps to bulk them out a bit.

    Fleshing out the tree foliage

    After all of the glue dries, I give this a coat or two of matte sealer to protect the paint and help hold all of the foliage together.

    Completed Miniature Trees

    Here’s a shot of the finished miniature tree in the sunlight.

    Finished miniature tree
    Showing some more miniature trees I've made

    In this last photo you can see the new miniature tree next to the two test models.  The middle tree shows how this process looks with leafless trees.  The tree on the left was done without coating the twist ties before painting.  As you can see the tree still looks good without it, just different.  I plan to use a mixture of these three looks to add some extra variety to my forests.

    If you’re after more simple wargaming terrain then check out my tutorials on making tank traps and DIY barbed wire. I also have a complete tutorial on a cheap wargaming table with terrain as well.

    So, there’s my method for how to make miniature trees easy.  It’s dirt cheap and looks decent. 

    Materials List

    Here’s the materials list again to save you from scrolling up.

    How do you like them?  Do you have any ideas to improve the process?

    Wargaming Terrain & Scenery Tutorials

    Tutorials to help you create a great wargaming table.


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    9 years ago

    Great job. Very easy to follow tutorial with great results. I can’t think of anything I’d do differently.

    9 years ago

    This is a fantastic tutorial. Just wow. Your trees look much better then most I’ve seen online.

    My only suggestion to improving the process is going to be artist based. Using a bit of variety in the foliage in the tree would change your season, or give you different effects.

    9 years ago

    Hah! That’s awesome. I went all out with my trees, making them from cardboard tubing, but that made larger trees than this (shameless self promotion: ). The twist ties made for excellent trees and I plan on stealing this idea. So ner.

    Sin Synn
    Sin Synn
    9 years ago

    yeah, solid stuffs here.

    I gotta start getting a 6×4 foot table together (my Infinity table won’t cut it for FoW and 40k), so I see some projects like this in my future…

    Nick Garai
    5 years ago

    Hello. Great model making idea. Looks simple and comes out looking like a great tree! Where does one buy vinyl composite flooring? I live up in Canada so I don’t know if it’s different than in the States? Walmart? Home Depot?

    Nick Garai
    5 years ago

    Hi. I just purchased some of the tools needed to build miniature trees using this method. I still have some stuff to buy. I was wondering, for using the pre-mixed grout how did you apply it to the base? What tools did you use to apply the grout to the base? A butter knife? sculpting tools? fingers? Please let me know.

    Nick Garai
    5 years ago

    How did you apply the joint compound to the tree? What tools did you use to apply it? I am going to be buying a brand of joint compound that is pink but hardens white.

    Nick Garai
    5 years ago

    Could you take a picture of your tree(s) with a miniature model in the picture? I would like to see how they look next to each other.

    Nick Garai
    5 years ago

    When I apply the joint compound to the tree, I will be using a 1″ wide art brush I bought at Michael’s craft store. Will this be suitable for applying it?

    Nick Garai
    4 years ago

    Hi. I bought some clump foliage from Woodland Scenics but I think it is too small chunks to work with. When you say clump foliage in big chunks, did you buy the largest chunks from Woodland Scenics? There is a large size but I did not buy this size. Can you please let me know as I may have to reorder my Woodland Scenics Foliage clusters.

    4 years ago

    Great tutorial. I’ve made similar trees using green (round) wire instead of the garden ties. The biggest challenge is finding a material to smooth out and bulk up the trunk and branches. Joint compound seems like it would be a bit fragile. Although materials and adhesives can change a bit, this is definitely the way to make trees.

    4 years ago
    Reply to  Waldenwizard

    I’ve used joint compound in a few things and you’re right in that it can be fragile. I’ve used it on some terrain in the past and it’s been good but does tend to chip after a few years of constant use.

    2 years ago

    I made these trees for my son years ago. I used a thin wire cut to length (same as your twist ties). Instead of coating the tree trunks I used floral tape (which is inexpensive and easy to use) and wrapped the trunk and branches. The floral tapes is very thin so I had to wrap several times, pulling tight. Gave a really cool effect and easy to paint and highlight. Just a suggestion that I thought you might like to consider.

    2 years ago
    Reply to  Cheri

    Great idea. The floral tape has a bit of texture to it too that helps sell the effect.

    2 years ago

    If any one would ask me how to start in the miniatures wargames hobby my first piece of advice would be consider the scale based on how much your willing to spend on trees!
    Trees sold in shop’s cost a fortune and are awful.
    The other thing to consider is storage! Any European theater you choose means your gonna need hundreds of the suckers.
    In a jungle forget about it.

    So this tutorial is probably the most important gift anyone can give the potential wargamer in the set up of a table.

    Things to consider in the construction of a vaguely realistic Forest.
    In reality a man is 28/32mm tall the average tree is gonna be about 12inchs high! And have a canopy of at least 8inchs across! Obviously this is to much for the average gamer my self included.
    My point being is your trees can’t be too big.
    A forest is an invasion! From the ground in to our world the trees are at war with each other their objective is grab as much light as possible. Clump your tree’s together in small group’s of 2 to 3 trees together on one base. Even in the middle of a dense forest you will have fallen trees that will be quite happy. These fallen trees will make great cover for your men.
    Any forest near man will be farmed at least in any medieval/fantasy setting.
    In game turns this will be coppiceing! A coppice is a man made clearing which promote’s bio diversity. The benefit to man are two fold, first and most obviously is lumber.
    Secondly are long thin shoots that spring forth from the stumps, for man this has number of uses from wicker basket’s to fence’s. Gabions are made from these shoot’s and filled with earth. So on the board this can be represented be a group of tree trunks in the middle of your forest.
    A coppice is part of a larger group of coppice’s which are part of a 14 year rotation which will be dotted around any “managed” forest which will range from bare stumps to stumps looking something looking like a bush.
    Anyway how much of this is practical is up to you.

    1 month ago

    Its amazing