Scratchbuilding a Miniature Wire Tree

Once again ToadChapel welcomes the über-creative Lee Hebblethwaite, aka 10Ball. In this tutorial 10Ball walks us through a process he uses to create expressive scenic trees that enhance the composition of his miniature bases. As you can see from the image below, the results can be spectacular. The method itself, though, could even be applied to gaming terrain. Thanks 10!


A skeleton from Age of Sigmar stands triumphant before a gnarled birch tree. A grinning skull stands out from the tree trunk.

There are many ways to create miniature trees. Using real tree roots or sculpting from scratch can be very effective, but I find using a wire ‘skeleton’ frame can create a realistic form quicker than sculpting and offers more control to fit the look of the scene than trying to find the correct piece of tree root.

On 10Ball's workdesk stand two wire armatures for trees he will create.

You will need some wire (obviously), not heavy gauge and not covered in plastic. Twist the wire around an old book or piece of flat wood, then cut into similar lengths. Twist groups of four wires together, making around twenty sets of four. Then start twisting the sets together to form the main trunk, letting the two ends fly out so there’s one end for roots and another for branches. Keep twisting & splitting your desired branches, getting thinner as they approach the ends. Cut for required lengths if needed.

Then add branches etc by adding more. Have fun and experiment, try not to make the tree look too uniform or symmetrical. Use some reference photos. I always go more fairy tale/fantasy than a true realistic look, as this works better at 28mm scales in my opinion.

The GW figure is carefully posed with the wire tree armature.

This mini I’ve painted for a competition. Right from the start I judge where the model will be placed and make the base, tree, and mini all flow together and compliment each other.

Once you’re happy with the tree, coat on a few layers of pva glue and let dry. This acts as a coat for the next stage to adhere to. I use Polyfilla, a wall plaster powder filler for home decoration etc. Mix the powder & water to a slightly watery porridge consistency and brush on your wire tree. It goes without saying use a old brush as it will be destroyed!

Using Polyfilla, mass is added to the tree.

Once dry coat again in a watered down pva mix to seal before applying a base coat of paint.

Again using reference photos choose required colours for the tree. For this miniature I’ve gone for a silver birch in Autumn with lots of orange/red leaves contrasting against the greys/dark browns of the bark.

Autumn colors are painted onto the tree. The AOS figure rests his foot upon a massive root.

The leaves are a mix of real birch seeds, laser cut paper, and hole punched leaves. Some of these are painted.

The display base is finished, complete with a leafy birch tree.

I experiment with lots of washes and glazes of different colours. I’ve even brushed on some pigments to get some good effects.

A GW Gandalf miniature from the Lord of the Rings game stands beneath another example of TenBall's tree technique.

Here is another example with some dark blues and greys contrasting with the whites of the snow effects. Again I’ve tied in the tree with the colours and ‘feel’ of the mini itself.

As always, don’t overthink it, just have a mess around 🙂

Lee Hebblethwaite (10 ball)


For another great article by 10Ball, and to learn a little more about him, just head over here!

One thought on “Scratchbuilding a Miniature Wire Tree”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: