Background Building Scratchbuild

I needed a break from the long, tedious, and increasingly complex 'main terminal' project, and I've been thinking about some different ideas to create cheap, quick, and reasonably realistic background buildings.  So I spent about a week and came up with the "Banal Apartments" building and the "908 building".

The Banal was my first idea, and its really an iteration on the same techniques I used on my 'modern flatiron' scratch-build last Fall.  The idea is simple: Print a window frame pattern onto clear transparency sheets (I have a laser printer fortunately, but I expect this would work with an ink-jet as well), adhere the transparency to a sheet of clear acrylic (shown with the blue protective film below) and then add various strips of styrene in different sizes to give the effect of a building.
 Once the transparency is on the acrylic (of course, you need to make sure your printed window frames match up to your styrene sections), the styrene is glued onto the acrylic.  Easy.  I'm starting to believe that paper or thin card stock could easily (and more cheaply) replace the styrene.
There are no 'floors' behind the exterior, and some windows were blacked out with paint while others were left transparent.  The entire interior is lit by several separate lengths of self-adhesive SMD LED lighting strips.  You can see the back 'wall' for the entire building on the right in the below photo.
Basically, the finished exterior of the "Banal"!
I'm trying to overcome my natural bias against using paper or cardstock as I've seen so many interesting results from other modellers.  While the signage and window details below are printed on transparency and decals, the actual exterior walls on the ground floor is just color printed paper ( okay, impossible to tell in the below photo, but you can see it better in the top photo). 
The "908" building is actually based on a building I drive by on my way to work.  I'm guessing its a 1960's/1970's condo building with floor to ceiling, tinted windows, and a rather plan concrete exterior.  What I find intriguing about the prototype was that despite the buildings rather stark appearance, the different window coverings and lights used in each unit made it an interesting building to model.

I used acrylic sheets again for this building, but no transparency for windows.  I did use some widow tinting material to get that dark, smoky look.  The below photo shows the careful alignment of the exterior 'concrete' floor pieces, which are not only a part of the prototype, they cover yet more foam core 'floors' that separate each floor and act as mounting places for the LED bulbs (not lighting strips in this building, which gives it a different effect).
The ground floor for this building was straight modernism.  The building gets its '908' name for no other reason than those numbers looked good to go on the bare concrete walls!  When complete, I may add some bushes to the front of the concrete areas for extra character.
 The photo below likely will not be the final position of these two buildings, but its a good place to temporarily position them until I get more progress on this area of the city.
As always...thanks for visiting my blog!


  1. Excellent buildings. I sometimes work with paper and card as well as styrene, and one thing I prefer about styrene is its ability to take paint without distortion - and if I make a mistake painting, it isn't too hard to clean up and start again.

  2. Love this building, will definitely use some of your w.i.p.'s as reference.

    will even Dedicate it to you, when I finally pick back up building Diorama's..lol

  3. Very nice buildings. I couldn't of thought of a better type of buildings for the background myself. They fit in very nicely, Well done ! And I agree that the ground floor of the banal building looks like it is in 3D, not made of paper.
    Two quick things I have to tell you :
    1) I noticed the tunnel progress on the last picture, would you mind posting a little update ? :-)
    2) Don't forget to put up a little "bubble" for the E3. You seem to forget to do more and more often. :P

    Again, great work.

  4. @ JD... thank you! Your creativity is always inspiring to me!

    @ Kris - thank you! That's high praise! Also, I updated and joined paintedhobbies.com! Looking forward to seeing all the amazing work posted there!

    @ Mark - 'Bubble' posted! Yes, I do forget to update them...thanks for the reminder! Also, funny you mention the tunnel...I was just working on it today and should have an update soon!


    FB group is giving your work..very high praise as well.

    (as I new it would..AHEM..coff..LOL)
    Thanks again my fried for obliging me.


  6. here is the FB link..


  7. Great looking backdrop, it's great that you also install lights in the backdrop. I particularly like the concrete ground floor with those three numbers that look as if they where made for that building.

    i am not very used to styrene but I know cardboard or thick paper can be an realistic as the styrene for a lot of parts. I'm studying architecture and I am more accustomed with cardboard for my models

    I hope I won't fail too many exams in June. Otherwise I will not have a lot of time during my summer Holliday to put my Ideas into action.

    All the best for Quinntopia,


  8. is there a particular brand of transparency you use? The only ones I could find at staples were 50 packs for $58. 3m multi-purpose. Is there a way to print fully opaque colour or just black and "white" ? How did you secure to the acrylic sheet?

  9. Hey BaronJutter!

    is there a particular brand of transparency you use? Nope!

    The only ones I could find at staples were 50 packs for $58. 3m multi-purpose.. Yeah, that's what I use! Painfully NOT cheap!
    Is there a way to print fully opaque colour or just black and "white"? So far I have only done black and white, except for a little grey. Any colors are going to be fairly transparent BUT you can address that by gluing strips of paper behind the transparency. Light would still show through that, so if you are adding lights, you may want to consider thicker paper or plastic/styrene.
    How did you secure to the acrylic sheet? This, in fact, is the hardest part! I've tried several different types of glues, white glue/elmers, Testors Plastic cement, CA/superglue, none of them are ideal. CA is the worst as it will 'fog' your transparency. Plastic glue looks all gooey. White glue looks gross. The best I've found is the Plastruct Plastic Weld. I think Tamiya's 'thin' cement would work too. The MAIN thing with nearly all glues is that it cannot make contact with the printer toner areas! It will completely dissolve the toner! So you need to try and apply the glue to the 'reverse' side of your transparency (the opposite side of where the toner/image is).
    You'll notice that most of my buildings have some sort of plastic facing on top of the transparency. These, in fact, hold most of the transparency to the acrylic. I'm working on secret project where this technique won't work that I'll be sharing shortly! Good luck!