How to Make Fake Rocks & Tree Limbs

Written by larry simmons
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How to Make Fake Rocks & Tree Limbs
Build fake trees as decorative props. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

When creating props for any reason, you have to choose between believability and expense. The more believable the items you create, the more expensive they'll be. This is especially true when making natural objects such as rocks and tree limbs. Making an exact replica can involve days of careful construction and painting, but making a fake rock or tree limb that looks realistic from a distance, such as on a stage, can be done more affordably.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Work gloves
  • Chicken wire
  • Wire cutters
  • Pliers
  • Scissors
  • Newspaper
  • Art paste
  • Paintbrush
  • Rotary cutter
  • Fibreglass cloth
  • Two-part epoxy resin
  • Face mask
  • Safety goggles
  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • Cloth
  • Brown latex paint
  • Latex paint
  • Clear coat matt spray
  • Metal clothes hangers
  • Wire cutters
  • Duct tape
  • White glue
  • Plastic leaves

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    Fake Rock

  1. 1

    Put on a pair of work gloves to protect your hands. Using wire cutters, cut a piece of chicken wire large enough to shape your fake rock. Use your hands to bend the chicken wire into a semicircular ball that looks roughly rocklike, with the edges of the chicken wire meeting. Use a pair of pliers to twist the ends of the wire together to bind the wire into the circular rocklike shape.

  2. 2

    Use a pair of scissors to cut a newspaper into 2-inch-wide strips. Spread a mix of two parts art paste and one part warm water onto the strips with a paintbrush to the point of saturation, then place the wet strips over the chicken wire rock to create a skin. Overlap the newspaper strip edges about 1/2-inch and build the rock skin using two layers of the paper, with the second layer placed so that it crosses the first at 90-degree angles. Allow the rock to dry for about an hour.

  3. 3

    Use a rotary cutter to cut fibreglass cloth into 2-inch-wide, 8-inch-long strips. Mix a batch of two-part epoxy resin in a cup with a wooden stir stick, following the manufacturer's instructions for component mixing ratios. Lay a strip of the fibreglass cloth over the newspaper surface and spread a layer of resin over the fibreglass using a craft stick. The resin fills the pores of the cloth so that it sticks to the newspaper, while creating rocklike crevices due to the natural folds made while spreading the resin. Cover the rock with the fibreglass cloth, and wait 24 hours for the resin to cure.

  4. 4

    Put on a face mask and safety goggles to protect yourself from fibreglass particles. Use a folded piece of fine-grit sandpaper to sand smooth the seams between fibreglass strips. Wipe the surface clear of any residue with a clean damp cloth.

  5. 5

    Apply a layer of brown latex paint to the rock with a paintbrush to serve as a basecoat. Wait about two hours drying time, then wash the rock with diluted latex paint to increase the natural appearance. Use a mix of one part paint to nine parts paint thinner to create the wash. Use a reference photo of the type of rock you wish to simulate to choose a colour for the wash. Pick a colour that most closely resembles the colour displayed in the photo, dilute, and then brush the diluted mixture over the rock's surface.

  6. 6

    Wait two hours for the rock to dry. Cover the fake rock with matt clear-coat spray to protect the paint. Dry the clear-coat overnight before touching the rock.

    Tree Limbs

  1. 1

    Snip off twisted ends of metal coat hangers with a pair of wire cutters. Wrap the cut ends together with duct tape to keep the ends from separating or creating a cutting hazard. Use the wires to form the armature of the tree limbs by bending the wires into the limb shapes you wish.

  2. 2

    Spread the art paste mix onto more newspaper strips with the paintbrush to saturate them, and then wrap the limb shapes with the newspaper strips to create the main body of the tree limbs. Use two or three layers of newspaper with each layer crossing over the one placed beneath, and then dry the limbs for an hour.

  3. 3

    Tape small paper tubes to the limbs using the duct tape to simulate twigs over the limbs. Paint the limbs and twigs with the brown paint. Allow the paint to dry for two hours.

  4. 4

    Cover the branches in plastic leaves, using white craft glue to glue the leaves in place. Use a reference photo of a tree to guide you in leaf placement so that you create a limb with natural appearing foliage. Allow the limb to dry overnight before touching.

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