(Written by Geneva – gid617)
In this series we are going over a few basic LEGO techniques and ideas for building a good LEGO MOC (My-Own-Creation). I’ll be taking examples from several LEGO builders to give you a good idea of different styles and possibilities of the techniques covered, though unless otherwise specified, the examples are built by me. We’ve already covered building LEGO Bases and borders (see: Building with LEGO: Bases & Borders), so now let’s tackle minifigure-size landscaping! We’re going to be covering them as an overview and also give you references, as all the different areas of landscaping could easily have each an article to themselves! 🙂
➡ LEGO GRASS, PLANTS & TREES: LEGO itself makes several specially molded vegetation pieces, and we can even expand their use. For grass, the Plant Flower Stem works very well, as demonstrated in Siercon & Coral’s Fairy Forest, which also includes several other very nice LEGO plant techniques. Green LEGO plates and bricks also work, especially if you add some height variations. And I find LEGO bamboo-leaves quite useful too.
As far as LEGO plants, there are so many varieties and sizes you can make that only your imagination is the limit! For some you can use normal LEGO pieces, and for others you can experiment with green bricks, and even unusual bricks and colors, as seen in the LEGO Fairy Forest mentioned above. (You can see more pictures of the Fairy Forest here.) In general for both grass and most plants the key is to keep regularity and symmetry to a minimum; try to make sure there’s plenty of variation in the landscaping to make it look natural.
LEGO trees can be a study in themselves (see: How to Make Beautiful LEGO Trees…) as there are so many varieties! For a long time LEGO only produced the two different size plant leaf elements in green, so LEGO fans had to use custom parts if they wanted to add variety (see article mentioned above). Though lately LEGO did introduce some new shades of green and also dark-red and dark-orange! Naturally, the leaf elements are ideal for trees, but there are many other variations you can use. Check out the Falworth fir tree, my own design in the first picture above (not as delicate as it looks!), Legoloverman’s Wasteland, and ‘Ecclesiastes’ intricate tree below.
➡ LEGO WATER & WATERFALLS: As with LEGO vegetation, there are plenty of ways to create LEGO water; blue plates, bricks, 1×1 trans-clear or blue round plates – sometimes with a bit of white or clear for foam (see: LEGO Building Technique: LEGO Water for more examples and techniques). SNOT (Studs-Not-On-Top) water with blue works very well in some settings, and flickr member Robert4168 even used black bricks for a depiction of the Spanish Armada. Other excellent water examples are Siercon & Coral’s Ericson Isle (randomly arranged blue bricks), Mark of Falworth’s The Sea Gate of Dalmanutha (multiple color transparent round 1x1s), Lighthouse Island by Gilcélio (transparent tiles on blue plates), and Seth Christie’s Viking. Below is an excellent use of an amazing amount of 1×1 round plates by Legohaulic.
LEGO Waterfalls also employ a variety of techniques, including trans-clear plates, bricks and cheese-slopes (or a combination of the three). Occasionally blue or light blue is also used in a waterfall but generally they turn out better in clear, with maybe a dash of white, as waterfalls are so foamy! A useful trick in making a good looking LEGO waterfall is building the section immediately behind it with white bricks; that way the white gives a bit clearer look to the fall, and doesn’t darken it the way gray or some other color would. Below is a very impressive waterfall by Asimon481.
➡ LEGO ROCK, SNOW & SAND: Both rock and snow slopes are very similar in their construction; if you can build one out of LEGO, you can most likely build the other – provided you have the LEGO pieces in the right color. Rock (or rockwork) can be as simple as a variety of slopes stacked along a cliff-side almost at random, or it can be much more complicated; involving intricate SNOT-work, all kinds of small sloping and curving pieces, and even using LEGO Technic pins to slant boulder-sized creations!
Snowscaping along a cliff-side is very similar, though for snow it is best to use less slopes and more curves and tiles. However while rock is always jagged and rough, snow can also be flat; it takes its character from the land it lies on. Though white LEGO plates make tolerably good snow, they’re a bit too bumpy. White tiles work well, but they leave a visible line between tiles. My favorite option for making LEGO snow is using the SNOT-technique of white bricks sideways to form the floor. This way you can easily include details like footsteps! 😀
Similar to snow, LEGO sand can also be made using SNOT-techniques, and depending on the scene, LEGO plates still work fine. The key for sandscaping using plates is to provide a good variety of heights; making the entire sand area one height, or even two or three heights would look quite plain! Mixing tan and dark tan colors also provides variety, and a few dead plant-leaves or brown sticks (minifigure hands work well for this!) can add a nice touch of color! Of course, exactly what you want the sand to look like depends on the rest of the scene as well.
In summary, both sand and rock require plenty of variety; in height, sometimes in angles, and in overall shape. Snow on the other hand can be smooth, unless one is trying to build a snow-covered cliff or something of the sort. Examples of all three environs are abound; Through the Mountain by Legonardo (rock), Etted Caek’s Batharus (sand), I Scream Clone’s The Empire’s Finest Hour (snow), The Dune Sea by Gideon (sand), Eklund!’s New Lancaster (rock), and Glory_Forever’s Saint Rafael’s Monastery (rock). Below is an MOC I built myself, that includes both rock and snow:
So to wrap this up, let’s summarize; for making LEGO vegetation, LEGO’s specialized pieces work very well, but (especially in the case of flowers) experimenting with odd colors and shapes can also yield some excellent results! Water is typically fairly smooth, so SNOT-techniques, LEGO plates, and transparent 1×1 round plates all work well. LEGO waterfalls are typically made using stacked 1×1 round plates, though there are other varieties. LEGO rockwork is best achieved with a whole bunch of slopes – sometimes built using all kinds of crazy LEGO techniques going every which way! LEGO snow on a cliff is very similar, but if it is on the ground it’s usually best to use SNOT-techniques. LEGO sand can be built with plates or SNOT-techniques; SNOT is better for beaches and plates for a desert. You’ve probably noticed that in virtually all the areas I emphasized variety; plates, slopes, etc. have to be scattered all over or going in all directions, as it’s very rare to find exact symmetry in nature! If you would like to get individual LEGO leaves, flowers and other pieces in quantity, you can check out the Online LEGO Pick-A-Brick Shop.
So what do you think? What techniques do you use for your LEGO landscaping? Have you tried any of the techniques mentioned here? Are you planning to? Or have you come up with something unique and different? Feel free to share in the comment section below! 😉
And you might also want to check out the following related posts: