Review: AK Interactive “Mastering Vegetation in Modeling”

By Massive Voodoo

Disclaimer: this is my personal opinion on the book; I bought it myself and have no relevant relationship with AK interactive or the author of this book.                                                                                                      – David

The  book’s cover
Hey all,

fresh into 2020, I am back with another review of a modeling-related book. This time, I will be talking about the booklet Mastering Vegetation in Modeling by AK Interactive. This is the tenth in AK’s Learning Series, a range of small, booklet-type treatises on a number of specific topics and techniques in scale modeling, figure painting and diorama-construction. Inter alia, the series includes books on how to paint realistic wood effects, metallics, and skin-tones, as well as on how to use photo-etched parts in scale modeling and reconstructing realistic buildings in dioramas.

The table of contents
As the name suggests, Mastering Vegetation focuses on using greens such as grass, trees, shrubbery and moss in miniature scenes. In addition to a brief introduction, in which some general thoughts on the aspect of vegetation in modeling are raised, the book’s remaining four chapters introduce a wealth of different materials that can be used to reproduce plants in model scenes. The brief Chapter 2 presents an overview of general modeling tools and materials such as tweezers, putty, glues and leaf punches and their use for the modeling of vegetation. Chapter 3 introduces a wide range of different modeling materials to represent plants in model scenes. Next to the obligatory discussion of how to use static grass and tufts, as well as a survey of various ready-made products such as injected-plastic, photo-etch and laser-cut plants and leaves, the chapter includes a number of suggestions how to replicate various types of plants by using simple household items, such as creating moss from grating a kitchen sponge. The two pages of Chapter 4 are titled “Importance of the Paint to Integrate” and briefly deal with pulling together the scene by painting ready-made or scratch-built materials a in coherent colors. The fifth and by far most extensive chapter presents on 47 pages a multitude of suggestions how to use the materials introduced in Chapter 3 to replicate different plants. This ranges from the assembly and painting of ready-made vines, water-plants and laser-cut paper fern to scratch-building six different types of trees (including birches, pines and palm trees) up to the creation of special effects such as burned wood, and the representation of terrain in which the various plants are at home.
Introducing different materials: glues …

… and spices and feathers for leaves, hemp ropes for grass, and 3D plants.

The book comes as a soft-cover volume, printed on rather thick and glossy paper. Its binding leaves a strong and  sturdy impression and I would be surprised if it wouldn’t resist all but the roughest handling. All throughout the book, concise and to-the-point texts are combined with clear pictures that present the materials and individual steps to achieve a certain effect in a clear and easy-to-follow way. The “how to”-parts are interspersed with pics of real-life vegetation examples as an illustration of what is represented in miniature and as inspiration for additional uses of materials and techniques presented. Since this is not the first book on vegetation in modeling I have read, there were few things in the book that were radically new to me. However, the book still has much to teach, for instance how to make brilliantly-looking corn stalks, or how to create the bark of palm tree trunk using masking tape. Moreover, the book’s pictures, both of the modeled scenes and the real-world examples, sparked lots of inspiration for future projects.

First part of the massive fifth chapter: how to make rushes and dry grass.

As all contributions to the Learning Series, Mastering Vegetation is a small book, measuring 24 by 17 cm and containing 84 full-colored pages. As such, it not only fits in the smallest hobby-library; it also is an excellent traveling companion – e.g., when you’re on the road to a painters’ meeting. The relatively small size means that most pictures are relatively small as well, and the accompanying texts are rather brief. This does not impinge on the quality and usefulness of the illustrations and explanations; but at times, I would have preferred a little more extensive descriptions. The small size also limits a bit the range of topics that can be covered. The book does not provide much insights on the composition of vegetation, that is, how to achieve natural-looking and convincing scenes by positioning and grouping plants in certain ways. Also, besides a few lines and a useful table on page 5, there is no discussion of the impact of different scales on the modeling materials. Finally, and as a minor issue, the copy-editing could have been a bit better.

How to make corn fields!
How to make palm trees!
That being said, I highly recommend the tenth volume of AK Learning Series to figure painters and modelers who want to take their use of greenery to the next level. While the discussions are mainly focused on larger scenes, such as dioramas and vignettes, the techniques will also useful for smaller bases, such as those used in tabletop gaming.

Beginners and intermediate modelers are likely to make most of the book’s presentation of materials and their use. But I would be surprised if advanced hobbyists wouldn’t also benefit from the book, for instance from the fresh techniques to create different types of trees from scratch. Finally, with a suggested retail price of below 10 Euros, this book is not only a useful, but also an economically sensible contribution to any hobby library!

All the best,

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