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Setting off a Village Scene With a Backdrop

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How To Choose a Suitable Backdrop for Your Miniature Scene
A folding brass screen acts as a backdrop for a nativity building with a gold domed top.

A folding brass screen acts as an adjustable backdrop for this domed nativity scene. The gold color, domed shapes and windows of the building are all repeated in the brass screen design.

Photo copyright 2009 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

Backdrops can be designed to suit your scene, or produced from photographs, cards or decorative pieces that tie in to your existing display. Here are some key points to help you choose one that works for you.

  • Identify the Main Shapes - Try to find something that suits the shape of your main feature buildings. The dome, square walls, arched windows, and the attached palm tree are all feature shapes of the artisan buildings in my small nativity scene. The brass screen chosen here has the domes, arched windows and even a palm tree to extend the effect of similar buildings in the background.
  • Decide on Colors - The brass background screen in the photos matches the gold tone on the roof of the three buildings in the set. Even though the metallic finish overwhelms the single building, the color helps it tie in to the group. The metallic effect can be softened by setting easily made palm trees, display items (walls, wells, people, animals, or market stalls) in front of the screen to help it recede into the background. In the photo on the previous page, the simple white card served the same effect. Either backdrop could be adjusted by applying paint, white to the brass screen, or bits of gold to the card.
  • Choose a Backdrop Scale - If you are using commercial backdrops, like the ones in these photos, check to see that the size of the design will not overwhelm your buildings or accessories. Notice the two different effects produced by the scale of the backdrops shown. Against the white card the small building appears closer to the viewer due to the scale of the scene on the card. Against the brass screen , the building appears to be on the outskirts of a larger, grander city.
  • Choose an Appropriate Backdrop Height and Width - Both the white card and the hinged brass screen shown in these photos can be adjusted to make a flat straight backdrop, or left folded to suggest more depth and occupy a smaller amount of space. If your display may change positions or layouts in future, try to find or make backdrops which can be adjusted for new positions. Remember that you can somewhat adapt to odd backdrop heights (for commercially available items) by raising your village or creche pieces on a foam support. If necessary you can also raise a backdrop above a scene by setting it on supports disguised by a simple foam wall of brick or stone.
  • Make Custom Pieces for Tight Areas - If you need to fill in small areas between buildings, stack some layers of high density insulation foam to make a simple hill, and add a few trees or figures going about normal activities. Cut illustration board into the outline of a simple forest, and set display trees and pieces for a city park or fountain in front. You can also use photo backdrops to suggest a scene. This sample of a German Christmas market scene from the Seattle Dollhouse Miniature Show illustrates how a simple extra figure against a photo backdrop can unite two pieces and help keep the scene in focus.

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