Copyright 2002 T. Sheil & A. Sheil  All Rights Reserved

All Gauge Model Railroading Page

Working with Figures

People and Houses (and Tinplate, too!)

If you truly have the knack for offscale scenery, you can get good results with a bag of unpainted plastic soldiers and empty boxes on a tabletop.  Fortunately, we are not limited to such plain materials!  The proliferation of miniature houses is such that even decorated tins can serve our purposes.  The same rules apply, whether the miniature house is a plastic kit, porcelain building or tinplate structure.  

The tinplate houses used here are from our own collection.  I find them a challenging medium for presenting good Tinscale technique with figure placement.  If the technique works with plastic kits and porcelain, it should work with tin.  The pictures below tell the story!

As an aside, decorated tin structures can be used in Tinscale scenes and holiday villages with great effect.  You can build an entire village of decorated tins, since there are so many decorated as homes, diners, shops, vehicles, etc.  In the situations below, the tins do a better job of graphically depicting the techniques, though these techniques also apply to porcelain and plastic models.

The embossed figures on the tin are drawn for the illusion of perspective.  Placing figures too close makes them embossed figures look larger.  Stepping the loose figures forward helps a little.

Placing figures forward and sligthly to the side of the embossed scene works better, as it does not interfere with perspective.  

Placed by the image of the side door, this couple looks about right.  Door height and width are actually a tad tight for figures this size.  We use perspective effectively by placing figures a couple of inches forward of the building.

Though the door is the right height for our figures, its perspective and placement is taller, thus making them look small.  It also looks too wide.  If placed within the door area, as above, the perspective appears to be wrong.

Placing figures forward and to the side, the figures look just right.

Doors are reference points for height, and we assume that the average door is taller than the average tall man.  In American ,a door height of 6' 5" and higher is normal.  Thus, when trying to maintain perspective where a building's scale differs from figures, we must be extra careful of doors.  It is better NOT to silhouette a figure in a large scale doorway, nor black a smaller scale one, as the mind automatically seizes on the difference.  Placement beside a door is better than placement in a doorway, if scales differ.

Always be on the lookout for reference points that will upset the illusion of perspective.  Offsetting the effect of a reference point is a matter of placing piece obliquely rather than in direct line.  Angular offsetting is an easy and effective way to mitigate a reference point in most cases.  Of course, there will be situations where it cannot be done effectively, and so you must settle with minimizing rather than offsetting.

Our trolley is about the right size for our people, based on embossed figures "inside" the vehicle.  Placement by the door is acceptable.  However, if the "trolley people" or vehicle scale were slightly larger than out figure scale, we would not want to place them as we did

Scale or not, placement of figures obliquely to the trolley works.  Figures are not directly outlines by a reference point, such as a door or "trolley rider."

Click here to return to the Miniature World Index

Click here to return to All Gauge Model Railroading main page