D.I.Y. 3D Background - How To - W.I.P.

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DarkSoul

Mad Scientist
Original poster
Mar 12, 2007
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London, Ontario
After having made a couple of previous threads, and seeing that this seems to be a popular topic, I have decided to (finally) post the how-to thread on how to make one of these.

Please keep in mind, I am no expert on these by any stretch, and I am certainly no artist/sculpter etc. I'm just posting one of many ways to go about making these backgrounds.

Hopefully it will inspire others, as I was insipred, to take on the task of making one of these wonderful backgrounds.

The first thing you will need to do, is figure out what equipment you will have in your tank, and how your background might interfere with those objects.

I started measuring and cutting the foam board I was using, and it wasn't until much later that I remembered I had two UGF uptake tubes to account for.

This pink styrofoam is readily available at any Home Depot/Lowes/Rona/Etc for about $6 CAD per sheet, and each sheet is about 2' x 8'

As you can see here, I have measured and marked off where my intake tube and spraybar will be.



Once they were all marked off, I simply cut away what didn't need to be there :)



Now that I had everything cut, I needed to cover up the hole, and later on, the intake tube.

Using some foam pieces, and hot glue, I glued them together, and sanded them into shapes using 100 grit sandpaper. I think I was going for a plateau of sorts, but it still ended up looking really good. The two holes later on ended up becoming a single, larger hole.







I also made a little built in "cave" structure, which is proving to be a pain in the a** to cement/paint inside, and will be harder to seal.... So I am thinking of turning this into an extra inlet for my filters intake tube.




It was about this point where I realized that I had a UGF to deal with.
So in the same way that I cut and covered the intake, I cut and covered the uptake. The difference being that instead of cutting all the way through the board, I made a 'V' shaped channel for the uptake tube it fit into.

Once it was in place and the cover was glued on, I simply filled the gaps around the tube with expanding foam.
I also used the foam to fill in some other cracks and gaps, and to spray randomly on the other piece of the board.

Next I needed some texture. At first I had planned on cutting out and carving a bnuch of foam rocks to glue onto the face of the board, But this seriously stumped me, So I decided on using my dremel and a wire wheel cone/brush (4 actually) and just let it go nuts all over the board, which turned out to give me a really good texture.




Being sculpted, it was now time to cover the board in cement. For this I used a combination of speedcrete and grout. The speedcrete was hard to work with, and began getting really hard after only 20 mins.




After the speedcrete I slapped on a layer of grout. this seemed to work really well, and gave an excellent texture.

This is after the grout had dried, and I did a mount test to make sure it still fit properly.... a little too properly actually heh.

In case your wondering how I managed to coat around the inside of the UGF uptake tubes without filling them in, it was simple... I packed the square parts full of dirt.

Once the grout hardend all I had to do was flush out the tubes with water, and smooth out the inside edges with a stiff wire brush.



At this point, I decided to give the background a light misting of black spraypaint. This actually looked really good and I should have left it the hell alone, But I had decided that it looked too "man made" with the spray in some spots..... and ended up painting the entire thing solid black, which doesn't look good at all.



After the "solid black incident", In various light conditions.

With the normal room lighting.


With the aquarium light above the background, roughly where it would shine in the tank.


With the aquarium fixture in front of the background, same distance as the camera.


With the camera flash turned on.


After this incident, I purchased some cheap acrylic craft paint from the dollar store, and mixed up a random red/brown colour, and applied it to the background.

Once again I went too far with the colour scheme, and now it is too red.



At this point, I have mixed up a grey colour, and applied it over the entire background, It now looks alot better and more natural. With some more shading, and the addition of a little algae texture in places it will look perfect.

Pictures will follow for the rest of it as it is completed, and once I get the camera back from my parents :D
 

Rbishop

...and over the edge.
Staff member
Dec 30, 2005
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Part 2...part 2...???
 

DarkSoul

Mad Scientist
Original poster
Mar 12, 2007
1,227
2
38
37
London, Ontario
Ya i know, this is basically just an update to the other 500 threads of mine :)
Lacking the ability to edit threads means I cant recycle an old one.

But now I will just keep this thread going with updates etc.
 

DarkSoul

Mad Scientist
Original poster
Mar 12, 2007
1,227
2
38
37
London, Ontario
Here we go, I got the camera back from my parents (It is theirs through lol) and picked up some more paint from the dollar store, as well as some sheet moss, that I might use.... Or I might not.

I bought some green, dark blue, yellow, white and black. So now I have just about every colour I need for this thing, and in a couple of different shades.

Here is a picture taken after I darkened up that ugly red colour, and made it mostly brown.



And as of right now I have JUST hit it with another light layer of black spray paint. This is what it currently looks like, and don't worry, that shine will go away once the paint in those spots dries.

 

DarkSoul

Mad Scientist
Original poster
Mar 12, 2007
1,227
2
38
37
London, Ontario
Ok, At this point now, I was testing a couple of areas with some algae highlights.

Im not really sure which looks better and what I should go for, the painted moss look, or the sheet moss that I painstakingly cut up into little bits to sprinkle on over glue.

You decide, which would look better.... Ideas anyone?





 
Last edited:

DarkSoul

Mad Scientist
Original poster
Mar 12, 2007
1,227
2
38
37
London, Ontario
Ya, I think that using the sheet moss, shreding it and sprinkling on looks much better.

Brush it off, and it looks more real.

 

Rbishop

...and over the edge.
Staff member
Dec 30, 2005
40,298
289
143
65
Real Name
Mr. Normal
I like the moss sprinkles.
 

DarkSoul

Mad Scientist
Original poster
Mar 12, 2007
1,227
2
38
37
London, Ontario
And here is what it looks like once the glue dries and i brush off the excess.

Ive discovered that I need this to be chopped to a fine powder to get it to look right, otherwise it just leaves chunks :)



 
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