Transforming Location Part Eight: Creating a Colour Model

Creating a colour model

A colour model is a great way to convey ideas in transforming a location. This is because it allows the viewer to fully realise your ideas without any ambiguity. A colour model explains colour schemes, furniture, the placement of walls and storage possibilities whilst given a realistic impression of how you propose a design for your chosen location and how this can be used.

The Plan

To begin, I prefer to start this process with a plan. I find that having a plan helps you to cognitively process how to bring an idea into realisation, considering all practicalities and implications that may incur. As part of a transforming location project, we were to initially produce a white card model in 1:25 scale that accurately replicates a chosen location. I decided to recycle my technical drawing and sketch a rough plan of how I wanted to transform this. I chose to recycle my technical drawing as this allows me to experiment with the design without spending hours of time redrafting until I was happy with the final design. After I pencilled in where I wanted walls and other elements of the design, I also planned colour – to ensure this would not upset the balance of the room.

As seen in these plans, I have created a slight division in terms of colour. This is because this would allow the camera to use a lighter angle of the room to portray something positive, and another angle to portray something negative, all naturally. The room does not appear too divided as having a stable colour or feature binding each elevation together units them without being too obvious.

Traditionally, the guest would sit in front of the alcove with their back to the hanging scroll and decorative ornaments whilst the tea maker positions themselves next to them. As my character is going to be an assassin, any interaction with her would be negative. By positioning the guest in the lighter side of the room, any eye line match shots or two shots would subtly give clues to who is the villain.

The next step is to recreate this plan in a colour model.


I began with the floor as the slight raise in height will give the elevations a ridge to slide into. This was constructed from lollipop sticks. I carefully split the wood in two using a safety ruler and Stanley knife. This was then sanded and stuck to a white card cut out prior to staining with a walnut varnish. I prefer to use a varnish when re colouring wood as this allows the natural grain to show through. Alternatively I could have diluted brown acrylic and layered this until I reached my desired darkness but as I had the correct shade of varnish; it made sense to save time.

At this point I developed more thoughts into how to show a disturbance has happened here, and thought about where a body would be placed as we were not allowed to actually show a character within the set. I decided that my assassin Maiko would have hidden the body under the floorboards as the Tattami mats would conceal the gap. I plan to leave some evidence on the premises that my assassin Maiko was interrupted, as without this my back story would not be clear. I have done this by leaving one floorboard slightly raised. This is propped in place with some smaller wooden cut offs stained in the same varnish to conceal these.

As this was drying, I continued the wood work in my construction. I worked on the exterior, cutting the lollipop sticks to size using the Stanley knife and sanding any splinters.  This was then painted with the same varnish used on the floorboards.


Next, I began constructing the shoji sliding doors. To show this was a sliding door, I used thicker pieces of wood to create the upper section to suggest the hidden groove the doors slide along. I planned to construct the smaller panels with matchsticks, so kebab sticks (stained with varnish) worked well for the upper section as there is a couple of millimetres difference in thickness. I wanted to reinforce this as without reinforcement the structure would be very flimsy. I have done this by sticking this to card and cutting out the exposed areas using a scalpel. A nail file helps to sand down hard to reach edges. I then backed this with tracing paper to replicate the rice paper traditionally used in Shoji doors.


I used a slightly different method when creating the smaller panels of the shoji doors as the matchsticks were too small to reinforce in the same way as the upper section. I drew a grid of where I wanted to place the matchsticks and cut and stuck these on top. I used tweezers to position them as this was too fiddly for fingers!


The fusuma panels were made in much the same way, using an image of fusuma painted by artist Yasunobu Kano during the 17th century. The woodwork was a combination of stained lollipop sticks and kebab sticks.


For the opposite wall, I constructed the alcove entirely out of foam board using the measurements acquired in my amended technical drawing. To create the display step, I used foam board and lollipop sticks.


The alcove was then painted in my chosen colour, light green and the step was varnished. The inbuilt plaster dados were replaced with wood. This was created using foamboard and acrylic paint as I did not have any wood remaining in the correct thickness and length.

The final wall was the simplest to create. I simply painted the foam board with the same shade of paint and used foam board for the wooden dado. To replicate a wood grain with acrylic paint on foam board, I began by painting a diluted coat of brown acrylic and waited for the paint to dry. This is the lightest shade of brown seen in the grain. Once this had set, I applied a second coat of acrylic. This coat was not diluted. Just before this dried, I used a stiff brush to push the concealed paint into wood grain patterns. This method both lifts the paint and pushes it into thicker sections.


Decorations and props are so important in bringing a set to life. A set without these touches is essentially a display stand and does not convey enough about the character or environment. Props speak volumes about character as these items support their personality or job role. Decorative touches make a set unique; they tell a story without words.

I began my decorative touches with the fiddliest: the decorative flowers.

To start the process, I used wire cut and bent to various lengths and shapes to replicate the branches of the red maple tree. This was glued at point of contact and positioned using tweezers. When this was setting, I used a scalpel to carefully cut out leaf shapes into tracing paper. I then painted these in red. As this was drying, I used brown acrylic to paint the branches. When this had dried, I used UHU to stick the leaves onto the wire branches.  I used the same method to create the reed.  I created a vase using leftover wood cut offs and painted this black.


The hanging scroll was made by printing a scale replica of a traditional hanging scroll and using matchsticks and cotton to replicate the scroll weights.


When photographing the finished alcove, I noticed the leaves looked a little synthetic. I went back and added veins and shading to bring these to life on camera.

The final result looked pretty convincing!


Next, I created the Tattami mats. This process was fairly straightforward. I used red satin ribbon to mimic the outer edges of the mat and used hessian ribbon to replicate the straw/reed blend. Hessian ribbon is woven slightly tighter than usual hessian so works well as a reed substitute. If I could not find any of this ribbon in Hobbycraft, I would have used a scalpel on foam board to replicate the woven texture and painted this with layers of acrylic. The cushions were made using the same red satin ribbon pulled tight around pre cut foam board.


As seen in the photographs below, my set was really taking shape now. In rolling back and moving the mats it implies that someone was trying to hide something or there has been a struggle.

I added in some fake blood to give a further clue to who was the victim and where the body could be hidden. In doing this I had to think about where the impact blow was, and how the body was moved as this would affect the placement of blood. I decided my victim was hit on the head and dragged from their cushion to the lifted floorboard. I added in a couple of extra touches as it hit me that an assassin wouldn’t leave a trace of the crime. So this looked convincing, I added in small squares of tissue soaked in fake blood and have recreated wipe marks and hand prints as if my assassin had attempted to conceal the crime but may have been interrupted.

So there we have it, a full 1:25 scale model of my proposed design in transforming a location.



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