Whether you need a large tree for a stage piece or a smaller tree for a model or school project, using paper mache is probably the most cost-effective and convincing medium to use. Paper mache, although quite messy, can be a lot of fun and is easy to use.
To start you need a few everyday items:
Lots of newspaper
Flour or Corn Starch
Large plastic bin
Paint (green, brown, black, grey, and autumn colors id desired)
First, mix your paper mache mix. Place lots of water into a plastic bin or very large bowl. Then pour in flour and mix until the mixture takes on a thin slimy texture. It should move freely through your fingers, but be sticky to the touch. A little thinner than normal school glue is a good consistency. Next, soak large sheets of newsprint paper in the mixture. The more glossy color inserts do not work as well because they are not as absorbent.
Then decide how large you want the tree to be. For a small tree, a cardboard tube will make a nice trunk. For larger trees, roll up sheets of cardboard until you have the desired trunk size. When building larger tree trunks, be sure to use plenty of tape to hold the rolled-up cardboard together. Once you have reached the desired width and height for the trunk, it is time to start covering it with paper mache. Start by rolling up sheets for newspaper and applying them all around the tree lengthwise. This will make the texture of the tree trunk look more realistic when you cover it with the paper mache.
If building a set piece for a fantasy play and you wish to make a face, build up the place where the face will be with a few sheets of newspaper and use rolls of newspaper to make the eyebrows, lips, nose and eyes. To build a hollow spot to give your tree a creepier look, just make a circle of rolled newspaper. For the roots, roll up larger rolls of newspaper around strips of cardboard and apply them to the bottom of the trunk with plenty of tape. To give the roots a more gnarly appearance, apply some small balls of newspaper.
Once you have the foundation for your tree trunk built, it is time to cover it with paper mache. Take the sheets of newspaper that you have been soaking and wipe off the excessive paper mache mixture. Apply the sheets to the trunk, pressing them down around all the contours. When the trunk and roots are covered in paper mache, let it dry for up to 24 hours.
When the tree trunk has dried, it is now time to attach the branches. It is worth keeping in mind that you want the tree to stand upright, so be sure to balance and counterbalance the weight you add with new branches. Roll up sheets of cardboard and tape them closed. Attach smaller rolls to the larger ones to make them look more like branches. Make up several branches like this, thicker at the base and thinner towards the tips. When you have enough branches, begin taping them in place. Now, cover the branches with paper mache in the same way you did with the trunk, and allow it to dry.
When everything is dry, begin painting the tree to your taste. To attach leaves, use some of the plastic leaves that are available in craft stores it would be very difficult to produce convincing foliage with paper mache. For a creepy Halloween look, just leave the branches bare. Finally, to give it more stability and make it less likely to tip over, mount the tree on a wooden base.When everything is dry