by: Rick Cooper [ ]
AK Interactive now offers a series of laser cut leaves and ferns, grass tufts, and dio-mats to enhance your dioramas, vignettes, and vehicles. AK recently provided a sample of one each from these various lines for Armorama to take a look at and pass along some impressions.
AK lists thirteen different sets of the laser cut leaves on their website. These include a number of the most common temperate zone deciduous trees, oaks, maples, birches, etc. They are very well packaged with a marketing card with rudimentary instructions on the reverse. The leaves are packaged inside in a small 50 x 35mm plastic box that holds about 60-70 or so leaves (Just a rough estimate as I honestly did NOT count the little fellows). I would assume the other varieties that AK sells would have about the same number of leaves. The leaves are cut from colored paper that did not show any white edges. They provided two sizes, a nice large leaf that measures out at about 7 inches in 1/35 scale and a smaller 3 inch companion. I scattered a few of them around a vignette I finished up earlier this year and thought they looked very good.
As far as ferns go they offer three different sets, bracken, dry ferns, and regular ferns as well as a set of ivy and another of jungle plants. AK supplied us with the Dry Fern variety for the review. I thought they were photo-etch material but the ‘laser cut’ part should have tipped me off that it was colored paper. The fern paper is 8.5 X 13mm and provides about fifty or so different sized fronds so I would venture to say about ten or so ferns per set. The ferns are VERY delicate so removing them takes a modicum of care to not rip them, although a little tearing here and there doesn’t really affect the look any at all. I would recommend some level of magnification to ensure that you get most of the fern separated from the rest of the paper; my north of 60 eyes had an ‘are you kidding’ moment before we doubled our normal magnification (your mileage may vary depending on your model year!) I used some AK Weathering pencils to easily get some color on the ferns before planting them in a piece of blue foam.
The Dense Autumn Tufts are one of twenty-five or so grass and diorama mat (AK brands these as ‘Dio-mats’) sets that AK offers. The set of tufts that we received was the 8mm autumn variety. These come 50-60 tufts to the package and measure 8.5 X 13mm on the parchment paper backing, so good value for the money. They easily peel of the parchment backing and already have a bit of sticky adhesive that can hang on pretty well although a drop of PVA or whatever you use can help to strengthen the hold. I popped it on to a desert diorama that I had on the shelf as is, without any additional glue, and it looks to me like it blended in to its surroundings without any issues.
The final product to take a quick look at was one of the diorama mat products; Dio-Mat Tufts with Fallen Leaves Summer. First, this is a bit different from other diorama mats that I have seen and used in that it doesn’t have the thick sponge material backing. Instead this has the same thin, slightly tacky backing that the Autumn Tufts have. The difference is that rather than just being in clumps this is continuous across the entire backing film so that you can pull off or cut out exactly what you need to fill a particular space. This product is similar to what I have used from a few other manufacturers such as Mininatur and Martin Welberg (as are the tufts), so if you have tried some any of the landscape materials geared to the railroad crowd this product will feel very familiar. The Dio-mat also measures out to 8.5 x 13mm, so you get a decent amount that should work for a few smaller projects or to supplement with other forms of diorama landscaping you may have in mind. I pulled a bit off easily enough and attached it into a couple of spots on a base from an abandoned project. It stuck easily despite the dust and provided the extra bit of realism that most of us are always on the lookout for.
I was happy with all four of these diorama landscaping accessories. They all deliver exactly what they promise and looked convincing on each of the bases that I used them on. All in all, modelers now have another useful group of products from AK Interactive.