In a previous Terrain Corner I showed a simple way of reusing old terrain pieces for the upcoming War Banner game Mortal Gods. This time round I’m going to go a little deeper into some newer pieces I’ve cooked up. These have been done using techniques found often amongst Railway modellers.
As per my last terrain article I used old terrain that needed a cleanup and reuse. This time I’m going to be using pieces made from plaster.
These pieces are all cast from Woodland Scenics rock molds. The great thing about them is that you can partially fill the mold to get a smaller rock should you need to. Alternatively, you can angle the mold whilst it’s drying to get a different shape. This can give you a huge amount of options whilst still retaining a somewhat natural appearance.
Although, a big thing with plaster is that it does take a while to dry. You’d want at least 24 hours in a warm environment to let it set. What I tend to do is put them in the oven after I’ve used it to help draw the moisture out. If you don’t it can cause issues later on. Once they are dry I coat them all with a 50/50 PVA glue and water mix. The main reason for this is that if you don’t seal the plaster this way it will often just soak up the paint.
Step 1 – Making Rocks
Once everything dries I then use cheap “no nails” adhesive to stick the various pieces to thin MDF boards or thicker card stock that I have stored for such an occasion. You will need to sand parts of the molds away to get a flat enough surface or else its not going to bond. On a few of the pieces I also used real stones I had gathered whilst out walking. Once dry I work some filler around the rocks so it looks more natural and also added some grit to make the rocks look weathered and broken. A rock in the middle of nowhere just looks a little odd and needs a little more for it to look natural.
Step 2 – Adding Colour
To stop things looking so flat, I made use of some mid-tone washes to break-up the colours on the ground.
The next stage is the one that’s going to take the most time. After everything is dry I then add sand to totally cover the base. In some instances I even build it up and around the rocks to show a little erosion. People have lots of formula for PVA to water, but I tend to just go with neat PVA. I then leave the pieces overnight to fully dry. Once dry I spray the sand areas with a 50:50 PVA/Water mix to ensure that when I start painting it stays in place.
Base coating of the pieces was done the same as the previous article. However, this time I was a bit more forgiving in the use of the colours. It helps adding some darker browns in places so the ground doesn’t have a uniform colour. I plan on using ink washes a little later to break this up as well.
Step 3 – Oil Colours
At this point I decide to try something new. I’ve seen railway modellers use oil paints regularly and I decided this was a good point to give it a go myself. I picked up a few in a sale and found a couple more in my local art store. After reading a couple of guides I felt fairly confident this would work a treat. One of the things I read very early on with oils is that they can take ages to dry. Be sure to consider this from the get-go and beyond.
When working with oils you’re also going to be working with white spirit. I would advise you to have a look about and find some that it’s odourless. Be sure to be working in a well-ventilated area if you cannot find odourless spirit. This stuff stinks to high-heaven and can really hit you after some time.
Using the white spirit and the oils you can create washes to really make the rocks come alive. You may be asking what’s so different in an oil wash than a normal wash. Oils actually give you a bit more control. If after it’s all dry you find you don’t like something you can get in there with a brush soaked in white spirit and move it around a bit. You can feather out edges or drag them into darker spots with some patience and a steady hand. For my first try at this, I really had some fun and will be using oils far more often in the future.
I also made use of the oils and washes to break up the ground and try to not make things look less uniform. After it was all dry a quick dry brush was used to show weathering/sun-bleaching.
Step 4 – The Little Details
The last step on these pieces is the final finish in the form of ground coverage, tufts, etc.
I bought a flock box a while back from WWS in the slim hope of making my own tufts. It looked too good to be true even after seeing a few reviews. However, I have to say it’s one of the best things I’ve ever bought for making terrain. It has allowed me to make the tufts in the colours and sizes I need for each job. Oddly-shaped areas are not a problem at all and I’ve even mixed colours, done gradients, shading, the whole works! I still myself questioning why I didn’t buy one earlier. My final stage was to add some very fine flock to the ground to show areas of greenery.
Hopefully, this gives you some idea on how easy it is to make natural pieces of terrain of this style.
If you have any questions or want to know more please let us know in the comments. A little knowledge goes a long way with terrain building and it’s typically all in the nuggets of information that you pick up as you go.
To keep up to date and find out more about what we are doing be sure to check us out on Facebook.