Tuesday 6 October 2020

Old Dog Learns New (Terrain) Tricks - Part the Last (At Last)

My modest terrain project has been languishing in obscurity for the last three months while real life does its damndest to upset my personal applecart, but I'm going to draw a line under the blasted thing and blog it.

OK, the last we saw of the piece, it was awaiting paint and groundwork. The plaster rocks had been hot glued into place, the gaps filled with Sculptamold, and the MDF base smoothed over with more of that excellent product.

Painting was next, using the "leopard-spotting" technique I picked up from Mel the Terrain Tutor and Luke at Geek Gaming Scenics (both channels are an absolute must for aspiring scenery builders). No, it doesn't mean taking a pair of binoculars out on the savannah. It's a technique for painting rocky surfaces more realistically than the old "three shades of grey plus a drybrush" that many of us cut our terrain painting teeth on.

I splashed a thin wash of yellow ochre acrylic (the cheap stuff from the $2 shop) over about a third of the rock faces and ruins, following that with burnt sienna and umber in similar quantities. These soak into the plaster and give a realistic mottled effect. Leaving some of the plaster in its natural white will give some nice contrasts for the final wash.

Once dry, a thin wash of black is applied over all. Have plenty of paper towel ready to soak up the excess. The flatter areas were going to be flocked, so I painted them in basic burnt sienna to prevent any white plaster showing through.

I used foam flocks for the ground covers, spraying with diluted PVA glue as I went to build up layers of progressively lighter-coloured flock. I'd never worked with foam flocks prior to this, but I was delighted to find that once they're dry, they harden up a treat, providing a realistically textured surface without sacrificing durability. 

Most of the work was done down in the garage out of consideration for the cleanliness of our kitchen, so I didn't end up documenting the whole process step by step, but I can at least share pics of the finished product.

The slopes of the hill and flat areas are finished with assorted foam flocks, plus Tajima's wild grass tufts and Moorland diorama effects. More tufts were placed in recesses in the rock faces. Small rocks, twigs, and sand were scattered around and hit with liquid super glue to fix them immediately in place.

More offcuts from my mother-in-law's garden were pressed into service to make a dead tree, because this tower has been a ruin for a long time. This was painted with GW Dryad Bark and drybrushed with GW Gorthor Brown and a light dusting of Vallejo Game Colour Cold Grey. Geek Gaming Scenics Forest Floor flock was scattered around the tower's interior.

Add a few tufts growing out from between the stones, and a raven perched in the tree (courtesy of the Warhammer Giant kit, the best source of fantasy set dressing materials for my money) and voila, it's done!

So what lessons have I taken away from this? 

Firstly, Sculptamold doesn't take up the washes used in the leopard-spotting technique as readily as plain plaster, so use it sparingly when building rocky surfaces. It's best as a simple gap filler in this situation. I used a bit too much on this piece and had to go over the affected areas a couple of times to ensure coverage.

Be sure to mop up excess washes quickly - MDF REALLY doesn't like to get wet.

When spraying diluted PVA from a spray bottle, sooner or later you'll get blockages. A squeeze bottle with a fine nozzle can do just as well when wetting down flocked surfaces. It can be messy, but as I said above, keep plenty of paper towels on hand and you should be right.

Working with washes and successive sprays of PVA glue means a fair bit of waiting time between steps, and the completed piece can take a while to dry, so patience is a virtue.

I'm quite pleased with the results, and this little project has definitely given me some more ideas to go on with. Considerations of space probably mean that I won't be building any huge modular gaming tables in the near future, but if ever I get a shed, watch out!

What's next? Maybe some more Frostgrave, or maybe a detour to the Bronze Age?

Stay tuned...



  1. A very nice piece of terrain modelling and lots of tips and advice!

    1. Hope it's helpful to you - now get out there and start building! 😉

  2. Missed this at the time, Millsy- most impressive!

    1. Not my work mate, Ev gets the credit for this one!

  3. Lovely bit of terrain building!
    Best Iain

    1. Thank you Iain, I've been accumulating more bits and bobs lately, so we can expect more terrain-related activity over the next few months!

  4. Great work Ev - looks spot on mate!

  5. That looks superb, Ev! I love the old gnarled tree growing out of the ruins (along with it's attendant raven).

    1. Thanks Curt! (and my word, isn't it getting chilly...?)


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