Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Painting The Desert Mesas

Last week, I showed you how to model desert mesas. This time I'll cover painting and adding vegetation to finish off the terrain.


The mesas are painted fairly simply using three main colors and a dark brown wash. For reference I'll compare these colors to Formula P3 Bloodstone, Moldy Ochre, and 'Jack Bone, but use a latex paint that closely matches the color rather than actual miniatures paint (unless you want to empty twelve pots of paint to cover the terrain).

Step 1) Start by painting the entire surface of the ground and mesas with Bloodstone. The latex paint will help seal the foam and add a little durability.

Do your best to get the paint in all the nooks and crannies, but a few exposed pink areas are going to be inevitable. This will be addressed in the next step.

Step 2) Mix a wash of P3 Brown Ink, Armor Wash, Battlefield Brown, Mixing Medium, and water. Paint this over the surface of the rocks, making sure to get it in all of the recesses. Blot the wash off the raised surfaces with a paper towel to avoid darkening the color too much.

Where the base of the mesa meets the ground, apply some wash, and feather it outward with a wet brush to create a blend from dark to light. After the wash has dried, give the piece a look over to make sure there are no "bald spots" left in the recesses. If there are, paint more wash, or Battlefield Brown directly into the spot with a smaller brush.

Step 3) Now drybrush over the entire piece with Bloodstone again to recapture the color. I use a 3" brush for a majority of the drybrushing, and a 1" brush when working in tight areas.

Step 4) Next, drybrush the terrain with Moldy Ochre. Go a little heavier with the paint on the ground (but still keep it dry to avoid streaks and brush strokes). Normally I'd say to not worry about any imperfections in the ground painting because you can cover them with static grass or flock, but the desert will be pretty sparse of vegetation, so the ground painting needs to stay clean and controlled.

Step 5) Finally, drybrush everything with 'Jack bone. Brush over the rock faces using a downward stroke to keep this final highlight mostly on the top edges.

Desert Vegetation

To add a little color to this desert scene, use Woodland Scenics "Medium Green" static grass.

Step 1) Apply the grass by first painting in some patches of wood glue thinned with a little water.

Step 2) Sprinkle the grass generously over the glue patches and press it down gently with your hand. Pressing the grass will ensure that it penetrates into the glue and you'll get a nice, thick patch of grass.

Step 3) Once the glue has dried, shake off the excess static grass. Be sure to collect it up to use again. Then, attach some shrubs. (I prefer Woodland Scenics' "foliage clusters" over their "clump foliage." The clusters provide larger chunks of foliage from which you can tear off appropriately-sizes pieces. The clump foliage tends to be more crumbly, and falls apart easily.) Simply tear off a piece and attach it with a dot of super glue.

Step 4) Drybrush the grass and shrubs with Moldy Ochre.

Step 5) Add a final drybrushing of 'Jack Bone, and the vegetation is finished!

Desert Trees

The dead trees are made from Woodland Scenics plastic tree armatures. Trim some pieces and bend them into shape. Using double-sided tape, attach the trees to a stick and prime them black. Then give them a dusting with Model Masters sprays Light Earth and Panzer Grey.

Select a drill bit that matches the diameter of the tree's base, and drill a hole in the table.

Apply super glue to the base of the tree and press it into the hole. (Note: if your table base is plastic or wood, super glue will work fine. If the table is made from foam, use hot glue or Liquid Nails to attach the trees so the super glue doesn't dissolve the foam.

And that's all there is to it! These techniques can be applied to free-standing modular mesas and would be perfect for wild west scenery, or post apocalyptic "Mad Max" style terrain. (Looking at you, Ork Speed Freaks!)

'Til next time!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Terrain Tutorial: Desert Mesas

Given the time crunch I'm usually under for the terrain commissions, I don't know if I'll get to post another start-to-finish project journal like I did for the Wrath of Kings diorama. The idea of posting a series of short terrain tutorials appeals to me, and there was some positive response to last week's crate tutorial. So, here's another one recreating the style of mesa that I used for the Wild West Exodus table.

Start with stacks of 2-inch insulation foam. Stack them as high as you like for your mesas. When attaching them, use a bead of Liquid Nails construction adhesive around the edge, and some hot glue in the center. The hot glue will provide an immediate bond so you can work without the foam pieces sliding around. Once the Liquid Nails dries (usually overnight) it will create a more permanent bond.

To texture the rocky surface, begin by making horizontal cuts in the foam about 1-inch deep using an extendable knife. Vary the spacing between cuts and angle the blade to make some V-cuts in a few places.

Then, pick at the foam to pull out chuncks and vary the surface.

You can also make some vertical or diagonal cuts to make pulling the foam apart a little easier.

Work the surface to get a nice mix of raised and recessed stones.

As you approach the top, make the horizontal cuts deeper so you can crack off portions of the foam and create some stepped, flat stones.

Here, the stonework is just about finished. The horizontal seams between the pieces of foam have been obscured among the layers of stone cuts, but the vertical seams where the pieces butt together are still visible.

To camouflage the vertical seams, cut a deep section across the seam and pull out a piece of the foam.

Get an appropriately sized piece of foam from the off-cuts and glue it in place so it straddles the gap.

Do this along the length of the seam until it blends in with the rest of the mesa's surface.

Finally, rub your hand gently over the surface to knock off any loose pieces of foam. Any bits that fall off wouldn't have stood up to vigorous drybrushing. Better to get rid of them now than in the middle of painting.

To make freestanding mesas, the same techniques apply. Just stack the foam, and make the cuts all the way around.

When texturing the table with sand and gravel, add some to the tops and "shelves" of the mesas.

Desert mesas, ready for painting!  Check out the painting tutorial here.

'Til next time!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Making Crates

Here's a quick tutorial on how I build crates using a block of foam, with basswood texture glued overtop. The solid construction ensures that the crates don't run the risk of collapsing during construction or gaming, and the foam keeps them lightweight.

Step 1: Cutting the Foam Blocks

Begin with a section of 1-inch thick insulation foam.

Working from one of the straight, smooth ends, measure out 1-inch increments.

Then, using a snap-off knife and a steel ruler, cut the foam at your measurements.

From there, cut the long blocks into shorter segments. For smaller, flatter boxes, cut the sections in half lengthwise.

Step 2: Coating the Blocks

Use something to hold the block (I've stuck a half-round file into the bottom of it) and apply some Liquid Nails on each surface. Wet your finger and smooth the Liquid Nails over the entire surface. The water will help keep the adhesive from sticking to your finger, but be sure to thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water afterward.

Coating each block this way will allow you to super glue the basswood right to the surface. Why not just stick the wood on using Liquid Nails, you ask? Well, the Liquid Nails takes a little while to dry, and the pieces will slide around. The moisture in the L.N. will also cause the wood to curl slightly.

Super glue alone will eat into the foam without really adhering the wood, and hot glue also runs the risk of melting the foam without creating a secure bond. This is my preferred method for attaching things to foam.

Step 3: Attaching the Wooden Planks

This is where the real work begins. To cover the foam, use basswood. Most hobby shops carry a variety of shapes and sizes, and the pre-scored sheets are perfect, much easier than gluing individual strips. Get the sheet with 1/4-inch planks. You'll also need some 1/8-inch styrene strips (they'll come in later). Each of these is 1/16-inch thick.

Begin by cutting the panel into three one-inch sections, using the grooves as your cutting guide.

Next, cut the long strips into one-inch squares.

Super glue these squares to the ends of the crate.

For smaller crates (like I mentioned above), you can remove sections of the square to fit the height of the crate. If you keep things measured in quarter inches, you can easily use the grooves on the wood as your cutting guide. These two crates are 1/2-inch and 3/4-inch high.

The strips to cover the long sides of the crate need to overlap the wood on the ends, so use the crate to measure out where to cut the panel.

Cut four pieces (one for each side) and super glue them to the crate.

Because the foam is cut to exactly one inch, and the wood is also one inch wide, there will be a slight gap on each corner. To take care of this, cut some thin wooden "runners" from the spare basswood. These runners don't have to be terribly precise, merely cut them around 1'16-inch wide. (I just eyeballed it.)

Trim the runners to the length of each crate. Then run a bead of super glue in the gap and place the runner into it.

Now you have a neatly framed out wooden crate.

Step 4: Building the Metal Straps

Metal straps can be created using the 1/8-inch styrene strips mentioned above. Lay the crate on its side, and mark the crate's width and where the rivet will fall in the center of each plank.

You can make easy rivets using a rotary hand sewing punch. This tool (intended for leather working) will press a divot in ove side of the plastic, leaving a raised bump (our rivet) on the opposite side. Cut the strip and super glue it to the crate about 1/4-inch from the end.

Repeat this to make four vertical strips and then measure the top strip so it overlaps the ones on the side.

There you have it– A wooden crate with metal straps. Because these crates will be glued down on some terrain, I've left the straps off of the bottom so they will sit flat. If your crates will be loose pieces for your battlefield, you can build the straps all the way around and paint all the sides so the crates can be positioned or stacked anywhere.

To add a bit of weathering, use your hobby knife to make some V-cuts between the planks.

Now you can build a pile of cargo for your game table. Perfect for adding detail to factory and shipyard settings, and useful for taking cover from an enemy model's fire!

'Til next time!