Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween Terrain Tutorial

Halloween is a great time to be a Vampire Counts player and terrain maker. Halloween shops have a lot of great items that can be used to make terrain. The Christmas village sections of craft stores that quickly replace the Halloween supplies also offer some interesting materials.

I've picked up a bag of plastic skulls and a rusty metal fence that, with a little work, can become a centerpiece on any Haunted Battlefield.



Materials and tools that you will need:

Liquid Nails construction adhesive
Hot glue gun
Super glue
Extendable snap-off knife
Steel ruler
Rafter square
Hobby knife
Rotary hand sewing punch
Hole punch
Wood pencil and eraser
Rubber bands
Aves Epoxy Sculpt or modeling putty
Sculpting tools
2-inch thick insulation foam
Small skulls (Halloween supply shop)
Metal fencing (Halloween supply shop)
Assorted detail accessories (skulls, candles, banner tops, shield icons, spear heads, spikes)
Sand or ballast
Waterproof wood glue
Black latex paint
1/8-inch thick PVC card
1/16-inch thick styrene plastic card
1/4-inch half round styrene plastic rod
220 grit sandpaper

*Use extreme caution when working with sharp objects. Follow all safety precautions and use all recommended safety equipment.



Step 1. Cutting the Skulls

Begin by using a snap-off knife to cut off the bottom of the jaw. Use the teeth as a guide and slice straight through.



Next, use the jaw bone as the guide for cutting the face off of the skull. Align your knife with the angle of the jaw bone and cut in on each side.


What you are left with is the front of the skull, which should sit flat on the table. If it doesn't sit perfectly flat, don't worry; any gaps can be filled when puttying over the mold seams later on.


Step 2. Preparing the Obelisk

Measure and cut a two-inch square column from the insulation foam. When cutting foam, always use a steel ruler and a new, sharp blade to get a smooth, clean cut with no ragged edges.



Cut the bottom flat, and then measure six inches up and draw a line all the way around to mark the bottom of the point. Then measure two inches above that and indicate the center point (one inch in from each side). Draw straight lines from the bottom corner to the top center point to create a symmetrical triangle.



Cut the sides first and then use the same measurements to mark the point on the angle before cutting the opposite sides.



Here you can see the finished top and how the skulls will fit in place.



For the mausoleums, cut a length of one-inch thick foam. Then cut it into four three-inch sections.



Carefully slice off an angled portion from one side. If you draw a line from the bottom corner to the center of the top, it will be just about right.



Once the sections are angled, bevel the sides. Measure in 3/8-inch from the top corner and craw a line to a point 1/8-inch in from the bottom corner.



Use a fine grit sandpaper to sand down the "crispy" sides of the foam, as well as any imperfections from your cuts. Do this outside and wear a respirator when sanding to avoid inhaling insulation foam particles. By keeping your cuts precise and smooth you can minimize the sanding.



Step 3. Attaching the Skulls and Stonework

Use Liquid Nails to attach the plastic skulls and the mausoleum sections. The underside of the skull will still be hollow, so paint the inside black before attaching it, because it will be difficult to get paint in there once everything is assembled, and it might still be visible.

When attaching the mausoleum sections, add a couple dots of hot glue along with the Liquid Nails. The hot glue will hold it in place in the short term, and the Liquid Nails will ensure a permanent bond.



The Liquid Nails will take time to dry, so use a heavy rubber band to hold the skulls in place. To allow it to fully cure, you should let it sit overnight, but you can work on these next steps in the mean time.



Create a stone texture by cutting a random brick pattern into the foam with a hobby knife. Make sure the blade is new and sharp so the foam doesn't tear.



Then, trace over the cuts with a wood pencil, pressing in a little to greate grooves between the individual stones.



Use a pencil eraser to press in some of the stones to create an uneven surface. You can also notch some of the corners with your hobby knife to further distress the stonework.



Step 4. Making the Base

Cut a five-inch square of 1/8-inch thick PVC card. (The PVC card is a little softer than styrene, making it easier to cut and texture it.) Trace the footprint of the obelisk and then draw out the stone pattern with a pencil.



Use a series of V-cuts with your hobby knife to make the grooves between the stones. Then notch and distress the edges of the stones to add more variety to the surface. Draw in some cracks with a pointer sculpting tool.



Use Liquid Nails and a few dots of hot glue to affix the obelisk to the base. Then, paint a thin layer of wood glue over the surface of the foam. Make sure it penetrates into all of the cracks to seal the foam and protect it. Add some sand or ballast around the base to fill in some of the cracks and pile around the base of the obelisk.

Disregard the wood filler putty on the top of the skulls. I was experimenting with it to cover the seams in the plastic, but it didn't work out and I scraped it of in favor of the Aves Epoxy Sculpt in step five.



To further protect the foam (you want to be as careful as possible so all your hard work doesn't dissolve when you spray prime the final piece), add a coat of black latex paint. At this point, you should let the piece sit to dry overnight.



Step 5. Puttying the Skulls

The mold seams need to be covered, and this is easily done with Aves Epoxy Sculpt. Any two-part epoxy putty will work, but Aves is my personal go-to because it is very easy to smooth over and dries quickly. Cover the forehead and then smooth it over with your finger. Wet your fingers to keep the putty from sticking to you. The excess water will create a clay-like "slip" and you'll see swirls of your fingerprints in the putty.



Once the surface is smooth, gently blot the puttied area with a flattened paper towel to absorb the excess moisture. This will also eliminate any fingerprints and leave a very slight texture, which will match the surface of the plastic.


Add a small roll of putty and press it into any gaps along the edge of the skull. Cover the mold seam around the eye socket and cheekbone.


Here is the finished putty work on the skulls. Set it aside to cure while you work on the mausoleum details.


Step 6. Building the Mausoleum Doors

The specific parts I used for my mausoleum doors are the banner top and spears from a Tomb Kings Skeleton regiment, and some 1/4-inch half round styrene plastic rod.

Cut the small skulls from the tips of the banner, and then carefully slice them in half, leaving you with two tiny skull faces. Remove the spear head from the weapon shaft. To create a spacer, use the round pegs on the sprue frame. Carefully slice them off so you have a 1/8 inch thick round disk.



Trim the plastic rod to 2 5/8 inch long, and glue the parts together as shown. Then use your hobby knife to cut groves about 7/8 inch apart on the rod. Make eight of these, one for each side of the four mausoleum doors.


For the doors themselves, cut a cover from the thick PVC card. Make it 3/4 inch wide by two inches tall. Bevel the edges and distress corners with chips and cracks. Cut another small piece the same width to be the step below the door.

For the metal cover, cut a rectangle (slightly smaller than the PVC cover) from the 1/16-inch styrene card. 



Use a handheld hole punch to create the inverted round corner.


My favorite tool is this rotary hand sewing punch.



It can be used to create rivets of various sizes by crimping the plastic card, creating a raised "pimple" on the opposite side. Use this to add rivets around the metal cover. If you don't have one, rivets can also be added by cutting small chads from thin plastic rod.



Attach the skeleton shield icons to the finished doors and assemble the parts as shown below. The layers of wood glue and latex paint will allow you to super glue the plastic parts right to the piece without dissolving the foam.


Step 7. Final Details Before Painting

Add a little extra sand and whatever details you like to the base. I've gone with candles from the classic Dark Elf Cauldron of Blood, and a few extra skulls scattered about. I didn't feel like painting the candle flames, so I clipped them off, drilled out the tops and pinned in a small piece of wire to be the unlit wicks.



The obelisk is ready for painting! Paint the entire piece before adding the metal fencing. I painted mine with the same techniques used in my Garden of Morr post last week, but you can use any colors that will match your personal battlefield and terrain.


Step 8. Adding the Metal Fencing

The metal fencing I found for this project has a beautifully rusted appearance, so it 's best to attach it after after everything else is painted.



First, cut the fence down the center. There is no distinct top or bottom, so you can get two strips out of one length of fence.


Cut a small piece that will fit around the top of the mausoleums, below the skulls. Bend the sides and check the fit.


Press the fence into the foam. It helps if you press the fence to mark where each fence post will attach, and then make small slits with the tip of a hobby knife. The fit should be tight enough that no glue is required. If any pink foam is exposed, touch it up with a little Formula P3 Bloodstone.


Around the top, add another fence. This time, use pliers to bend the bottom of the fence so you can poke it into the sides of the foam obelisk.


Make sure the corners all line up. As before, don't use any glue and touch up any exposed foam with your rust color.


To make the skull spires on the corners of the fence, cut the skull icon out of the center of a Tomb Kings banner and top it with a spear tip. The notch for the banner pole on the back of the skull will fit perfectly over the corners of the fence and help secure it in place.


Super glue the skulls to the fence and then paint them to match the rusted metal. You can add a spike to the top of the obelisk, as well. It will be more secure if you pin it in place and add a very small dot of super glue.


All that remains is to add a few tufts of static grass on the base, and any foliage, if you like.

The crypt is finished, perfect for use as a Restless Crypt in a Haunted Battleground, or as a Mystical Monument! Thanks for following along, and have a Happy Halloween, everyone!



'Til next time!