The intention is that this series on how to make this terrain is to go onto it's own permanent page as I start implementing some of the site updates.
So lets start with the base Materials. These terrain pieces are made of Styrofoam. Not the standard insulation styrofoam that are much nicer to work with, these are made with the Styrofoam that you get out of electronic gadgets, kids toys, or anything else that is packaged with Styrofoam. This makes materials cheap and easy to come by. ( I would rather spend my money on models, rather than on terrain).
Obviously I have been saving styrofoam for quite some time. When I see a new styrofoam piece, I often see fortifications, hills, and forests. The terrain made with this series, used up very little of what you see there. I think I have enough foam for about 4-5 tables sitting there.
A table worth of terrain with a mix of area terrain and line of sight blocking terrain. To create a pieces that help create the visuals of a more cinematic nature that we all love to see in games.
Above all else, to create terrain that does not stretch the budget, (if it costs anything at all), and can be done quickly. Even though we love playing on a nice table, I want my money and time to go to putting together and painting models for my army.
Area Terrain: I am making forest pieces here, and we want the forest to accomplish a couple things.
1. Not provide complete and easy line of sight through the terrain pieces. (forests generally do not have this)
2. Be large enough areas for models of all sizes to use the terrain. From Rhinos, dreads, and terminators. The terrain should take into account that these are the models that will be using the terrain.
3. Take into account line of sight from within shooting out. Remember that shooting out will require to be within 2" of the edge of the terrain to not provide cover to units being shot.
4. Provide cover locations for vehicles, mixed into the scenery
Line of Sight Blocking Terrain: Mostly these will be rock outcroppings.
1. Create a few pieces that can provide cover for skimmers such as Vendettas and stormravens.
2. Create rocky outcroppings that can be used for hieght advantages during the game. Having terrain that models can use during the game to climb up from rocky overlooks adds to the cinematics of a battle.
First Step: Cutting the Foam
Over the years of working on models, I have given up on using hot wires to do the initial cuts, or forming of the pieces I want. Its simply inefficient and too clean of cuts for what I am looking for. At this point, its time to get out the hack saw.
Why the hack saw? It allows you to get the basic shapes cut quickly. I do not want to spend the next year making this terrain, again, that time is better spent with my armies.
Take the Styrofoam you are going to work on, and place it inside a deep box. Do your cutting in here, as this step if not contained will throw styrofoam everywhere. Did I say everywhere? I mean absolutely everywhere.
Make large general cuts, there is no real need to get too fancy here. Once you finish the large cuts, then you can start sculpting some more definitive cuts with your hack saw. Save your large scraps....... They can be used for rock outcroppings, or for single plantings later, and even better, can be glued in place to form hills, burms, and rocks on your area terrain pieces.
When cutting area terrain pieces, I generally cut a lower than 45degree cut along the boarders. This helps models as they move into and out of the terrain.
Do not forget that your rock outcroppings will need some small ledges to plant things for a more realistic appearance.
Place all your freshly cut pieces into a box, because they will be still shedding pieces of foam everywhere, and its beneficial to keep your work area clean..... or clean...er.
Here is my box of freshly cut pieces of terrain
Now is the time to get your models out and to check to make sure that the terrain can be used on the tabletop. Get out those rhinos, chimeras, storm ravens, terminators, and other models to see how the pieces might or might not be used. I do this at several points of the process in making terrain. Unusable terrain is a pet peeve of mine.
Step Two: Hot Glue
Here is where you need to start building your area terrain. Two things to make sure you have. A glue gun with both a high and low heat setting, and low temperature glue sticks for styrofoam. Here, use your scraps, make small hills or rocks that are going to be sitting on the styrofoam. Simply hot glue these into place. If any more cutting is needed, go ahead and do that here, before we hit step three.
Remember again to keep in mind the models that will be using the terrain.
Step Three: Burning the Foam
The one problem with Styrofoam is getting paint on the surfaces, and making them rigid enough to be used on a daily basis. This is why I treat the surface of the Styrofoam (I only do the top, not the bottom). I have a sculpting tool that I use (in the pic above). This allows me to burn the surface, literally melting the top. It creates a more solid and hard (a little crunchy) surface. The more you melt, the harder the surface will be.
Please do this outside...... or away from others, and wear a mask yourself. These fumes are toxic.
Again, check the terrain with your models.
Step Four: Paste
Using a decent sized paint brush, we are going to apply paste to the top and bottom of the terrain pieces. Now this is the longest taking step of all. We will want to start on the bottom of any flat pieces of terrain first in order to help limit any bowing or warping of the terrain piece. Two coats along the bottom, and coats along the top. Big rock outcroppings will not warp, so no need to do the bottoms of these, only the flat area terrain pieces.
For the flour water mixture, start with equal parts. 2 or 3 cups of flour and 2 or 3 cups of water. Mix well to get all the lumps out. You want a semi runny mixture so that it does not glob up on you. You also want to avoid extremly long drying times, and too thick of a mixture will cause this. Then add salt, I add approx a tablespoon. This will help prevent mold, especially during the dry time.
Remember to start with the bottom first. Apply one coat on the bottom and let completely dry. Then alternate and do the top the same as the bottom. Alternate until you have two coats on the area terrain piece.
Next post I will get into the fun stuff. Making terrain look like terrain.