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WargamerAU Forums _ Modelling Diaries _ [Terrain] Vissy's: Making Terrain on Budget

Posted by: VisOne Nov 21 2012, 03:54 AM

VisOnes: How to Make Terrain on Budget - And still please the minister of finance!

Now for those of you who know or have at least seen me around here on WAU this last year or so may know Im a mediocre painter and gamer. Im a bit of a loud mouth and I find my foot works satisfyingly well as a pacifier. However while I might be a bit of a git in most regards I do certainly believe in one thing and that is giving back where I can; so with that in mind here is a little bit of dairy of sorts that will hopefully help motivate some of you to tackle making some terrain of your own.

First of all like so many of us I never work to a plan. Well I do but Im no slave to one; however I always keep one simple thing in mind K.I.S.S that as many of you may know means KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID! This is important for me as Im no, or So when I make terrain I stay away from expensive things like using allot of foam core or plastic card. I keep the execution of it simple. Getting aesthetically pleasing terrain made and on the table is important. What its made out of is not important; further more it should always be cost effective. If you want great looking terrain youre better off biting the bullet and purchasing it. God knows there is allot of really great products available these days thanks to CNC laser cutting becoming affordable.

So with that in mind here is a quick little system which I intend on using to rate projects in the future. Rating will be 1 to 5, 1 being the shortest/lowest/least amount and 5 being the longest/highest/greatest amount.

Build Time How long it takes to knock it together ?
Cost How much it costs?
Skill Is it hard to make?
Equipment Does it take special equipment the average person?
Painting Is it quick to paint or take special products?

To wet your whistle here is a transportable Infinity table I'm currently working on.

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There are a couple things to note about this board. Its a strange size being only 37 long by 30 wide this is simply because I am using up some thick MDF off cuts I had lying around the house.

Its painted grey on one side as an industrial board and the other side is currently being fixed up to be another Red Oxide Dessert. To do this I have already tonight put the following on the board a mix of 50/50 water to PVA glue. I then coated it with builders sand/gravel which I left to dry for a few mins. Once reasonably dry I brushed off the loose product and cleaned all four edges of the board. Then I gave the whole board a good love tap on the group to remove anything else that may come off from rough handling.

Tomorrow I will create a mix of 70/30 water to PVA glue over the sand tomorrow with an electric spray gun. Then a coat of 50/50 turpentine and wood varnish as a protective coat; finally I spray a 50/50 water & house paint mix over the sand and roughly highlight with a final coat of house paint.

Now you might be curious about some things I've said so far I'll explain more as I go.

If you have any questions feel free to put them up here or send me a PM!

Posted by: VisOne Nov 21 2012, 04:12 AM

VisOne's: Paint and getting the most out of it while trying to hide spending money from the minster of finance.

My apologies if you have read this post before elsewhere. Im going to use it again to save redirecting this thread to another.

This post is from Teefreekas - Aerosols that wont eat foam which you can find however has a lot of information I would just repeat so here is the cut down version anyway.

First almost all spray paints are fine on foam as long as you keep the propellant away from the foam. This is because the propellant is what eats away at the foam not the paint itself.

Secondly screw spray paint its expensive and the cost effective one are generally not worth your time since you will need to invest in some proper nozzles to fit them anyway and you may not have the relevant paint expert at hand to help you find them anyway.

Go to bunnings or whoever your local hardware store is and look for an electric spray gun or check EBAY there are lots of brands but I use a, its powerful enough to use virtually any paint through. You can use cheap $2 shop acrylics or even standard house/wall paint. In fact I even sprayed the watered down PVA glue through it for my three tables before I layered down sand and gravel on it.

Here are a few photos of some of the finished products all done on the cheap with recycled materials & cheap paint.

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Photo of about 1/3rd of my terrain just out of frame is 3 shelves full of terrain that is finished and ready to play with 99% of it is make, spray, highlight & play thanks to this approach. Also note the tables themselves were done with this spray gun they are 8 foot by 4 foot and you can see the underside of second one in the back ground up against the shelves. I have also done a 6 foot by 3 foot heavy Styrofoam table as well. If I did this with spray paint it would have cost me at least four times as much.

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Close up of the variety of paint brands I use. The Taubmans is the most expensive product we use but its the easiest way of getting consistent paint a consistent colour. In this case we use the spray gun to undercoat with a deep almost chocolate brown that Bunnings mix for using the taubmans paint range then a heavy highlight of an oxide red than that Bunnings mix for using the taubmans paint range. The chocolate brown goes on everything even the buildings forming a very clean & strong undercoat to put other paints over.

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Some gratuitous product placement these are resin cast battlefield barriers dont they look lovely after a little extra sand & gravel with a paint job to match our table. smile.gif

Posted by: VisOne Nov 21 2012, 05:01 AM

VisOne's: Building Mesa Rock Spires Tell the the minster of finance that you want to go vegetable shopping.

Build Time 1
Cost 1
Skill 1
Equipment 1
Painting 1

Right so Im back dating a little here. This is one of the first pieces of work I did over a year ago. Luckily I took photos at the time so this should present reasonably well. As you can see by my rating guide its very easy to produce and will cost you next to nothing depending on what you have available.

Products Needed
Styrofoam In my case I brought home allot of empty broccoli boxes from work. You can see one of the tables in the first photo. You can use anything from packaging foam you get with electronics to the harder to come by but arguably better extruded insulation foam.

Thick Cardboard To us as an alternate layer to the Styrofoam this is optional.

Masonite/MDF Whatever wood or thick card you want to use as a base. I use Masonite as it is more resilient that MDF or card and less likely to warp over time.

Nails/Thick Skewers I had some large nails lying around you can go without them but your spires will be more likely to break in the long run.

Joint Compound/Plaster I use anything thats cheap you can purchase it anywhere. Add a little coloured paint to it so you know what you have covered and what you have not. Alternately for what we use it here for you can substitute watered down glue with a little paint.

Basing material Sand, gravel or whatever you have used or are going to use on your terrain.

Equipment Needed
Knife Sharp is always better than blunt, serrated can be useful when cutting foam.

Scissors Dont hurt to have a pair handy.

Glue Any white glue PVA is fine, stay away from hot glue guns unless you want to melt your foam.

Paint Cheap is good, cheap as you want. Do not use spray paint if you are not going to use the Joint Compound/Plaster unless its Styrofoam safe otherwise you will affect the Styrofoam.

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You can see I have put the nails through the board; making sure I have a nice flat base once done.

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A couple of spires after the initial application of foam to spikey things!

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All of them covered in joint compound and after I have begun applying some paint. I was trying to decide what colour to make them.

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The finished products after having decided to use a deep chocolate brown with a red oxide highlight. You a can see they have being fully based with the same builders sand I used on the table and have the same paint applied. The final touch is a little bit of static grass or lichen.

Posted by: VisOne Nov 21 2012, 04:53 PM

VisOne's: Very Quick Guide to Making a Transportable Double Sided Table Best not tell the minister of finance about this one till its done!

Build Time 4
Cost 4
Skill 4
Equipment 4
Painting 1

Rating is based off the assumption you make need to use power tools, purchase your own wood and generally take a day to do this. Painting skill is still low; honestly you cant mess this up.
Now in this quick tutorial I will show you how I have just completed two tables in one! Its a little under 4 by 4 since I am using spare wood I have lying around. It is however double sided one will be a red oxide desert and the other a concrete industrial site.

Products Needed

Wood/Plastic/White Board Surprise surprise you need something to make the table out of. In this case I have used MDF although normally I would use pine. I leave it up to you as this will arguably be the most expensive part of the build but remember thicker is always better. Especially with MDF; thickness will help prevent warping and make it more resilient to damage. That said cause its heavier your also more likely to drop it.

Paint DAH its just wood if you dont have this. Cheap is fine in fact I encourage it! Just remember you can skimp on the paint for the table.

Sand/Gravel/Joint Compound/Textured Paint/Saw Dust/Grass Mat or Other Basing Material Use whatever is cheap and gives you a nice texture. I have used both saw dust and a fine gravel in this build both are equally good but look very different at the end.

Glue If only we could do without it alas things need to stick and stay![/list]

Equipment Needed

Ruler/Measuring Tape Measure twice cut once! No one wants to play on a board that isnt square.

Saw/Jig Saw/Circular Saw Only if you dont get it pre-cut or youre not making something modular.

Paint Brush/Roller Hard to put paint on things without one.

Spray Gun I use an electric one as mentioned elsewhere you do not need one per-say but I put an entire base coat down in 2 mins. I spent more time prepping and cleaning up than painting. The same cannot be said for a brush or roller.

Drop Sheet Alternately just anywhere you can spill or overspray paint and not get your arse kicked for it. Surprising how well a lawn will take a little paint especially if its water based.

Saw Horses/Table Anything you can get your work off the ground and away from the spry little feet of children, cats, dogs, bird and all other things that move because they all want in on this project.


Red Oxide Desert Board: GO!

Stage 1 - Cover board with 50/50 water to PVA glue.

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Stage 2 - Cover the board in sand and or gravel. Let dry for a bit then wipe it off/give it a good love tap on the ground to remove loose sand/gravel.

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Stage 3 - Spray or paint on gently your 70/30 Water to PVA glue mix; then leave to dry in the sun.

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Stage 4 - Spray on or paint with 70/30 Water to Base Paint.

Stage 5 - Highlight w/ neat/undiluted secondary colour. Don't be shy get it on there just leave your base colour showing through in some places.

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Stage 6 - PROFIT!

Industrial Site Board: I CHOOSE YOU!

Stage 1 - Coat the board w/ 50/50 Water and PVA glue.

Stage 2 - Liberally coat using fine sand/gravel/saw dust. In this case I saved the saw dust that I had left over from cutting down the wood and plaining the edges straight.
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Stage 3 - Dust off any loose product.
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Stage 4 - Coat with 70/30 Water to PVA glue then leave out in the sun to dry.
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Stage 5 - Coat with your base colour.

Stage 6 - Lightly dry brush with your secondary colour.

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Stage 7 - PROFIT!

Hope this helps you start your own table to put your terrain on. armata_PDT_37.gif

Posted by: VisOne May 13 2013, 09:58 PM

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It takes the scrap.
In this case some bolts; because HEXES R TEH FUTURE!, some bottle caps, a top off a super glue bottle and some other crap I have and glues it to the base.

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It takes some plain old white glue and mixes it with water. Ratio is about 50% glue to water.
It takes some paper or some such. In this case I've used some butchers paper. I have read elsewhere that all sorts of material can be used. Certain fast food bags are apparently rather robust and very good for this!

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It proceeds to paint the glue mix over the paper.

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It adds a little glue mix to the base and a little to the bits and pieces for extra grip-e-goodness.

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It upturns the paper and puts it onto of the things.

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It proceeds to push it down around the base. Careful you may damage your paper!

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It takes the brush and tapppa tappa tappa the paper down till your happy with how it looks.
In my case these are piles of scrap and what not. That have being covered from the extremely dusty and windy climate so I don't much mind how they look.

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This part is up to you. I have used thing paper so I'm going to put a second piece on.

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Second piece of paper is done and I have intentionally distressed this piece because I like the ribbed look of that super glue lid.

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The special piece.
I'll mask these containers before I prime and paint everything.
Quick group shot of all of the pieces finished and left to dry. Couple of minis are shown just so you can see how well they work as partial and full cover.

Posted by: VisOne Jun 30 2013, 07:42 PM

Corrugated Card Walls I CHOOSE YOU!

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Step 1: Collect what you need.

In this case some corrugated card, some normal card A4, something to use for the base (I'm using Masonite) something to cut said card, some old Geedub sprue cut down to size. Ohh and GLUE I used a hot glue gun because I wanted this done quickly but normal PVA/white glue will do the job without fail.

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Step 2: Carefully cut the corrugated card down to the size you want. In this case I just took it in half.

Take the card stock and cut a piece as long as the corrugated card that is big enough to cover two pieces of corrugated card stuck together. More on this later!

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Step 3: Carefully score the stripe of card stock so it will bend in half. This piece will be used to cover the corrugated card later so you can't see the 2 pieces glued together.

You can see you can score it on the back edge of on the front edge to getting different effects. I use the back because I want something that looks old and distressed.

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Step 4: Glue your two pieces of corrugated card together.


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Step 5: Glue the card stock cap over the top of the 2 pieces of corrugated card to hide the edges.

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Step 6: Take your sprue off cuts and whittle down one end.


Make one end flat so it will go straight onto the base.

I use the former because I'm going to sit the sprue in some holes I drilled earlier for extra strength.

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Step 7: Glue the sprue into/onto the base

Always cut away from yourself.

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Step 8: Glue the rest of the sprue into place; then carefully slip the card into between. Glue the card to the sprue on both sides and that is it job done!

If you wondering who my bases are so much longer than the wall its because I have no decided how I want to shape the ends yet. In the past I have used 3 straight angles so I can only do 180 degree straight lines or 90 degree turns. But this time I might round them off so I can out it what ever way I want. The extra room gives me options to alter the bases later.

Hope this is helpful as always!

Posted by: Uber_Kroot Jun 30 2013, 10:00 PM

Great stuff - I like the tarp tutorial smile.gif

Posted by: gumbi Jul 2 2013, 10:07 PM

Very nice dude - ill be back!

Posted by: CalRed Jul 3 2013, 06:51 PM

Such an awesome terrain thread. I'll definitely be following. Keep up the great work, you've inspired me to make more terrain for the first time in over 12 mths! smile.gif armata_PDT_37.gif

Posted by: VisOne Jul 3 2013, 07:40 PM

Thanks Gents,

Never really expected to get rated here let along followed just thought I would share a little of what I have whipped up.

If you would like to see some of the older pieces used I've got an on these forums.

Or you can see whats driving my current terrain stint my elsewhere on the internet super fast ways.

Posted by: Stinkingyeti Jul 6 2013, 03:10 PM

Nice tutorials.

Posted by: AndrewC Jul 23 2013, 01:02 PM

Looks great so far. How much did the spray gun cost you?

I love the idea of putting the paper 'tarps' over the scatter terrain - helps cover up the more recognisible household/junk items that you could use.

Posted by: TekStyles Feb 1 2014, 10:54 PM

The part where you have put the paper over the odds and bodds has given me the idea to use that technique like the paper is a canvas sheet covering to shelter supply crate or other items you wouldn't want weathered in a sand storm or perhaps just to camouflage your stash.

I recon if you put some of that paper on 4 stilts and anchored each with say thread or something you could pull off a really good merc staging point or a tent... Shotgun!!

You are a man of hidden skills... I'd like to see what they look like panted as an end result.

Posted by: VisOne Feb 2 2014, 10:21 AM

QUOTE(TekStyles @ Feb 1 2014, 10:54 PM) *

The part where you have put the paper over the odds and bodds has given me the idea to use that technique like the paper is a canvas sheet covering to shelter supply crate or other items you wouldn't want weathered in a sand storm or perhaps just to camouflage your stash.

I recon if you put some of that paper on 4 stilts and anchored each with say thread or something you could pull off a really good merc staging point or a tent... Shotgun!!

You are a man of hidden skills... I'd like to see what they look like panted as an end result.

Thats an easy fix.

They look like this.

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You can see I used it on an old ASLAV model there as well to good effect. It no longer looks horribly out of scale because you can't make out the details in full.

Simple and extremely effective means of making scatter terrain from nothing really.

I took the finished unpainted pieces I've already shown then hit them with a grey primer which lay the foundation for the bases at the same time.

I then highlighted the bases with a grey thats about 4 times lighter than the primer grey.

Next the canvas or plastic sheeting in this case got its base colour blue, grey or black as shown here. I again highlighted it with the same colour but 4 times lighter. So that royal blue gets a sky blue highlight for example.

Pick out any details/uncovered pieces and then I applied a liberal coat of my magic wash.

Magic wash is about 4 different artists acrylics I used 2 shades of brown, 1 red and 1 orange here mixed with with water. Ratio is like 10 grams paint (x 4 in this case) to 400ml water. Real easy to make take your average 600ml water bottle drink/remove about 200ml add paint and shake liberally. Allow the worst/heaviest pigments to settle to the bottom decant what you need to wash the piece of terrain.

You can achieve similar if not better results with oil paints but I'm not well versed with them yet.

Something else I haven't posted here.

Here is a quick tutorial on cheap as can be paper decals for use with terrain.

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Step 1: Print something out and cut it out. I just used google image search and the massive data base of work that is Deviant Art to find images that would be easy to cut out with as many straight line cuts as possible.

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Step 2: Get all your materials in this case we need our decal, some white glue, a little water, a brush and something to apply our decal to. In this case I'm using a retraining wall/crash barrier.

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Step 3: Take 50% white glue and mix it with 50% water. Turn your decal over and carefully apply the glue/water mix to the back (unprinted side) of the decal.

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Step 4: Apply the decal carefully! To your terrain and then slowly flatten it out so no wrinkles exsit. Then take the glue/water mix and apply another coat over the top. Making sure you don't wet the paper to much in one area or catch an edge.

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Step 5: Repeat as need with signs, posters or anything else you might imagine or need.

Now you can call it finished at this point but I strongly suggest you black line the paper edges and seal the terrain with either a paint on varnish or spray on varnish!

I will use a 50% wood varnish & 50% turpentine mix on these then seal then with a matte varnish spray so it matches the rest of my terrain.


My magic wash to weather then a normal spray matte varnish.

Posted by: VisOne Feb 2 2014, 10:24 AM

VisOne's: Making Rocks out of Rocks If the minster of finance has a go at you for this then you're doing something wrong.

Build Time 1
Cost 1
Skill 1
Equipment 1
Painting 1

Yeah .... I use rocks as rocks on my tables go figure


Rocks In my case I walked down the road to the local park with a creek in it. Filled a bucket full of rocks come home; washed said rocks and proceeded to use said rocks. If your paying for rocks ..... you have rocks in your head.

Masonite/MDF Whatever wood or thick card you want to use as a base. I use Masonite as it is more resilient that MDF or card and less likely to warp over time. Thicker is better in this case as you guessed it rocks are heavy!

Basing Materials Sand, gravel or whatever you have used or are going to use on your terrain.


Glue Any white glue PVA is fine and you really can't say no to a hot glue gun when it comes to rocks!

Paint Cheap is good, cheap as you want. You will need a good spray paint!


Stage 1 - Cut out you bases how ever you want. I normally make them round organic shapes.

Stage 2 - Glue rocks to base ensuring you have as much flat surface as you can mange on the base so you have a good bond with the glue, rock and base.

Stage 3 - Add what ever basing material you have being using previously.

Stage 4 - Under coat all the things!

Stage 5 - Base coat and highlight the rocks.

Stage 6 - PROFIT!

Examples of rocks and other misc bits under way.

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Posted by: lemmingspawn Feb 2 2014, 11:28 PM

A suggestion for the foam rocky outcrops - shape them more with a stanley blade, and then attack them with a wire brush to create a better uneven rocky texture. I also mixed up a sort of watery mix of plaster of paris/spakfilla and sand and roughly coated the entire outcrop with that before painting. It creates a much nicer effect with only a little extra work.

You can apply that idea to hills, too.

Then do the rocky sand texture on the base and various flat surfaces down low on the terrain piece. The little extra work is worth the effect.

Here are some I prepared earlier:

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Posted by: VisOne Feb 3 2014, 06:02 AM

QUOTE(lemmingspawn @ Feb 2 2014, 11:28 PM) *

A suggestion for the foam rocky outcrops - shape them more with a stanley blade, and then attack them with a wire brush to create a better uneven rocky texture. I also mixed up a sort of watery mix of plaster of paris/spakfilla and sand and roughly coated the entire outcrop with that before painting. It creates a much nicer effect with only a little extra work.

Funny you mention this I did exactly this on my last build well all of it except the plaster of paris I find its fair to brittle and unforgiving. I use a mix of acrylic water based house paint, PVA glue, fine saw dust and ready made spakfilla.

The paint is just so you know exactly what you have or haven't covered the PVA helps to bind the saw dust if used while still remaining flexible after drying and the spakfilla is the main texture.

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My main thing I think people need to take into account when hitting expanded polystyrene with a wire brush other than how much bloody mess you will make is to cut your foam 2 or 3 times bigger than your final dimensions needed. Because when your distressing it with the brush/ruler/knife it tends to come away at the weakest points which is of course where two of the small ball cells meet. Meaning more may come away then you initially intend to get the desired effect.

Still this is a good way of hiding the obvious texture it tends to have.

Anyway thanks for the feedback Lemmingspawn hopefully this helps someone else as well. wink.gif

Posted by: Stinkingyeti Aug 2 2014, 11:44 PM

Where's more of these?

Posted by: VisOne Sep 28 2016, 10:14 PM

Fixed all the old out of date links in this thread.

I'll add some new little tricks in here over the next few weeks.

Posted by: Lextheimpaler Oct 7 2016, 03:38 PM

This is outstanding

Posted by: VisOne Oct 7 2016, 11:32 PM

QUOTE(Lextheimpaler @ Oct 7 2016, 03:38 PM) *

This is outstanding

Appreciate the kind words mate especially coming from you.

I've got to remember to start documenting my procedures again I want to put a good tutorial up on using Ghost Tints/Candy Colours through an airbrush next.

Posted by: Onyx Oct 22 2016, 11:13 PM

Great work.
Keep it up mate!

Great work.
Keep it up mate!

Posted by: Blackhearts Reaver Oct 23 2016, 01:38 AM

When i am doing rocky out crops I use a butane burner to "seal" the outside layer of the polystyrene (toughens it a bit) and then I broad brush in 50/50 PVA+water and roll on cheap toilet paper (it maches better than nice toilet paper).
then Dab on more 50/50 PVA/water till paper is *stuck on good* TM
then dab on a few second layer bits to cover up any rips/holes. let dry paint and dry brush.

Comes up a treat and is really quite tough and rocky looking.

Posted by: VisOne Nov 13 2016, 04:39 PM

VisOne's: Wastes his time and leaves plastic shavings on the floor Best way to please the house drangon is to clean up after you cut things inside.

Build Time 1
Cost 1
Skill 1
Equipment 1
Painting 1

This is a easy build, cheap and great for you moderns or post apocalyptic games thats for sure.

So in classic Vissy form I brought something for the house. Which I should have known full well would not ######ing Work since my house is a billion years old and kinda what's that word?

Oh yeah sinking!

So instead of using this draft stopper on my door I give you folk's a cheap way to make sweet little Jersey Barriers. While they are not as good as my resin ones you will get about 10 times more terrain for the same cost. So enjoy!!!

All your day to day objects are belong to us! We shall assimilate it and make it into terrain!

The original packaging of the product and what it looks like out of the box.

So lets remove the back rubber stripping and the double sided tape can go to.

Cut it into what ever length you want these are 8" which is especially long compared to the ones you see IRL. To cut it I used my jewelers saw fine teeth to cut plastic works very well.

Glue them together with some PVA or builders adhesive and gap fill if you want? Once its set maybe clean up the edges a bit and you can base if you want. Mine didn't need it as there long and heavy enough at 8" so I left them as is. Then Weather/damage and finally a coat of spray enamel primer and your good to go with a little grey paint me thinks. wink.gif

So paint sticks to them that's always nice too.

A mix of Vallejo Primers and Minitaire Grey's to get that finished product.

Hope you found this useful.

Posted by: VisOne May 15 2017, 01:26 PM

VisOne's: Wipes his feet all over your table.

Build Time1

So recently I ran a tournament and I just need a touch extra scatter terrain to ensure I got some long lanes of fire blocked off. I had brought a cheap mat to use as 'crops' for a Bolt Action table but I always seen then cut up a touch waked on the board and people just go "THIS IS CROPS! ITS LIGHT COVER!!!!" Which is fine but also kind of poopy anyway I have this mat I have some old Film Canisters that I have used to make planters for a city table before 15 mins later this tutorial is born.


1 door mat cheap with a rubber backing is all you ned.

Some sort of container to use as the planter in this case they are old Kodak Film cainster containers.

Something to fill the void/negative space if your container is deep I used instaltion foam.

Some basic measuring and cutting tools.

Clean up your container (I had to cut out a middle divider here) and prime with a good enamel based rattle can primer.

Fill the void/negative space leaving just enough room for your door mat to be slightly hidden by the rim of the container.

Cut your mat to fit snugly in the remaining space.

At this point if your dry run went well seal it all in place and give it a good wash of PVA/Wood glue and water OR just seal with a good varnish.

Here is one of my older finished ones which had a mix of GW Hedgerows and some other random scale model brushes in them next to this new one.

Quick shot of the "film containers" I used and you can see the thick rubber backing which hold the door mat together.

So that is it a quick cheap way to make some scatter terrain. I later added some ground flock over the top of the mat and weathered the planters with some airbrushing and dry brushing but these again take no time and its cheap!

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