Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Generic Rocky Terrain... what I've been making. And thanks to the magic of post-production, this blog post makes it look like I've had an especially productive day, rather than having built it an hour here and an hour there over the last month (and a half) or so:

These were inspired pretty much entirely by a single photo of Mattblackgod's terrain, which kicked off a quest of epic proportions until suitable building materials could be found. Inevitably mine aren't as nice as Mattblackgod's, and various mistakes were made along the way, but they're done now and I present to you this step-by-step of how I made them:

Cork mats are the basic material for this build:

(Admittedly, I had some larger, thinner sheets too, but I forgot to take a picture of them before I started tearing them to shreds).

Keeping a couple of differently sized miniatures to hand at all times (so that you can check scale), mark out a number of interesting rocky shapes on your cork. I drew around miniatures' bases on several of the pieces in areas that I wanted to leave clear so that the pieces would be playable.

Using a combination of rough cuts and tearing by hand to get a nice craggy effect, cut out some chunks of cork (this part is pretty messy, keep a ziploc bag to hand for all the scrap bits that are left over, you never know when they'll come in handy)

Make ever smaller parts so that you can pile them up in some aesthetically appealing combinations (I worked from the bottom up, and often used the previously cut piece as a template for the next so that I could see how they would overlap and stack together). If this were a more professionally done job, I'd talk about how I researched erosion, and how all my pieces are inspired by actual strata occurring in nature, but that would be a lie. Truth be told, I winged it, and had a play, and did what looked right (ignore the triangularly based piece you'll see later, it's the one that really bugs me as after it went together it just didn't look right...)

Once you're happy with what you've got, glue it all together. These clamps (four in a pack from poundland) were an absolute lifesaver, as they meant that I could clamp drying pieces together and carry on with another piece while my enthusiasm was still high, rather than having to sit holding each piece for however long it took for the glue to dry...

And boom, you'll have something that looks like this. I started off making a couple of medium sized pieces, with a mixture of pillars and rough crags, before deciding to make a couple of larger 'hill' pieces, as well as a number of smaller scatter pieces that could either sit atop the larger pieces for a bit of variety, or make an area of rough ground on their own.

Stick them on hard card bases (cut from old signs from work) and you have the beginnings of a terrain collection. In hindsight, I probably didn't need to base them, I think I may have done it out of habit if nothing else...

Now starts the messy fun. As textured spray paint is so ridiculously expensive for how much you get, I tend to make my own. A mixture of cheap black paint, sand and gravel of various grades (what wargamer's toolkit is complete without several baggies of differently sized sand?), as well as some PVA glue and some ready mixed filler to give it some extra hold. Then just liberally slap it on every surface that needs texturising with a brush that you don't mind losing:

I coated the bases and plateaus of every piece, but also used this as a chance to cover up any rough bits that I didn't like the look of.

Once this was all dry, I added a few rough patches using left-over cork crumbs and gravel to simulate rockfall. Blah blah fake research blah I played with it until I was happy.

At this point, I gave everything a spray-coat of watered-down PVA to try and seal everything down. In hindsight, I should have used less watered-down glue, as the larger pieces took this opportunity to warp, despite my best attempts to squash them back into shape by squashing them under my young lady's sewing machine...

Before each of the next stages, I recommend sticking a record on, as they're generally repetitive and a bit tedious (the stages, not the records). Probably not ISHC though, as each side is only about ten minutes long...

Then begins painting (again, a poundland find. It stinks to high heaven, but hey, it's only a pound)

Ignore the Amera craters for now, I'll get to them at some point... Once everything was basecoated grey, I mixed up a batch of the original Liquid Skill, Vallejo Smoke:

We wuz using this before your grandaddy even heard about Devlan Mud sonny Jim... ;)

Douse each piece liberally in the wash, making sure it runs into all the nooks and crannies, and just generally makes it look a bit dirty (kinda like the 'crap water' technique used on the skankgame site)

In the midst of swooshing brown water around the terrain pieces, I noticed a few spots that the grey spray had missed, which I went back over with Adeptus Battlegrey (coincidentally a near-enough match to the cheap spray), as well as reglueing a couple of bits that had come loose (presumably where the coat of PVA hadn't protected it entirely from the wash seeping into some of the gaps...).

Then it was just a case of drybrushing with Codex Grey, Fortress Grey, and Bleached Bone, and we were done! Yes, I realise the folly of painting terrain with OOP paints, but I wanted it to match the basing of my miniatures...

And that's how I made this set of generic terrain that works for pretty much all of my projects:

Science Fictional types (if I ever get round to finishing painting the crashed Aquila Lander from the old Battle for Macragge box set it'll go nicely with these for Firefly search and recover games)

Fantasy type games (I've already started squirreling away materials to build a big old skull rock that will match this terrain set)

As well as the post-apocalyptic uses in the first picture of this post.

And handily (by accident rather than design) they all fit in a large shoebox procured for me by my good lady:



  1. What a great result; top work sir!

  2. Very nice. I really like the spires best. I need to make some of those someday.

  3. I've bookmarked this tutorial for a rainy day. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Great looking stuff. I've done a similar project myself recently, but with styrofoam instead. I think the cork might be faster and more resilient.