Thursday, September 15, 2016

Ice Ice Baby! (building Frostgrave terrain part two)

Back again! :)

In this post we will continue with our Frostgrave terrain making extravaganza!

Previously we had got to the stage of firing up the hot wire cutter and got stuck into some polystyrene foam to produce our first ruined wall section. We had sculpted in the detail and glued the foam wall to a piece of MDF.

While you were away I got a bit carried away with the wire cutter and this is what I produced...

Virtually all this terrain was built employing the same basic process we covered in part one. However there are a couple more tips you can use to add further complexity to the pieces. 

Some of my pieces have a second floor, or form right angles like the corner of some ruined building. To do this you will need to join pieces of polystyrene foam together. For this I normally use PVA glue or Liquid nails as before, but the most important addition is toothpicks. You take a standard toothpick (the slightly thicker type with a point at each end) and snap it in half. You now push the toothpick pointy end first into the foam to "pin" the two pieces together. I normally use several on each join. Once the toothpick is in the foam, use a tool like the reverse end of a pencil to push the end of the bit of toothpick still sticking out further into the foam to hide it.

Adding the toothpicks adds strength to the join and enables you to continue modelling without having to wait for the glue to dry.

Now we can move onto the next steps: applying texture to the base, painting, and finally applying the snow flock.

MDF is a wonderful material to use in your terrain making projects. Its quite cheap and easy to work with. However it can have some issues that you need to be aware of. The 3mm thick MDF board is very prone to warping when painted. I have had many terrain project ruined by the wood warping after applying PVA glue or paint.

So I have always been on the lookout for a texture medium that could be applied safely to MDF. The answer was... acrylic window caulking. This material is the wargamer's wonderstuff! You can use it for so many things. It is acrylic, so can be painted, or easily mixes with acrylic paints to make different colours. It is flexible (you can make excellent flexible roads with it) and because it's designed for sealing house windows it doesn't shrink. Because it doesn't shrink it won't cause the MDF board to warp.

For my texturing mix I take an old container (old ice cream tubs are good for this) and squeeze out a tube of caulking. I would normally use a brown coloured caulking but you can add acrylic craft paints to the mix to get the desired colour. I add a handful of fine sand and then some larger grit that I bought from a hobby store that sells model Railway terrain. Wooland Scenics is the brand and the product is called railway ballast. I then add a little water to make the mix a little bit more runny and to help with the mixing.  You can now apply this mixture to the base of your ruined wall section completely covering the MDF. You will now need to leave the mix to dry overnight.

A nice detail to add to your pieces is rubble. Earlier we used the left over pieces of foam to make larger pieces of rubble, but to make some general smaller rubble I use some cheap kitty litter. I mix some kitty litter with the texture paste and apply it next to the walls to simulate smaller rubble. This can then be handed painted grey after it's dry.

It's now time to paint our foam ruins. Now for painting all my terrain projects I use cheap acrylic artist paints. Sometimes, if I want to cover a very large area, I will go and get a cheap tin of acrylic paint from the hardware store tinted to the colour I need. To cover these ruins I would use this approach as we have a lot of ruins to paint!

The other option is to use spray paint. Spray painting polystyrene foam is a great way to destroy your foam! The solvents in spray paint will dissolve foam. Remember the acid eating through the floor scene in the film Aliens? That was done with polystyrene foam and acetone!

However I have recently come across a new spray paint that uses alcohol derived from sugarcane as the solvent. This paint does not dissolve the foam. In Australia the brand I found is called "Sugar". Google "Sugar spray paint" and you should find it. Not sure about an overseas supplier but some Google Fu may find a similar product. The colour range is pretty good and luckily they had both a darker and lighter shade of grey for my ruins.

If you are going to spray your foam I would apply the texture mix after spraying the foam otherwise it will also end up grey.

A gave all the foam a solid coating of dark grey and then after this was dry a light dusting with the light grey. If you are painting by hand I would start with a dark grey and then progressively lighten the stone work with dry brushing with lighter grey shades.

You can see the kitty litter rubble in this picture.

So after all this work we will have a series of nicely painted and textured terrain pieces ready for gaming. But wait! This is Frostgrave, and what do we need for Frostgrave? Snow of course!

The snow I use is made by Woodland Scenics and comes in one litre jars. It is not very expensive (it's amazing how much wargame companies charge for a small bit of snow flock!) , maybe $20-25 per jar which is just as well because we will use a lot of it!

The first thing I do when applying the snow is to make the snow drifts. These are the piles of snow that accumulate next to walls,on ledges, and in the corners of ruins. The snow needs to be thicker in these areas so I make up a paste consisting of undiluted PVA glue, white acrylic paint and the snow flock. You can add a little water to aid with the mixing. You want a mix that is the consistency of thick porridge. You can now apply this to the terrain pieces with an icy pole stick and then leave it to dry overnight. It will shrink a little once dry, but you can always add more to get the look you want.

We now reach the final step and this will take the longest time to finish. You need to buy a cheap spray water bottle (Cheap because you are probably going to ruin it when you're finished!) and then make up a dilute PVA/ water mix. It needs to be the consistency of thin milk. Spray your entire terrain piece. Really saturate the base area. Now sprinkle snow flock over the entire piece. Leave it for half an hour and then tap off the excess snow. Collect this snow to reuse. You now need to leave the piece to dry (normally overnight). 

The next day repeat the whole process but this time mainly concentrating on the base area. Keep repeating until you are satisfied with the final look. This may take several days. To finish give the whole piece one final coat of the PVA mix to seal the model.

After you are finished on each day, give your spray bottle a good rinse out with water and spray lots of water through the nozzle otherwise the glue will dry and block the nozzle.

So there you have it! Following this process you will quickly produce a great set of cheap Frostgrave terrain. You could easily use the same technique for Stalingrad ruins for WWII gaming or futuristic gothic terrain for 40K or Warmachine.

One final tip before I go. Woodland Scenics make a product called water effects. It's a thick white paste that you can apply using an old brush and with the brush you can tease out peaks to represent icicles. When dry the water effects dries clear and you have some cool looking icicles.

See you soon for the final chapter!

Bye for now.

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