Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Trees, a talentless hack's guide.

In the spirit of Christmas (and the beautiful blizzard of frozen doom that it brought the poor residents of New Jersey) I thought I'd post up a few snapshots and a brief how-to guide of just how I go about making bases and bases of little trees for the eventual prettification of vast hordes of 15mm Greyhawkesque soldiery. As always, it's accompanied by pictures. Do the clicking thing to embiggen!

Stuff wot I uses:
Woodland Scenics Fine Turf (yellow grass).
Woodland Scenics Coarse Turf (yellow grass).
Woodland Scenics Soft Flake Snow.
Woodland Scenics PVA (they call it is "Scenic") Glue.
GaleForce Nine Clump Foliage.
Foamboard. Any thickness works but I prefer 4-6mm for stability.
Trees. I forget the brand, but I picked up a buttload of them for about $20 that required assembly.
Old, Coarse Brush (I use an ox hair brush for glue duties).
Acrylic primer and paints.
Excel craft knife.

Step One!
Starting with some ordinary foamboard, I cut rounded shapes of varying sizes to act as bases. Aim to have them big enough for anywhere between three and five trees to fit comfortably.  I them trim the sides to have them slope.  It can help to draw outlines first, but I only very roughly follow the lines I draw anyway.  Once you have some smaller shapes, cut some larger ones to act as bases for two, three or four of the smaller bases, this handily allows you to remove a few of the tree stands to allow units to be better positioned 'inside' the woods while still marking out the shape of the woodlands with the larger base underneath.

Step Two!
Affix a number of trees to your small base. You can do this either with standard superglue or use the PVA. I used PVA as it's slower setting and gives a solid bond to the foamboard. Depending on the trees you use, you may have to drill holes into the foamboard, mine came with bases ready to affix, so I took the easy route and simply glued them right on top.  Once they're in place, apply a liberal primer coat to the whole base, sides and all. I use grey primer for this, simply because white would be too frustrating to keep track of on top of already white foamboard. You can use brown, grey, even black if you prefer. Any neutral colour will work, just try to pick one that won't ruin the topcoat colour you plan to finish with.

Step Three!
Once everything's dry, apply a base coat of the general colour your bases will end up. Deserty bases will be yellow-brown, general grassy bases green, ash wastes grey, etc. Go with your instincts and stick to mid-tones and less bright and vivid colours and you probably won't go too far wrong. Even if you do, then don't worry, just let it dry and drop the tone or outright change it with another colour if you prefer.

Step Four!
Here's where the glue and the enormous messes come into play. It's my personal favorite part of making terrain, too. FLOCK! Take your painted bases and place them on a sheet of flexible card or heavy paper then apply a liberal coat of 50/50 watered down PVA glue. With the entire base (and sides) covered, scatter on flock directly on top of the board. At this point, it's OK to smother the whole base, let a mountain of flock build up, and try to ensure every last inch is utterly covered and entirely buried. Don't worry about it getting in the trees or all over everything else, that's why the paper was there! Put the whole thing aside and let it dry for two to four hours at minimum. Personally, I prefer to leave it overnight.

Step Five! 
Dig out your flocked base and tap the excess flock clear! Blow it a couple times if you have a clear area, but be prepared to have to vaccum afterwards. Tip the flock from the paper back into your containers, card or paper is easy to bend to funnel back nice and neatly, too. A good mantra to keep in mind when using flock is this:  "Apply more than you'll ever need, then whatever's still stuck down after a year will stay for life."  It's true, too - expect to lose flock as you handle them even long after they were done. You can apparently avoid this by applying a layer of spray adhesive after you're done, but I admit I've never tried it myself, so I cannot vouch for it's effectiveness or it's effect on flock and other scenic bits and bobs. If you have used it, please do let me know in the comments! 

Now, if the one coat of flock is good enough for you, then you can quite easily leave your newly finished tree stands to live happily ever after like that. I, however, had other plans!

By repeating step four, I built up different coloured, textured layers of grasses, then affixed some undergrowth using some scenic clump foliage. This gave me a pleasingly interesting base with some details going on between the trees. But still that wasn't enough for me. This is terrain being built specifically to go alongside my Snow/Ice/Frost barbarians from the Armies of Greyhawk project...  "Why should I leave it without any snow?" I thought. Thus came another step four, only this time I also applied glue to the trees and bushes beneath using downward strokes of the brush, trying to hit only the upper facings. Another being buried in flock (this time a beautiful white) and voila! We are finished.

(BOOT NOTE: I'm not sure if many Americans even know what PVA glue is. The two hobby shops I tried gave me blank looks, but the Woodland Scenics "Scenic Glue" that I decided to experiment with is actually PVA-based adhesive. Use it, because it's great. No, I don't work for Woodland Scenics, but their terrain stuff is dirt cheap and kicks ass. I've never used Elmer's Glue, but I've been told that it will probably function in much the same way. If you do know any other glues that are PVA-based, or work the same, put them in the comments!)

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