Sunday, September 29, 2013

How to make terrain mats

Most people who’ve ever played with miniature games during their life will know that pretty minis is one thing; pretty terrain is something else entirely. And those who’ve been playing with terrain will know that often we’re dealing with clunky, cumbersome pieces that aren’t really that easy to transport at all.

So a friend of mine shared a link with me; it led me to a blog where this guy from Germany displayed his project of “terrain mats” - effectively terrain that you can roll up and transport easily.  Something that I just had to try out for myself. I’ve included the link for tribute, but this is mostly my version of his guide and how it went for my first time around.

The concept is rather simple; you produce a mat of terrain that can easily be transported since it’s made of cloth. The usual problem back in the days with such projects was that the flock would easily fall off, leaving you with a painted piece of nothing, unless you soaked it in glue beforehand. But this time we’re trying with a new method, consisting of water, sand, acrylic colors and acrylic paste. If you’ve been dreaming of such an opportunity, do read on and let me share some words of recommendation with you!

Some things to know in advance:

It’s messy like hell: You’re going to mix acrylic paint with water, sand and sticky paste. I had paint all over; the clothes, my hair, the table, the sink, the floor. Even though I’m slightly retarded at that sort of thing, I did try to keep it clean, but you’ll easily get it running everywhere if you’re not careful.  And then there’s the flock, which will definitely make a huge mess of things, especially once you start shaking the loose flock off. You can do this whole procedure outside, but know that it’ll be a bitch to do if it’s windy.
It’s more expensive than you think: Don’t be an idiot like me and buy everything the day before. Do your research.
You’ll need a lot of flock: My mat is about 4x5 feet; it took my entire store of six cans. Better have too much than too little.

Some things to acquire:

- Canvas in whatever size you need. Warhammer Fantasy I 4x6 feet, Warmachine 4x4 feet.
- Acrylic paste (four tubes as a minimum)
- An acrylic paste gun (you’ll need this unless your STR score is insane)
- Some sand
- Acrylic paint in whatever color you want your terrain. I chose brown and yellow.
- Some platform to which you can strap your canvas.
- Flock. Lots of it.
- A day’s worth of time.

Some things I did:

Having bought everything, I placed the canvas on top of an old warhammer board. My mat is a bit too small for Warhammer, I know, but it’s because I want to have some add-ons of various types for it; I saw they’d made shorelines and a lot of other good stuff which I want to try out too.

I attached it with a stapler; an advice I hesitate to pass on unless you have a way to remove them without damaging the canvas. I used some pliers from Game’s Workshop that did the trick nicely. It’s very important that the canvas is held in place, just don’t stretch it too much.

I then mixed up the magic stuff in an old coke bottle; sand, acrylic paste and paint along with water. It’s nice and messy which is why I recommend wearing some kind of gloves. It looks like shit, literally, and you need to make sure it’s sticky before you apply it on the mat.

Then I made a road. Keep in mind that if you do this outside, it will dry up a lot faster. Better make the layers a bit thicker than thinner, since this will make it stick better.

Repeating the same stuff with the yellow color.

Then flock that shit. Go crazy with grass, rock, earth, whatever you desire. It makes a good effect if you mix some of it, rather than having separate puddles of flock around.

And then on to the other side. I mainly used the GW green grass, glade grass, sand, ash grey and spring flower grass.

Time for patience. Tobias writes that you need some hours to let it dry; I let it have all night outside since I’d rather err on the side of caution, so this morning I could easily drag it inside and remove the staples. Then I lifted up in both ends, shook it a bit and funneled the loose flock into a small container. This is great, because you can reuse it.

Then I left it to hang and started beating it up. Kick, punch, bite and dragon shout it to get as much loose flock off as possible. Some will fall off no matter what, but in general it sticks really well.

You can theoretically stop it there, but if you want to go one step beyond I recommend sitting down with some glue and applying flock to all the areas that seem too bare. Also, if you have any static grass, flowers of the like, now is the time to apply it.

Once done, kick it a bit more and you’ll have your very own rollable terrain ready to go. I’m very satisfied with it, to be honest, and look forward to try it out in a different landscape next.

Kudos and respect to Tobi’s Paint who originally had the idea: and Scatterbrainedwargamer for presenting me the article!

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