Monday, September 14, 2020

Making 28mm Forest terrain Part Three


In this post we wrap the three part saga on creating forest terrain, and see how it all came together. 

Part one can be viewed HERE

Part two can be viewed HERE

But first, an exciting discussion on the correct height of trees.

Getting the CORRECT Height of Trees is Crucial to Wargaming

No, not really.  Doesn't really matter at all and is a matter of personal taste.  Whatever looks right to you or me.  This is just my take.

My wargames based on land where trees are most likely to be found (versus the ocean) is done in 2 sizes; 15/18mm and 25/28mm, which means I want trees to be compatible with those.

Unless you are making trees from scratch (some folks are mad enough to attempt this) you are buying trees or tree making kits from somewhere.  In the not long ago, I liked using Woodland Scenic pre-made tree packs because they are easy if not a little bit samey (but more on that later) which come in useful sizes for my wargames; 1-3", 3-5", and 5-7".   let's look closer:

From left to right:
3" tree, 18mm ACW miniatures, 5" tree, 28mm AWI miniatures, 7" tree

From the picture above, you can see that all the trees are pretty much compatible with the figures. 
pretty much; but not 100%.  The 3" tree is a little small for the 28mm figures.   It's usable, but doesn't look like a tree you would find in a forest, more like the trees you would find in a new housing development or in the middle of a road island.  The 7" tree is too big for the 18mm, though is probably closer to being in actual scale from a human to a tall tree.  But it just looks weird, unless you're explicitly playing a wargame in the Redwood Sequoias.  Probably a game called "Squirrel Wars."  

From left to right:
3" tree, 15mm building, 5" tree, 28mm building, 7" tree

However you don't want to forget about buildings.  Battlefields will have often have buildings as well as forest areas.  Least all the cool ones do.  ME. myself, and in my own opinion" I like it when the trees are as tall or taller than the houses.  That looks right to me.  Again, the 3" tree doesn't match the 28mm house; it's too 'full' or mature to be that small compared to the house.  And again, the 7" tree is way too big for the 15mm house.  It towers so high above it that the two look kinda silly together.  

Ground scale is always out of wack in miniature war games, and that's alright, we're not building model railroad tables.  But I think it helps if things aren't too out of wack, or at least as close to being in scale as able.  Which means that I like to avoid those extremes on either side of the spectrum as illustrated.

All of That, Just to Say:

3" trees are too short for 28mm, 7" trees are too tall for 18mm, 5" trees are just right and fit both pretty well.  But since I want some variation in heights of the trees because it is pleasing to the eye, I get the whole spectrum.  3-5" for 18mm, and 5-7" for 28mm.  
I know that's not very interesting.  I was kinda bored halfway through writing it.  But it took effort and time to write and take the pictures.  So there it remains. Sorry I tricked you. 

Trees for the Forest; Think like a Tree, Be the Tree

I'm gonna need a lot more trees.  WHY do we always need more trees?!  I already have a bunch of 3-5" and a few 7-9" trees.  And because I am a glutton for punishment, I decided that I wanted to make them as pretty as possible.  Because the whole point of this forest project is threading that needle between pretty and functional.  As I was saying before, you can buy premade trees.  I have PLENTY of these that are made with clump foliage.  These look fine, but altogether a little too neat and factory uniform.  I thought that with a little more effort I could make trees more leafy and unique.  I could of just bought more expensive prettier trees but where's the fun in that?  

 I watched some videos online on making trees and found a method that produced good results and was easy enough to try...

I got a bag or two (or three) of the tree armatures.
Notice that they're 5-7".

How one looks out of the package.

Shape the tree trunk and branches.  Snip off branches and twist the truck to get a suitable tree shape.
I found through experimentation that cutting off about 1/3 to 1/2 of the branches makes a nice shape.
Also, to twist the tree trunk you'll need two pairs of pliers, one to hold the trunk at the bottom
and one to grip and twist.  Unless you have fingers like vices from hard labor.
Mine are soft and delicate from playing with dolls.

After you twist it, give the truck and branches a quick heavy dry brush of light grey or tan.
It actually really helps with the appearance.

Bases for individual trees.

As discussed in the last part, some trees are gonna be based on larger terrain bases and some are gonna be based individually.  For the individual trees, I glue the tree base to a metal washer and use concrete patch for the ground texture (I use the same on my miniatures, because it's heavy like concrete).  This will make the tree bottom heavy and more stable.  Paint it up and add some details as you wish.  

To create the canopy of leaves I'm gonna be using this stuff called Poly Fiber.  It's kinda like pillow stuffing but not. Take little pinches of the stuff and pull it in all directions to get light fluffy irregular shapes of varying sizes.  "Wispy" would be the word to shoot for.  

When you have enough for the tree, simply glue them onto the tree branches where you like..

Like so.  starting to look like a tree now.

Most of the videos I watched on this technique used Hobb-e-Tac to glue the poly fiber to the branches.  But I know from previous experience that  sucks hard.  So I just used white glue.  

HINDSIGHT TIP: I'm actually showing the 6th or so tree I've made and I've picked up some lessons along the way:
When it comes to amount of poly fiber to put on the tree, LESS is MORE but there is such a thing as TOO LITTLE.  Basically this stuff will form the foundation of the leaves and there is a "just right" amount.   If the poly fiber is dense then the leaves will look really dense.  What looks better is when you can kinda see the branches through the leaves. It took me some experimentation / trail and error to nail down. 

When the glue is dry it's on the next step; more glue!  I should invest money in glue stock, seems like everyone needs it.  This next step really brings the tree to life...

Use a spray glue, gently spray the poly fiber to cover it.  I used a glue from an aerosol can because it's what I had, but a glue in a pump spray would probably work a better. 

I couldn't show this next step because I needed both my hands; but take some flock like course turf or what ever you think will look good, I've been using a variety just to experiment as will be seen later, and then SPRINKLE it over the poly fiber.  Try to avoid the tree truck.  What will happen is that the tiny bits of flock will get stuck in the poly fiber and the whole thing will start to look a lot like leaves.  

HINDSIGHT TIP: I do mean sprinkle.  Like when you take a pinch of cinnamon and sprinkle it over a delicate pastry (we all do that right?).  "Drizzle" might be a better word.   If you use a shaker it'll go on to heavy and loose some of the cool effect.  Truussst me. 

At the end, it comes out looking like this:

It's Tree-riffic!

Put It All Together to Make a Forest

Was this all worth the effort?  I dunno, but one gots to do something beside watch TV after the kids go to bed. Let's put the bases and trees together and see how it all turned out.

B to the T to the W: I didn't show flocking the terrain bases.  I figured most folks already have a handle on that (put down glue, put down flock, voila), and the colors and styles are all personal tastes and what someone has available. 

Smaller base #1

Smaller base #2

Both together, with some random 28mm Shepard looking dude, just for scale.

I'm thinking they came out pretty good.  I guess these can be used on their own to line a road or something, but the plan was to place these on the larger base as a way to add more character to it.
Speaking of the larger base...

The larger 10ish by 11ish base.
With some of the individually based trees I made.

Proof of Concept

Smaller base on the larger...

I do like the look of the smaller base on the larger.  I'm not sure how to describe it, but the smaller base with all the crap  extra details on it  helps to break up the flatness of the larger base.   Not sure it is really necessary though but what is in this silly hobby? 

More importantly, I think it looks pretty and should be functional since I can take off most of the stuff to make room for miniatures.  I'll call it a successful experiment. 

Top down look.

Final thoughts: While I called this a tutorial, everything I did I copied from something or someone else I saw on the internet, who did it better.  I really have two goals in doing this project;  the first is to get some cool terrain for my tables (obviously).  The other is just to add to the body of knowledge that is already out there and provide some encouragement to try it out.  So if you liked the way these came out and want to give it try, you should go for it.  

Hope you enjoyed this series of posts.  Now I have to decide if I am gonna do the rest of the forest bases or get back to painting miniatures.  

Thanks for reading.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Making 28mm Forest Terrain Tutorial Part 2



I seem to be getting in some extra hobby time lately, always welcomed.  It's because the kids are now back on a school schedule and go to bed at a reasonable time (not that anyone is actually going to school, its distance learning).  It's like the whole evening suddenly opens up! 

Let's continue on with making some forest terrain and pretending like I know what I am doing..

Part one can be seen HERE

This is where we left off from Part 1.

Instead of doing all the bases that I just made at once, I'm gonna focus on making 2 small and 1 large one.  As a way of testing the concept of what I am trying to do, and if I mess it all up somehow, then all is not lost.  But let's be optimistic.  

Getting Gritty with It

I got my bases of hard board, and on the smaller bases I've glues some pieces of hard board cut offs to create some undulations.  Undulations is a sexy word when said right.  
On these smaller pieces, I also want the trees affixed to the base, so I glued down some tree bases from my Woodland Scenic Tree Armatures, making sure to glue these far enough apart to leave room for the tree branches.  More about trees in a future post.  Are you shaking like a leaf, but with excitement? 

Then to smooth out the undulations (see, told ya) I took some Wall Filler / Spackle  and applied it to the sides.  

Everyone likes smooth unnnndulations.
Bonus footage of my PJs at the bottom of the picture.
While the spackle dries paint a miniature or something.

Now it's time to cover the bases with a texture.  This will make a mess, so can done outside or at least on something to catch all the materials.  I used the top of a cardboard box.  Because going outside is for suckers and daredevils, which I am not.  

I'm gonna use a texture mix because I think that will work well.  The mix is abooouut a 50/50 blend of fine grit / ballast and decaf coffee grounds.   I learned awhile ago that coffee grounds make great base texture, so I just get a tin of the cheap decaf coffee.  No one should be drinking cheap decaf coffee anyway.

I got this Huuuge 1/2 gallon tub of  "#50 blended ballast" from Scenic Express.  It's probably more than I need, but I have no concept of volume.  

Pretty simple process, spread glue all over the base and then dump the mix on top, pat lightly.

Don't get glue on the tree bases

Here's the 3 bases all covered with texture mix.
Looks a little like wet beach sand.
Let this all dry before fussing with it.

Rock On

Some rock outcroppings are a fitting little detail to forest terrain so I decided to play around with some stuff that I've had for years and years.

This was a Christmas gift from I don't know how long ago.

It was easy to mix up a little cup of plaster and cast the mold.  I still have plaster supplies left over from my Lord of the Rings Terrain projects.  I picked my favorites and glued them to parts of the forest bases, and began adding littler pieces of ballast around them.  

I added even smaller ballast after these pictures.  just forgot to document it.

HINDSIGHT TIP: It probably would of been better to glue the rock outcropping to the base BEFORE putting on the texture mix, that way the rocks would be one step closer to appearing like they are coming out of the ground rather than sitting on top.  Oh well.  maybe next time.  

Dry Brushing Should be Easier

When everything is dry, prime with black (not pictured, it's be boring to look at) and then paint things up.  Base coats and dry brushes.  

Bases all painted up.
I added some Woodland Scenics 'Deadfall' to look fallen logs, which of course are just sticks.
One could go outside and just get sticks from the ground I suppose,
but I'm not an outside person as discussed.

Standard stuff:
Bases painted brown with lighter brown and whites dry brushed on top.
Rocks painted dark grey, with lighter gray and white dry brushed on top. 

There are some obvious parts where I messed it up.  I always seem to mess up dry brushing.  Some of the und---ulations were not as smooth and supple as I thought.  But no matter!  Any mess up too egregious can and will be covered up with flock.  Lots and lots of flock.  

Flock and trees in the next installment, in our tree-part saga (get it??!!  Tree part instead of Three part!  OK, I guess that not punny).  This is a shorter post than my usual, but this stage of the project seems like a nice place for a chapter break. 

Thanks for reading and commenting.  I hope you are finding these entertaining and/or informative.  

EDIT: Part Three can be found HERE