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Build Bocage, Buddy (Part II)

Part one of this bocage making tutorial is located here. In this part, we’re going to be working on foliage.

Here are the materials you’ll need:

  • Your banks from Part I.
  • Generic air filter material. I got mine at Lowe’s. It won’t have a cardboard border, or anything fancy like that, on it.
  • Scissors
  • Fingers
  • Big piece of cardboard or posterboard
  • Brown spraypaint.
  • Tan spraypaint.
  • A garage.
  • Hot glue gun (and hot glue). Other glues may work, but I like the hot stuff because it’s super quick.
  • Spray bottle. I have a Woodland Scenics one, but an old window cleaner bottle would probably work just as well.
  • Warm water/white glue (70/30)
  • Coarse flock. At least two colors.
  • Fine flock (only for the discriminating terrain maker)
  • Box-o-flock
  • A back porch.
Ye olde generic air filter material. Notice the blobby little bits on the face of the material? I think this stuff is cut with heat, somehow (laser? heated saw?), and this melts/cauterizes the faces. This makes the faces a bit more structurally rigid, which you can use to your advantage.

Ye olde generic air filter material. Notice the blobby little bits on the face of the material? I think this stuff is cut with heat, somehow (laser? heated saw?), and this melts/cauterizes the faces. This makes the faces a bit more structurally rigid, which you can use to your advantage. I think this cost me +/- $6 at Lowe’s.

Cut a strip roughly the same size as the base the foilage will belong to.

Cut a strip roughly the same size as the base the foilage will belong to.

Give it some shape with your scissors. Eliminate all right angle edges.

Give it some shape with your scissors. Eliminate all right angle edges.

I think the air filter material works best with the cauterized nodules at the top and bottom of the filter mass. It withstands the weight of glue and flock better than the alternate orientation, which tends to lead to a 'scooped out' look to the top. In any case, it's time to use your hands. Tear, tease, rip, and otherwise cajole the air filter material into a vaguely hedge shaped 'cloud'. Test fit, and trim, tease, rip, and cajole until you're happy.

Time to use your hands. Tear, tease, rip, and otherwise cajole the air filter material into a vaguely hedge shaped ‘cloud’. Test fit, and trim, tease, rip, and cajole until you’re happy.

More foliage clouds.

More foliage cloud test fits. DON’T GLUE THEM DOWN YET.

Get some paint. The brown will be the primary color. The tan will be used for highlighting. This stuff doesn't need to be very high quality. It's more about quantity, really.

Get some paint. The brown will be the primary color. The tan will be used for highlighting. This stuff doesn’t need to be very high quality. It’s more about quantity, really.

This lovely photo is of a bunch of foilage pieces painted brown. You'll need to do this somewhere protected from the wind, as the filter material is extremely light. Which means a garage, most likely. Get a big piece of cardboard and a tarp to protect the floor.

This lovely photo is of a bunch of foilage pieces painted brown. You’ll need to do this somewhere protected from the wind, as the filter material is extremely light. Which means a garage, most likely. Get a big piece of cardboard and a tarp to protect the floor. Air filter material will take a LOT of spray paint to get good coverage. Expect to do multiple coats. Yes, I hate it too. Suck it up, buttercup.

Brown, oh brown. This is after three coats and an overnight drying. You can still see a bit of blue. Not a biggie. Proceed. Get your hot glue gun, and, working quickly apply it to the toothpicks. pull the foliage down on the toothpicks, snug with the tops of the dirt banks. If you're having trouble getting everything done on time, you can go one toothpick at a time with your hot glue gun, and sort of 'roll' the foliage on, until you're up to speed. Clean up the inevitable glue spiderwebs, then go back to the garage, this time with your tan paint.

Brown, oh brown. This is after three coats and an overnight drying. You can still see a bit of blue. Not a biggie. Proceed. Get your hot glue gun, and, working quickly apply it to the toothpicks. pull the foliage down on the toothpicks, snug with the tops of the dirt banks. If you’re having trouble getting everything done in good time, you can go one toothpick at a time with your hot glue gun, and sort of ‘roll’ the foliage on, until you’re up to speed. Clean up the inevitable glue spiderwebs, then go back to the garage, this time with your tan paint.

Lightly dust the tops of your bocage with the tan paint. This is just to give it some volume and light effects. Don't worry about your banks, it won't hurt them a bit. The figures are just for scale reference-don't paint them tan!

Lightly dust the tops of your bocage with the tan paint. This is just to give it some volume and light effects. Don’t worry about your banks, it won’t hurt them a bit. The figures are just for scale reference-don’t paint them tan!

Now on to the fun part. Mix together various colors of coarse turf together in a good sized box. I like burnt grass and medium green. Maybe add in some fine turf, too. Maybe a little yellow grass color. You get the point-mix up flock until you have a nice complicated mix of colors. DON’T USE A SINGLE COLOR. Please.

Grab your big piece of cardboard you used to paint on, your bocage-to-be, your box-o-flock, your spray bottle of water and glue (I like 70/30 using warm water. Seems to mix better), and go somewhere somewhat protected from the wind and where you won’t get in trouble making a mess. I like the back porch, myself.

Hold the bocage upside down over your big piece of cardboard and spray the heck out of it with your glue mix. You’ll probably get some drops on the bank. That’s not a bad thing. Maybe shake the bocage piece a couple of times, and then transfer it over to your box of flock. Guess what’s next? Yes, apply flock to the foliage. I tend to scoop it up and ‘pat’ it on to the filter material, in an effort to control how much drops onto the banks, but it’s not a big deal if some does get on the banks. You can scrape it off later, or leave it (which actually looks pretty good).

Let it dry, and then do any cleanup to banks, gates, ground, or whatever. Spray it again to help lock down the flock. Dry. Spray it a third time. Maybe spray it with a nice smelling hairspray after the glue fully dries for a third time. Realize that the bocage is STILL going to shed a bit of flock, and learn to accept it.

What? You expected me to get my camera out when a bunch of liquid glue and flock is flying through the air?! Phhhttt.

Kidding. Sorry about the lack of pictures of the flock step. If it’s confusing, please let me know and I’ll try to clarify.

Anyway, looks like this:

photo 1 photo 2 takingposition onthemove moveit leader combatphotography thefarmPlease excuse the ugly house and 15mm scaled rock walls. I need MANY more feet of bocage. I’m thinking around 30′ for a 6×4 table. I need to make corner pieces, as well. And more gates.

The pictures are from a test game of Chain of Command I played with a friend yesterday. Lots of moving parts to keep track of. But fun!

 

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Build Bocage, Buddy! (Part I)

Prompted by the acknowledgement that I have an alarming tendency to forget how I did things, I thought it might be a good idea to put together a quick photo tutorial on how I make bocage for 1/72 scale gaming.

A sample of the finished product...

A sample of the finished product…

Closeup

Closeup

What I’m doing here is largely built on methods from Ad Machina Wargaming and Tim’s Toys. Both sites are well worth perusing!

Stuff You’ll Need

  1. Dense extruded polystyrene rigid insulation, 3/4″ thickness minimum (other sizes are available and suitable for other scales). They’ll have this stuff at the local DIY shop in 4×8 sheets. Bring a box cutter when you go shopping, so you can get it into the car.
  2. Sheet plastic for bases. Cut into 2″x6″ strips, if you want to follow along faithfully. Get plastic of a decent thickness. This stuff is available from multiple sources-you can even resort to Amazon, if you wish.
  3. A sharp blade. I use an X-acto knife. A scalpel would work well, too.
  4. A cheapo plastic sculpting tool. Or something similar. A tongue depressor or piece of plastic might work.
  5. Toothpicks. Round. Sharp. Cheap.
  6. Sandpaper. Some sort of medium-light grit, although it’s not really critical.
  7. White glue (other glues may interact with the insulation in extremely unhealthy ways)
  8. Wood Filler. Get it at the DIY shop, and try to find some with a tan or brown tint.
  9. Cheap craft paints (available at craft stores and Wal-mart) of the following flavors:
    1. Burnt Umber
    2. Burnt Sienna
    3. Yellow Ochre
    4. Coffee latte
    5. Linen

 

Here's the basic construction of the earthen bank. A shaped piece of 3/4" extruded polystyrene insulation by DOW. I make the shape with an X-acto knife, and then do a quick sanding to get rid of the angular edges left by carving with the knife. The foam is mounted to polystyrene card, and glued with white glue. Let dry overnight.

Here’s the basic construction of the earthen bank. The bank is a hand-formed piece of 3/4″ extruded polystyrene insulation by DOW. I make the shape with an X-acto knife, and then do a quick sanding (caution-breathing foam insulation probably isn’t good for you) to get rid of the angular edges left by carving with the knife. The foam is mounted to a 6″x2″ bit of polystyrene card. You could, and probably should, use other sizes and shapes, too, but 6×2 makes a nice basic straight section. I like to round and sand the edges of the plastic card, but it’s not necessary. Attach the foam to plastic with white glue.

These wooden sticks are toothpicks that have been cut in half, and inserted into the foam. They will serve as the structure for the foilage that goes on top of the earthen bank. I glop on some white glue to hold them in place. Vary the height of the toothpicks, either by cutting them to different lengths, or controlling the depth to which they are stuck into the foam.

These wooden sticks are toothpicks that have been cut in half, and inserted into the foam. You can see some of their impaling-ready brethren in the background.  The toothpicks will serve as the structure for the foilage that goes on top of the earthen bank. I glop on some white glue to hold them in place. Vary the height of the toothpicks, either by cutting them to different lengths, or controlling the depth to which they are stuck into the foam. Three toothpicks are enough for a piece this size, two are not enough, four is a little crazy, and five is nothing less than negligently wasteful! Let the whole concoction dry overnight.

I somehow completely forgot to take photos of the next part of the process, which is to slather tan colored wood filler onto the foam/plastic card construction, feathering it to create a slope from the piece of foam down onto the base. Wood filler has a nice texture all on its own, and is fairly easy to work. This is the filler I use-you can get a big tub of it fairly cheap and with a tan tint. If you let it dry for 24 hours it will cure to a very hard and durable finish.

This is the wood filler I use

I’ll take process pictures and update this post when I do my next batch of shrubberies.

The base coat consists of cheapo craft acrylic paint ($1 at Walmart) mixed with white glue at a ration of 70/30, or thereabouts. This gives a nice tough base layer. Paint the toothpicks, too, so that they're nice and dark. This way they'll be nigh-invisible when the foliage is added.

The base coat consists of cheapo burnt-umber craft acrylic paint ($1 at Walmart) mixed with white glue at a ration of 70/30, or thereabouts. This gives a nice tough base layer. Paint the toothpicks, too, so that they’re nice and dark. This way they’ll be nigh-invisible when the foliage is added. The glue/paint mixture will take some hours to dry-leaving it overnight would be a good idea.

Next is a fairly heavy coat of cheapo burnt sienna., because there's a lot of red in dirt! I put this on in  a dry-brushy kind of way, but I don't take anywhere near as much paint of the brush as you should when doing traditional drybrushing.

Next is a fairly heavy coat of cheapo burnt sienna, because there’s a lot of red in dirt! I think this bottle was $0.67. The burnt sienna is applied in a dry-brushy kind of way, but I don’t take anywhere near as much paint off the brush as I would for traditional drybrushing.

You could probably skip the yellow ochre, but it does give a nice tint to the end product. This paint is applied with a mediumish amount of drybrushing. It will look super bright, at first, but don't worry-it tones down as it dries. The paint in the picture isn't cheap, but you should be able to find craft paints of the same color.

You could probably skip the yellow ochre, but it does give a nice tint to the end product. This paint is applied with a mediumish amount of drybrushing. It will look super bright, at first, but don’t worry-it tones down as it dries. The paint in the picture isn’t particularly cheap, but you should be able to find craft paints of the same color that do just as well for this application.

Now I use this deliciously named color (coffee-latte), and apply another heavy drybrush over the previous coats. You could probably end your investment in the dirt painting business here, if you're pressed for time. Coffee-latte is a dark tan, just this side of medium brown. That should help.

Now I use the deliciously named color, coffee latte, and apply another heavy drybrush over the previous coats. You could probably end your investment in the dirt painting business here, if you’re pressed for time. If you can’t find this particular color, Coffee-latte is a dark tan, just this side of medium brown. Anything similar should work. In fact, if you find a better shade, let me know!

Finally, do a light drybrush of a light tan color. This one is called "Linen," and it's somewhat close to Vallejo's Iraqi Sand. When I say 'light" drybrush, remember we're painting terrain here, not some twelve dollar 32mm miniature. Do it quick and don't sweat if it's a little heavy (or light).

Finally, do a light drybrush of a light tan color. The one I’ve selected is called “Linen,” and it’s somewhat close to Vallejo’s Iraqi Sand. When I say ‘light” drybrush, remember we’re painting terrain here, not some twelve dollar 32mm miniature. Do it quick and don’t sweat if it’s a little heavy (or light). This particular piece of bocage is supposed to represent a penetration by a tank outfitted with Cullen Cutters, or maybe a bulldozer blade. The idea is that the tank busting through has revealed the rubble core that exists at the center of bocage. I probably need to make it more gnarly looking. The track marks were made with a piece of 1/72 halftrack track-the wood filler material washes off easily, before it’s cured, so no worries about messing up a model kit. The stones are kitty litter painted with a mixture of grey and some of the same colors I used in painting the earthen banks. Mixing the grey with the various browns, reds, tans, and whatever makes the stones fit with the general tones of the dirt. If you paint them straight grey they’re going to look crazy out of place. Mixing greys with browns is also the key to getting good ‘campaign’ greys on Confederates, but that’s a digression I won’t pursue further.

Ok, that’s it for the dirt painting. I’m going to do some experiments, but I think one could totally eliminate the burnt sienna and yellow ochre from this mix, and still have good looking dirt. It would save a bit of time and money, too.

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Update!

 

Three different color combinations....

Three different color combinations….

Here are the results of my painting experiments.

The nearest bank contains the whole panoply of colors

  • Burnt umber
  • burnt sienna
  • yellow ochre
  • coffee latte
  • linen.

The middle bank eliminates the yellow ochre step.

  • Burnt umber
  • burnt sienna
  • coffee latte
  • linen.

The far bank is a simple three color process.

  • Burnt umber
  • coffee latte
  • linen.

I think the full range of colors looks the most naturalistic, but it does add significant time and effort to the process. The three color process looks the worst (but still looks pretty good!), and truth is, most of the bank is going to be covered by flocking and/or foliage, anyway. The full color process could be considered as wasted effort. One strategy would be to use the simple three color process for the majority of your bocage, and reserve the full process for areas where lots of ground is revealed, such as gates, trails, cullen penetrations, and other ‘cuts’ through the bocage.

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Flocking Together

I was going to handle flocking the bases in another post, but then I thought it made sense to cover all the ground work together, so here it is.

List of materials needed:

  1. Cookie tin
  2. A good mixture of various colors of flock. I use Woodland Scenics fine turf for this. DON’T USE A SINGLE COLOR OF FLOCKING. Please.
  3. White glue
  4. Water. I prefer Fiji bottled water.
  5. Just kidding.
  6. A big old brush.
  7. Spray can of matte varnish.
This is messy. Get theeself a cookie tin, piece of tupperware, or other suitable container, and fill it with a goodly amount of your flock mixture. Mix up some white glue with water (I like a 70/30 mix) and dob it in an artistic-like manner all over your bocage. The top should have less flock on it, because it would be shaded by foliage above, but don't stress about it too much. Drop, scatter, smush, and otherwise apply the flock mixture to the bank, until you're satisfied with how it looks. Then repeat!

This is messy. Get theeself a cookie tin, piece of tupperware, or other suitable container, and fill it with a goodly amount of your flock mixture. Mix up some white glue with water (I like a 70/30 mix) and dob it in an artistic-like manner all over your bocage. The top should have less flock on it, because it would be shaded by foliage above, but don’t stress about it too much. Drop, scatter, smush, and otherwise apply the flock mixture to the bank, until you’re satisfied with how it looks. Then repeat!

Here are several feet of bocage all flocked and drying. Leave your work to dry overnight, and the next day turn your pieces upside down over your cookie tin of flock, and tap to knock off the excess material and preserve it for another day. Put your banks in a box, or other container, take it outside, and give the whole mess a good spraying with matte finish. Please don't waste good Dullcote on this. The big (relatively) cheap spray cans from the local DIY shop will do just fine. The matte spray will help fix the flocking to the banks and reduce shedding.

Here are several feet of bocage all flocked and drying. Leave your work to dry overnight, and the next day turn your pieces upside down over your cookie tin of flock, and tap to knock off the excess material and preserve it for another day. Put your banks in a box, or other container, take it outside, and give the whole mess a good spraying with matte finish. Please don’t waste good Dullcote on this. The big (relatively) cheap spray cans from the local DIY shop will do just fine. The matte spray will help fix the flocking to the banks and reduce shedding.

Foliage coming up!

Foliage coming up!

You can take the bocage banks to another level by adding static grass, clump foliage, flowers, leaf scatter, and other goodies to your heart’s content. I’m trying to get ready for a Normandy anniversary game of Chain of Command, and only have a few days left, so this is as far as I’m taking the banks for the moment. Also, I’m lazy.

I’ll cover the brush, shrubs, trees (maybe) and other foliage on top of the bocage banks in the next post.