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"I made a forest!" Topic

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1,326 hits since 17 Sep 2011
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Cheomesh Inactive Member17 Sep 2011 7:52 p.m. PST

Well it's not 100% done yet (nothing ever is with me) BUT I feel it is good enough to share. Time for another verbose thread by everyone's favorite Cheomesh!


This is a small stand of trees. It is based on a standard CD. The ground is wood filler, the trunks are blunted roofing nails and the canopy is a circle of foamcore with foliage glued on it.

The ground was painted Vallejo "Earth" (gotta get some craft paint!) which was washed with VGC Sepia ink and then drybrushed with VGC Khaki. A few individual stones (cat litter) were picked out with VGC Cold Gray. Ground texture is just the filler, which was applied with a piece of balsa and had cat litter applied. This, it is rather rough looking. Too rough, in my opinion; there are some "peaks" that just don't look quite right. I think it is because my filler is rather dry – time to get some more.

This being my first attempt, I did without any "frills" on the ground like fallen trunks, grass, etc. Future versions will have these details, which I think are vital to the overall look. Future versions will also likely use latex caulk instead of wood filler, as that is what the tutorial recommends. Future versions will also (generally) be less round and will have more varied tree density. This one uses a measly 8 nails.

In the past I used individually based trees, but I dislike these because I inevitably knock them everywhere, and moving them about to shift dudes around is a mess. It's either dense, realistic and a pain or sparse, playable and uninteresting. This solves most problems because you can remove the top like a container, put your guys inside, and then drop the top back on. Speaking of which, only the outside perimeter of the underside is actually having foliage; the rest is flat. The figures are a mix of Khurasan Federals I use as a Battalion-level engineering group.

* Very, very "playable" unless you go way overboard on details.

* Capable of taking any level of detail. In a pinch you could make this with some green wash rags (the textured type of cloth), nails, a CD and some kind of top to hold it all together – even a flocked hemisphere of foam would do it at the most simple level. Or you could go all out and make something photorealistic.

* Potentially quite stackable.

* Not atrociously expensive. 5 pounds of those nails only ran me 11 dollars, and CD's are cheap as chips. Cheaper actually, as I eat organic chips.


* Eats a lot of foliage. I could be doing something wrong, but I think collectively even that small top ate a whole bag between three (mostly two) colors. Could also be delusional.

* Not as easy to make a mixed forest unless you use some more advanced methods (like splicing in tree armatures to poke above the canopy and foliage them in a different manner to represent, say, pine.

* Quick to build. I took forever mostly because I was only attaching a few clumps of foliage at a time and letting it dry a while before even touching it. Could probably do it faster.

This one still has some patches to fill in, and the ground needs some kind of cover. Time to experiment, and that's really what this is about – experimentation with new techniques. The floor will probably be edged with some kind of flock blend, with the parts under the canopy being mostly mosses.

Future versions will be more detailed. I've even started planning a huge one with built in trails for vehicles to move through unimpeded (making it a natural objective). If I get really good, I might even put up a few for sale or trade, just to put them in the hands of other gamers (knowing I'm never going to make any money off of it, because that would be ENORMOUSLY expensive from my gestimation).

Let me some feedback so I know what others think and their experiences. My photos are also yellow; I don't have any yellow light so I can't figure out what's going on. I'm just taking some shots in my room (lit in that area by those curly fluorescent bulbs and a straight one – maybe it's the lamp shade?) Time for science. Yes though; feedback. Advice on making a playable, realistic "forest floor" is nice, as is your general thoughts on the piece. Labor of love and all that.



Ancestral Hamster Inactive Member17 Sep 2011 9:46 p.m. PST

It is a practical but aesthetic solution. Locally we use dark green felt which is functional, but not attractive.

A suggestion about the forest floor. Most woodland areas with that heavy a canopy usually don't have much in the way of undergrowth that requires sunlight. Grass is unlikely. Mosses and mushrooms are another story, and some dead leaves would look nice. (Skullcrafts should have some). It is your project though.

Pedrobear Inactive Member17 Sep 2011 11:10 p.m. PST

I think the canopy look is more realistic aesthetically, and a removable canopy is much easier to game with.

Agree with the forest floor comment – Darkson Designs used to make autumn leaves ground cover which are useful.

Turbo Pig Fezian Inactive Member18 Sep 2011 6:21 a.m. PST

That's the second time I've seen that technique online in 3 days. I think someone is trying to tell me something. May have to get the supplies together and give it a try. Looks superb, BTW.

Cheomesh Inactive Member18 Sep 2011 7:14 a.m. PST

Thanks for the feedback. I had thought about just putting down leaf scatter (most woods I've been in are floored with leaves, rotted leaves and small scraggly trees poking through), but wasn't sure on how to simulate that without using something that would just get torn off in play. I looked at Darkson but I didn't find anything, however Skullcrafts does have 1 oz pots of scatter. Unfortunately they are 8 bucks an ounce and that's not even with shipping – I think that will be impractical.

I've made another thread here: TMP link to discuss techniques so others can find them.

The next one will also be an experiment on getting better trunk colors, but it'll be secondary to simply making a larger piece. It will be (likely) one of those long kidney hills that have been forested. Cover AND high ground.


ZeroTwentythree Inactive Member18 Sep 2011 10:47 a.m. PST

Bulk up the foamcore a bit, to use less foliage. Either with a few layers of irregularly cut foarmcore, cheap modeling clay, or thicker sheets of insulation or packaging foam.

AlbertaAndy Inactive Member18 Sep 2011 11:22 p.m. PST

Looks excellent to me. My one suggestion (and I'm sure this is unimportant at regular viewing angle and distance) would be to add a film of roughly applied glue or something as texturing to the tree trunks before you paint them as they look very smooth and uniform at the moment. Having said that I'd be more than happy to game on a table graced by a few of these pieces!

Cheomesh Inactive Member19 Sep 2011 6:17 a.m. PST

My gaming buddy and I were actually talking about the trunks earlier. I'm thinking some kind of fine but hard powder should do it; a website has a bag of "bark texture" but I'm sure I can find what it is in a larger bag somewhere.


Ancestral Hamster Inactive Member19 Sep 2011 10:06 a.m. PST

Try Woodland Scenics: link

While they may not have bark texture, they have such a wide range of materials something would probably work. At the very least, it's cheaper to buy ground cover from them as opposed to stuff repackaged for the minis market.

ScoutII Inactive Member19 Sep 2011 10:57 a.m. PST

I'm thinking some kind of fine but hard powder should do it; a website has a bag of "bark texture" but I'm sure I can find what it is in a larger bag somewhere.

At the size you are working with, I generally smear the trunks with spackle and then let them dry for a bit. Once it is dry enough to stay in place but still soft enough that if you squeeze it you will smoosh the spackle (without it cracking) use a knife to cut the texture into it. Doesn't take that long and you can also give pretty realistic roots and the like at the same time. After it has dried give it a few coats of something like Future (Future is nice because it will soak in and help reinforce the spackle) and then paint it up.

If you want to go the route of a grit, look for ground cork. The grain makes for better looking bark than most mineral powders do. You can find it in a variety of sizes through model RR suppliers. They use it as ballast and other things (non-magnetic, non-conductive, non-abrassive, lightweight…). I think Noch's ballast is ground cork…though I might be mistaken on the specific branding.

You can also make your own fairly cheap scrounging up cheap cork (bulletin boards, used corks, broken tiles, pet stores…). A meat grinder is ideal for grinding it, though a cheese grater will work in a pinch.


Note: This is another one of those items where you can buy a pound of it for $2.25 USD from model railroad shops or buy an ounce of it from a company like Skullcrafts for $3.75… Makes you wonder if they actually are able to sleep at night.

War Monkey19 Sep 2011 2:48 p.m. PST

Looks really great can't wait to try and make some for myself.
After a closer look have to remember one very important thing huh don't slam your hands down on the table hahahahaa

Cheomesh Inactive Member20 Sep 2011 6:19 a.m. PST

Scoultll, I'll have to give that one a try with the spackle. Roots and the like would also be a nice detail. The floor of that piece above is wood filler – think that'll work?


ScoutII Inactive Member20 Sep 2011 7:25 a.m. PST

The floor of that piece above is wood filler think that'll work?

A lot of the fillers do – it is sort of hit and miss though. If it is fairly sticky (that is adhering to the surface you put it on) and relatively hard once dried it should work. Since you will be cutting almost all the way through the coating for the bark texture, you want to make sure it won't just fall off once it dries.

I generally just call out vinyl spackle since you can get that pretty much anywhere in the world and although the brand and package might change – what is inside the tub hasn't changed too much in 20 some odd years. Not all wood fillers are created so equal though.

Cheomesh Inactive Member20 Sep 2011 8:56 p.m. PST

I'll have to experiment. I'm not actually sure how much work to put into something at 15mm yet, as even some very basic things look rather convincing. I'll give grit and spackle a try on their own though; gotta get some more foliage first.

Also, I went ahead and floored the stand so it's less horrible. Originally, I liked how the bare earth looked, but having used it on an entire army worth of figs (it's supposed to be some kind of wasteland…thing. I have no idea) I'm want to do more. So I edged it with GF9's "Dark Conifer Blend" flock and did most of the insides with tea-leaf flock. It did surprisingly well for even my simple techniques (I did try and blur the parts where they met a bit). Though the canopy covers beyond the CD I decided edging it in green would help it blend better. Besides, maybe the wind swept away all those leaves.

The whole new set, with commentary is here: link

Thanks to all who put in feedback; it has helped. Now there's new things to feedback upon :p Trunks are untouched; I think I'm going to stick with drybrushing on some other colors and leave it at that – future versions may feature more realistic trunks.


Cheomesh Inactive Member23 Sep 2011 11:45 p.m. PST

Begun a new venture, this time with plans for texture on the trunks. Pics of the early stages to come tomorrow. Before I begin any foliage, just how well does hot glue work vs just the normal tacky glue?


ScoutII Inactive Member24 Sep 2011 10:15 p.m. PST

Normally I only use hot glue for temporary bonds. Things like gluing figures to sticks for priming and the like.

Pretty much any liquid glue works great with the foam foliage.

A couple of ideas for you on the second time around. Instead of using a flat object for the canopy – grab a bit of metal screen. You can use window screen or hardware cloth. Bend it upwards in bumpy like – it will save on the ammount of clump foliage you need to apply in order to get good coverage. Plus you can have clearings where it is open to the forest floor more easily.

With the foliage itself, buy in bulk from places like Scenic Express. They sell the foam in bags that are much, much bigger than what you will find in most stores. The 3 quart bags is 165 cubic inches (3 times as much as you get in one of the Woodland Scenics containers)…so you should be able to get a few stands of trees out of those.

Cheomesh Inactive Member25 Sep 2011 8:25 a.m. PST

Agreed on the bigger bag thing; my local train shop has them, but I stuck with the little ones due to a pricing error. Scenic express appears to have them cheaper per bag, and in a few more colors – goodbye train store!

Now as for round objects vs flat: Doesn't a curved surface have more surface area than a flat object of equal diameter? Thus if I use a hemisphere I'd use more foliage. Keep in mind what I posted was a single layer across; the only reason it's higher in some areas is because I opted to use taller chunks to make it look like taller trees. I could be missing something though.

Last night I sealed the piece with woodlands scenic glue spray. I think I might have oversprayed it though, as the piece became noticably darker as a result. Had it on the heavy spray option (got it backwards) so that might have been the issue. It doesn't look bad, just darker. Might have to dress it up with more fresh foliage applied over a second, lighter spray. Experience?

Today I should be getting more process on the next pieces; one is already nailed while the other needs to be brought up to that level. Plan to work on at least two of these in parallel each time I do them that way it covers the table better. If I do it right, one of these should be huge – a small battlefield in it's own right.

One other thing though. The guy who wrote the tutorial used brown latex caulk, whereas I use wood filler. I am beginning to think the caulk would be easier to apply. Does anyone have some experiences to share in that regard?


ScoutII Inactive Member25 Sep 2011 11:58 a.m. PST

Now as for round objects vs flat: Doesn't a curved surface have more surface area than a flat object of equal diameter?

Yes…but because you are not looking at an actual rounded hemisphere – you don't have a dramatic increase in surface area. The bumps and what not allow you to have something that is a bit more interesting. With the wire – it is also easier to hide the edges than with the flat board you used on the first go around. As opposed to using taller bits of foam – you can simply bend it up (or down). That way a uniform covering is more interesting.

It doesn't look bad, just darker.

Par for the course for the most part. I forget the exact process, but the color doesn't change – however the adhesive acts like a clear coat which has an effect of darkening the perceived color.

The guy who wrote the tutorial used brown latex caulk, whereas I use wood filler.

I like hard materials over flexible stuff like caulk myself. There are some aspects of caulk which make it easier (normally self leveling…so you don't have furrows), however it is also designed to stick to stuff… Your hands, your tools, your cat. Working with the rigid materials like spackle and filler take a bit more getting used to – but they aren't harder per se.

Cheomesh Inactive Member25 Sep 2011 10:25 p.m. PST

Any known method to prevent that darkening? It has effectively removed a good deal of visual interest from the piece.


ScoutII Inactive Member26 Sep 2011 5:17 a.m. PST

I would have to double check – but I think a quick hit with a flat/matte varnish should help the issue. I would recommend trying on a bit of scrap first though just to make sure that my brain is working right.

Cheomesh Inactive Member27 Sep 2011 9:23 p.m. PST

I hit it with two successive layers of dulcote from Testors and while it may have brightened a little I don't think it did much. Might not have applied it heavy enough, though.

I think for this test piece I'm going to put a light spray of glue down and then reflock it and see what happens. On future pieces I will probably stick with a dullcote seal instead of glue.


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