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"Making hills and table top terrain" Topic

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1,794 hits since 22 Jan 2013
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spartan66 Inactive Member22 Jan 2013 6:03 p.m. PST

I have come across some contoured hills made from polystyrene that I made years ago when last devoted to this great hobby. Now I'm trying to get new armies and terrain ready for battle once more.

Question is what type of paint do I need to use on the hills to cover the polystyrene or is there another better way to o this?

Also I now have a 8 by 5 ft dedicated table. Last time I played we used green baize which I still have From pictures I have seen more people seem to be using what I would call a Terran mat or just painting the table. Any advice again would be appreciated.
Mike – Spartan

Mako11 Inactive Member22 Jan 2013 6:16 p.m. PST

Your green baize will look more realistic than most other materials I've seen used, especially if you've lightly sprayed it with some other colors to make it look more like real grass, e.g. tans, yellows, etc..

You can either cover your hills with that, put the hills underneath, or use some other material to make undulations in the terrain.

For paint on the polystyrene, you'll need to use water-based acrylics, since most spray paints will have solvents in them that will melt the foam.

On one website, they were using a rubber mat underneath, which I think was a carpeting pad, in order to get the undulations desired. It looked very realistic, and helped to hold the baize in place during gameplay.

WeeWars22 Jan 2013 6:37 p.m. PST

My painted polystyrene hills:


Cheers, Michael

ochoin ceithir Inactive Member22 Jan 2013 11:05 p.m. PST

Teddy bear fur is easy to do & looks good.

We use polystyrene "lumps" underneath for hills, gullies etc.


Marcus Maximus Inactive Member23 Jan 2013 12:40 a.m. PST

Your link asks for username and password. Any chance of a direct link (avoiding username and password) as I would like to find out more, thanks.

TMPWargamerabbit23 Jan 2013 12:52 a.m. PST

Since my hills tend to travel…. they are craved from plywood sheeting, grind the edge for slopes and then flocked. Designed for heavy weight if needed so never a hand or knuckle dent. Totally stackable too for different heights. It weighs… but they never bend, crack or chip paint over the last 35+ years of use. Example from my Battle of Voltri April 1796 scenario game showing the basic lower slopes along with some higher hills of foam…

Some other photos of same terrain… link

Depth is 1/2" depth plywood and cut/designed in different shapes to create various hills or slopes.


rabbit Inactive Member23 Jan 2013 2:57 a.m. PST

For polystyrene sheet (ceiling tiles from the 70s and 80s) I cut to shape and coat with PVA / school glue, which I get from Wickes in the UK, a gallon will cost you less than a small jar from a craft shop! I then coat this with sand and dried tealeaves from used (torn open) tea bags or loose tea, used and dried. Then spray painted with some appropriate green spray. Hedges are made in the same way with strips of polystyrene packing glued to card then coated in tea and painted. Extra flock can be added for different hedge, grass colours.

You may be able to use some of the textured external wall paints like "sandtex" for the first coat, but check they are not likely to dissolve the polystyrene.

Try the terragenesis site for terrain making ideas.


Olaf 0323 Jan 2013 7:09 a.m. PST

Before painting my hills I cover them in Durham's Rock Hard Water Putty. This helps prevent the hill from being smooshed by someone's hand or finger. Then I paint over the putty (once it is dry) and then add flock.

ancientsgamer Supporting Member of TMP23 Jan 2013 1:17 p.m. PST

Spackle works just as well as Duram's with not mixing involved. I like the stuff that turns color when dry.

GarryWills23 Jan 2013 3:52 p.m. PST

Another technique I have used is to glue flock matting directly onto MDF sheets, as shown on my blog;


some close up photos here;



Garry Wills

Kevin in Albuquerque Supporting Member of TMP23 Jan 2013 7:48 p.m. PST

Have you tried ceiling tiles, available at your local home builders supply store?

These tiles come in sheets 2 feet x 4 feet, allowing you to make quite a bit of terrain. They are 3/4 inch thick, so laminating multiple layers together with white or wood glue is easy. Make sure to weight it down for overnight drying.

Next, shape the tiles with a nicely serrated steak knife. Yep, an ordinary steak knife. Once you've got the size and slope you want (the material is very easy to shape with the steak knife) blow off all the loose mess and paint it with a good thick coat of water-based acrylic paint. I use a medium green for vegetated hills and a light brown for sandy or dry hills. You can use multiple coats as you want a good solid color block for the next step.

Let this painted hill completely dry. Then heavily paint the colored hill with a thin white glue. I use artist matte medium, but that may be too expensive for many. I have heard you can thin regular white glue, like Elmers, but have not been successful at that myself. Once the hill is completely coated, flock it nice and thick. Let dry completely. Set the flocking with a clear matte spray like Krylon.

Use this method and you can do many small hills at once, or a few large ones. Just don't let the white glue start to dry. You can also do multiple colors, like a sandy edge and a green top, for an island. Takes two steps longer, but is worth the trouble.

I don't have any pictures of these hills posted online, but if you want to see a picture or three drop me a line. reagan"dot"kevin"at"yahoo"dot"com

La Fleche23 Jan 2013 11:21 p.m. PST

For my hills I used 12mm MDF bevelled with a jigsaw. Both the hills and the cloth (double width cotton sheet material) were painted with cheap water-based fence paint of an olive green hue which were then painted with PVA and sprinkled with Woodland Scenics "Blended Turf", then sealed with another coat of PVA.

The hills are heavy so your polystyrene hills will be better and, if you use my technique, the water based materials will not disolve the polystyrene.

The cotton sheet material has stiffened considerably following treatment and the "Blended Turf" is firmly affixed giving a cheap, durable alternative to commercially available terrain mats. The coating on the hills is durable also.

The table is 8x6 feet.


spartan66 Inactive Member25 Jan 2013 11:32 a.m. PST

Thanks for your help everyone. Very interesting comments. M going to experiment with a few of your suggestions and see how it goes. A least now I have some ideas to start with.


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