Tuesday, August 17, 2010

How NOT to do terrain.

Ok, so PX has had a good time showing of some extremely nice and well done terrainpieces. I know him personally and trust me, there's alot more than you can se from this page.

However, the rest of us (I imagine. I hope) are not made of pieces of the emperors armor. We are not demi-gods. We, or should I say I, just do not have that godly hand with terrainmaking. I can fend for my self when it comes to painting miniatures, there I would rate my self just above avarage. Avarage of the beginners.To the point then. PX made me a delicious GW Realms of Battle Board (RBB) with a couple of houses. They all looked top notch so I figured I'd put some sand on the board and re-paint it.

Yes, you heard me.

The decision was a fast one. It basically just popped up when we had finished the Thunderous Tournament I Finale, a good friend and also the winner of the tournament Kristian had heard me talking about putting sand on the board for a long time becaus of the fact that models slide and fall over quite alot on a RBB and asked "Why not do it now?" and of we went and we went at it fast.

Within one or two hours all six pieces of the board had sand glued to them and we felt we could do more with the board since we were all there and all eager to work on it (we were four people, so alot of hands) so we started painting a black protective paint layer over the sand on the pieces that felt kind of dry (yes, this is where the mistakes start stacking up).

When the first layer of black paint was on the board and started drying (not being completely wet that is) we could see that the sand was visible through where the paint was as thinnest. Remedy for this? Why yes, more paint. Right away. Loads of it. I have no idea why we did this, all of us beeing quite familiar with layer painting. All of us knowing that you have to wait for the first layer to dry up before applying the second.

When this had been done to all but one part of the board which still had wet-wet glue (there are levels of dry/wet; wet-wet, wet-dry, dry-wet and dry-dry) were painted with a thick layer of protective black paint that coverd almost all of the texture of the sand (the entire reason to put sand on a board in the first place) and the paint was so thick that you could see the brush strokes in it. I kind of backed up and had a overview look at the work we had done and immediately thout to my self "Crap. We failed it". It felt bad. There was a snowballs chance in hell that this debacle of oil-thick lava (not lava in a cool way, lava in a wreck-your-home and make-you-a-refugee kind of way) looking mess of a terrain board would dry up nice and good. Fortunately that marked the end of the paint session and I was left to my own misery but still hoping for the snowball that could.

Kind of knowing the board was ruined I went to bed with a small hope that maybe the paint would dry down and the texture of the sand would, I dont know, pop back up again? Maybe, just maybe the little snowball actually could. Well, it may not come to a surprise to you that it couldn't, I wasn't surprised either. However I was suprised to the magnitude of the horror that was staring up at me when I woke up the next morning to check on my miseryboard.

Craters. The thick paint layer seemed to have dried up wierdly and broken up in wierd craters all around the board. Looking down I could see not the sand glued to the painted board but the painted board with the sand lifted of it.

I tried peeling away at the edges of the crater just to get a feel for it's consistency and it felt like some wierd thick skin laying down on the board. Turned out the paint had bonded with the glue under the sand, leaving the sand in between the two and none of the components stuck on the board and creating a air-tight layer over the board so the glue underneath it had no chance of drying up, so with very little effort the entire board could be stripped of it's paint-sand-glue skin covering it in almost all of the places on the board. Some places, where the black paint had been applied with a normal amount it was less bad (still very far from good and no where nere where I wanted it).

This was on the piece of the board that was in worst shape. Where we had used most glue and waited the least amount of time before applying the black paint. The rest of the board has the same craters where the "skin" has broken up but it is mixed in with places where the glue keeps the skin down and it has to be removed with a little more force.
So there you have it, a fast way to wreck a board. The complete school of how not to do it.

What you should do is this;
  1. Make sure you have a PVA glue of good quality. Don't try to shave of a few bucks by getting the cheapo variant. It's just not worth it (this generally goes through the entire hobby so keep it as a general rule).
  2. When you have applied the sand/gravel/grass let it dry. When I'm going to emark on doing this again I am going to let the glue dry for at least 24h just to be sure.
  3. Fix the sand with something, PVA glue mixed with water, maybe primer spray or some other form of protective paint but apply it moderately. You're still going to paint it in the final color you want and after that apply some other protective varnish. It's important to fix the sand so that it doesn't come of, but as with everything else do not over do it or the sand will lose it's texture.
  4. Read as many "how to make terrain" as you can find. I didn't.

I'm now off to persuade my future wife and co-player that even if it is unfortunate we still have to buy a new board and do it again but without the mistakes. I will return and let you know how it goes.


  1. LoL!

    That was a big fail! I must admit I have never seen anything like that before, looks like Nurgle country! :)

    I used to use a really good wood glue thinned down nicely with water for those kind of projects. Using a hairdryer made it dry quick and it bonded really stong. Just a tip...

    Looking forward to see this "revisited" :).


  2. Yeah, the wood glue we used for this is from the one cheapo-store ÖB.

    I tried making a few test spots with cascol (the only choise) and it's been sitting over night now and it was really strong already this morning.

    Actually a friend of mine, chaos space marine player, went with the same "well.. it's actually kind of cool crater nurgle looking innit?" :)

  3. the old (proven) cascol is the shiznit!

    haha, so he actually said the same thing - cool :)