Let There Be Dirt!

ToadChapel needs some rock, soil, and life upon which to grow.

Let’s learn how to make it.

This is a method I use when I want groundwork that looks genuinely good, but doesn’t take an eternity. You wouldn’t necessarily want to use this method for, say, a 3′ x 3′ skirmish wargaming board…

[Casper provided for scale]

~ STEP-BY-STEP ~

Begin by gluing good old dirt to something thin & flat. I don’t actually sift the dirt beyond the biggest and most obvious foreign objects. Instead, I sort of pan it and get the right mix of sizes to suit my needs. Make sure to crush any large clods or they’ll collapse later in the process and screw something up.

Here you can see wood glue thinned with water applied heavily over the top of the dirt. I use the same wood glue underneath, let it dry overnight, then cement it down the next day.

Prime in black.

These are the paints I’m using for the earth & rocks. I’m using cheap hobby paints because I’m going to need a lot and this is very rough work. Don’t use your model paints! These big bottles cost fifty cents each.

These are the stages of the painting process, beginning at the top.

12:00 Paint the whole tile brown.

3:00 Drybrush with light brown.

6:00 Pick out the rocks with medium grey. Basically, the more you do the better, and rockier, it’s going to look. I’ve also highlighted the larger rocks with a light grey.

7:30 Apply some washes

I start with some water just to help things flow more naturally and thin out any real obvious ink stains.

Merrily slop some of your favorite washes all around. I like a mix of colors, warm & cold, dark & light. These are Secret Weapon Baby Poop and Flesh Wash, with a few dots of black ink.

Quite fun to paint these thin colors across the tiles using a Japanese style watercolor brush.

To soften and blend all these subtle colors, use your breath to give them their final shape.

9:00 Time for some vegetation!

Wood glue & water daubed over the ugliest parts of the base. I try to surround some nice rocks with moss, carefully avoiding the rocks themselves. Taking pains to achieve these little details makes a lot of difference, to my eye.

A heavy baking dish makes a great indoor flocking station.

This is the base after two applications of moss. It might take more than one pass to cover up the parts you want and build up a little volume in the deeper patches. Take your time and don’t lay it on too thick just to finish in one go.

A layer of lighter flock on top softens the look and creates the appearance of volume

Now it’s time to apply a few painted highlights and finish these pieces off.

My favorite highlight color for moss, for multiple reasons. I think fluorescent green gives the most natural looking moss, at least as I envision it in ToadChapel.

There is a problem, though: the flouro paint fades. As you can see, the huge board above needs to be highlighted again, as the highlights have all but vanished when viewed from from tabletop distance. I ain’t looking forward to it, I can tell you!

To take the highlight one level higher and help hedge my bets against the fading, I’m using a very pale yellowish green.

There is it. It looks good from a distance and it holds up under scrutiny. It’s not painted so loudly that it detracts from the figures and scenic elements around it.

Trouble headed to ToadChapel by the Woodland Road!

~

As with the washes, there are all sorts of ways to incorporate hidden connections into the modular pieces. Not only do these little diversions make the creative process more fun, they could also come in handy later when creating a scene.

Wood glue. Best stuff ever.

Abstract art.

And that’s it! Hope you found something useful or interesting in this tutorial. I gave you a picture of a cat, so you can’t complain too loudly.

Leave a comment below if you have any tips or questions for me. Happy hobbying.

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