Sunday, 7 October 2012

Making your own wargames scenery - swamps

So as promised previously, here's a post on making some swamps.

I've made these specifically for my Hordes Minion force, but the bigger templates and the technique can definitely be used for other games.  I am working on a bigger swamp for Malifaux and we'll see if that's a good size for games like Warhammer and 40k too.

After the jump you'll get to see, in best Blue Peter style, a step by step of one I made earlier.

Excuse some of the photography here, most were taken with my phone as I did the work.

So to start with I have been making my bases for most of my scenery out of mounting card.  I am fortunate to have a huge supply of this stuff from a friend of my parents.

For circular bases I've treated myself to a compass cutter which makes the job of cutting these out a doddle.  It does limit the size you can make so for my planned bigger swamps I'll have to come up with a different plan.
Next step is a recent discovery (thanks to Rob Hawkins from his work on various scenery projects).

Wood filler is used to roughly sculpt out the shape you want your swamp to take.  Rather than a simple circular pool a number of broken watery areas looks good, especially on the bigger templates.  I've found using a sculpting tool and a lot of water you can move the filler around easily and get a nice goopy finish.
The filler takes a while to dry, make sure it is thoroughly set before starting the next steps, especially if you've made the stuff quite thick.

The next couple of steps can done in either order, depending on how you want the details to rest relative to the sand.

Here I've used green stuff to make some interesting features on the swamp.  There's no need but I think it adds something to the terrain.  Also there's plenty of sculpting materials out there, I just happened to have some greenstuff nearby.

Lilly pads are very easy.  Roll a ball and squash in place,  Then using the tool, make a small slit on one edge.  Mushrooms are also easy, roll a ball then pinch the top, then squish into the base.

The tree stump was more fun.  This was a fairly big blob of green stuff that I slowly teased into a sort of volcano shape using the sculpting tool, making bark like lines down the sides over and over.  The top was then smoothed flat (using lots of water).

The stump was sculpted in place so no glue needed, the others I used some PVA to make sure they didn't fall off.  Make sure this is dry before moving on to the sanding step.

To sand the swamp, dilute some PVA about 50/50 with water and then coat the areas you want to be sandy in the mix. I like to leave the smooth edges leading to the pools clear and some random other bits too.  The pools I avoid completely, which is why if you are gluing interesting features to the swamp you must wait for those to try before moving on to this step else you'll get sand on those (voice of experience here...).

Simply dunk the entire swamp into a box filled with a mixture of sands and stones and you're done. Once dry I paint all the sandy areas with a top coat of PVA mix to make sure that sand doesn't come off.

When this is all dry for the final time I move on to painting.  Rather than spray undercoating I use Gesso Primer to add a bit of texture and protection to the swamp.  Key here is the water effect I have doesn't play well with PVA so a nice thick coat of primer avoids this problem.

The base coat I have used is a GW 'base' paint called Dryad Bark.  Any dark brown will do, but I find the base paints are especially good at covering in relatively few coats.
After the base coat I move through a number of brighter browns using a thick brush and the 'wet brushing' technique.  This is where rather than diligently painting every nook and cranny you paint a little slapdash over the texture of the model, leaving some areas with the darker colours exposed.  Unlike dry brushing this technique requires you have a fair amount of paint loaded on the brush.  For a swamp this effect works well I find.  I've used GW's old Scorched Brown (I'm sure there's a new equivalent) and the new Mournfang Brown to get progressively brighter.

The last stage on this step is properly dry brushing the sand.  I've used the old Tausept Ochre, again I'm sure a new version exists.  This is a light browny-orange colour and its important to dry brush this carefully otherwise its a bit of a colour jump from the darker browns.

Moving on to greens, I've used a variety of different shades to wet and dry brush colour in places that feel right and all over the pond/ water areas.  I also shade the sandy areas the GW's Anthonian Camoshade (this stuff is amazing for anything organically brown or green ).
Nearly done now.  The penultimate step is painting any details you may have added.  Here I've painted up some cute mushrooms and the tree stump is quite cartoony and bright ways to add some splashes of different colour to the swamp.

Once everything is dried I have been adding GW's water effect to the pools.  I am not sure I like this product so I wont link it!  I'm pretty sure that a clear gloss would achieve the same effect as the GW stuff dries to a molecule thick coating despite going on pretty thick.  This is disappointing because while it is wet the thick coating looks really good!  I am tempted to try some other water effect products to see if the final look of the water can be improved.
So here's the 4 swamps I have finished to various effects - now destined for battlefields many and varied hopefully.

This first swamp is the one shown in most of the WIP shots, now with added water effect.  Oooo shiny.

Here's another big one, here I used an old GW tree stump rather than sculpt it and there's lots of little pools of water rather than a couple of big ones.  I've also added some grass tufts.
This is a smaller pool and I've used a skeleton casualty marker as a bit of interest here (from a Mantic skeleton kit).
The final small pool I've made is a bit different.  Here I embedded half of an undead horse into the swamp at quite an early stage so I could partially submerge it and add some sand to areas too.  The water here is actually lots of layers of PVA so its a bit milky but I rather like the unpleasant effect it gives to this particular piece.


  1. Looks great. Certainly beats a printout template of a spawning pool.

  2. Thanks for stopping by and the comment - I do need to make a spawning pool for my spawn mother and will be using this technique, plus something for eggs. Need to think about what Gupp eggs might look like...