Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tutorial: CD-based Desert Oasis

 With the intent of creating a desert board for FOW, Heavy Gear, and Necromunda; I realized I needed more desert terrain. In another stunning moment of inspiration handling the best material available to scratchbuilders, it struck me - use CDs to make Oases! Here's how I did it.

- Old CDs
- Blue plastic or plastic painted blue (for pools)
- Gloss medium or "Water Effects"
- Sand
- Paint
- White glue or CA glue
- Static grass, long grass, & clump foliage
- Cheap plastic palm trees (look on Ebay or in cake decorations)
- Pennies

- Hot glue gun & glue sticks
- Sandpaper
- X-acto Knife

1. Using the sandpaper, rough up the playing surface of the CD. Don't use the labeled side (unless you first remove the label by scrapping with a knife). Remove any excess dust with a cloth (this helps ensure adhesion).

2. Cut out the rough shapes of the pools from the blue plastic with your X-acto knife. They don't have to be precise. Be sure to leave enough room around the edges to place some figures and penny-based trees (described later).

3. Heat up your glue gun and use it to attach the blue plastic "pools" over the center hole of the CD. When cooled, place a bead of glue around the perimeter of the pool (this builds up the "banks"). Don't worry about being precise.

Use the hot glue to build up small dunes and humps around the outer area (this helps the oasis look more natural when finished). Don't make too many or figures/trees won't be able to sit properly on the oasis.

4. When the hot glue has cooled, cover the entire CD - excluding the pool - with white glue or CA and pour a good helping of sand over that. Let it thoroughly dry for a few hours.

5. Once the glue is thoroughly dry, blow off any excess sand. Paint the sandy surface of the oasis with a heavy coating of paint in a "desert-like" color and before the paint dries, sprinkle another good helping of sand over it. Let thoroughly dry overnight.

This is a good trick to learn for other terrain projects. As the paint cures, it will bind together and the sand will bind with it. This makes for a wonderfully durable playing surface without having to use a ton of CA glue or sealant.

6. The next day, blow off any excess sand. Glue static grass throughout the sandy portion of the oasis. For a natural look, cluster more foliage around the pool itself and get sparser towards the edges. Place some long grass tufts at the edge of the pool and glue a couple clump foliage bushes around the perimeter of the pool.

7. Here's the trickiest part of the process (and the one I managed to screw up, if you look closely).

Once all the foliage has dried, begin building up the pool itself with gloss medium. Pour the gloss medium in the center of the pool slowly. Using a wet brush, carefully spread the medium around and let dry away from direct light or heat. The gloss medium will spread out in a thin layer and create depth to your pool. You can do as many thin layers as you like, but even one layer can be effective.

Lots of specialty mini painting companies sell a product called "Water Effects". All this is Gloss Medium in a smaller package with a 200% markup in cost. Any good art store sells gloss medium in small, medium, and huge bottles. I have a (IIRC) 200ml bottle of Winsor & Newton Gloss Medium that cost me $8 and this project used about 1/20 of the total bottle. So gloss medium goes a long way for the money.

Be aware that gloss medium CAN be tinted with inks and washes....and this is where I messed up. Don't add too much ink to the medium. My first layer was heavily tinted with blue ink and the long grass tufts sucked it right up....so now my long grass has blue creeping up it!

Also, don't try to pour a deep, thick layer of gloss medium (my second mistake) or it won't cure correctly, forming large cracks in the middle that will need to be filled in. Take your time!

8. The oasis itself is done (unless you want to seal it). To make the individual tree stands, heat your hot glue gun. Cut the palm trees trunks at different lengths for a more natural look (trees don't all grow the same height!) and attach to pennies with hot glue. To cover the bases, dip each into the same paint you used for the oasis, up to where the hot glue ends, and then immediately dip into fine sand and set aside to dry.

1 comment:

Nick (Yetischool) said...

Good stuff as always. This takes me back quite a bit to the heady days of Terragenesis and 2nd ed 40k. Nicely done.