This is an up date of an article that originally appeared in Slingshot (number 199).
It is still probably the case that most wargamers pay more attention to painting figures than making terrain. One of the features of our club is some excellent terrain which has been made by club members over the years. The following tips are simple and effective methods for making terrain features. Some of the tips may seem a bit basic but we hope some of the ideas will interest even terrain experts.
First buy a tube of Acrylic Frame Sealant. This is available from most large DIY shops and it is comparatively cheap. Make sure you get the chocolate brown colour rather than the white - the nozzle indicates the colour. This is wonderful stuff which dries in 24 hours or less to form an excellent dark earth colour as the bases for most terrain requirements. It can be painted without difficulty.
It can be used in a whole variety of ways. The main use we have made of it is to apply it to plastic coated material, for example, a wipe-clean table-cloth or similar. It can be applied using a plastic spatula or even your fingers. The stuff rubs or washes of hands without difficulty but please do not get it onto your clothes. When dry you are left with a rubber type mat which can conform to any terrain placed under it. The mat is easy to paint and dry brushing works particularly well. We use these terrain mats as the covers for our tables or we can cut it into appropriate shapes for marking the area of a wood, marsh or anything similar. Make sure you cover all the backing material since this looks better and cuts down painting time. For a pictorial guide to creating a battlemat, click here.
This basic idea can be used to make roads When making roads add a few rut marks while the sealant is still wet. Similarly for woods or marshes rough up the surface. To get a ploughed field effect gently run a comb along the wet sealant
Both Crown and Dulux offer an excellent paint mixing service which is available from many DIY shops. You can buy matt emulsion in 250ml tins for about £2. For roads or ploughed fields, a dry brush with a light brown and light green works well. For built-up areas try dry brushing a red brown, light brown, pale yellow and a light green for the edges. For woods and marshes use a semi dry brush and apply a grass green and light green and dry brush with a pale yellow but make sure you leave a fair amount of the original brown showing through in small patches.
For rivers it is not possible to beat terrain boards with indented river sections. However the following method works reasonably well for movable water features. Try to get hold of some thin plastic 'multiglass' which is available in some DIY shops. It is cheap at about £3.50 a square metre. Cut appropriate strips and paint the underside a green/blue. For the banks again use the sealant and paint according to taste.
For hills we have used a traditional approach of building an appropriate shape from wood or polystyrene or other material to hand on a MDF base. We have then covered it with a mixture of tetrion, sand water and dark brown paint. The paint is important - it gives the final mix a light tan colour rather than the usual white. The hills can be dry brushed a couple of shades of green and a light yellow. Unfortunately, at some stage the hills will probably chip but it should chip to reveal more of the tan colour which will make repairs less necessary. On some of our more recent hills we have again used the acrylic sealant which has worked well.