Miniature terrain: photo tutorial for three-hour forests, part I

For many Dungeons & Dragons players, making miniature terrain is as satisfying a hobby as painting miniatures. Unfortunately, time constraints and/or the belief that it takes some sort of master craftsman to produce terrain pieces often leads to many Dungeon Masters and players not even attempting such projects. Fortunately, making terrain doesn’t have to be difficult or time consuming; these copses were made in about three hours, including drying time.

This posting details a method for producing copses of deciduous trees in 28 mm scale, ideal for outdoor D&D encounters or for other miniature games in that scale. I remember reading much of what follows in a tutorial on a wargaming or model railroading site, and I apologize for not bookmarking the site to give credit to those responsible for this post’s inspiration.

You’ll note that two terrain pieces are being made for this tutorial. I always produce two of every project I undertake, since doing so doubles my experience and also provides a bit of insurance in case I make an irreparable error – making two increases the odds of making at least one successful project.

Materials Needed:

  • An old compact disc
  • White (PVA) glue
  • “Super” (CA) glue
  • Sand or model railroad ballast
  • Matte black, white or gray spraypaint or primer
  • Brown and tan acrylic craft paint
  • Wire tree armatures (we’ll use Woodland Scenics brand for this tutorial)
  • Clump foliage (either store-bought or improvised from green scrubbing pads or sponges)

Optional Materials:

  • Static grass
  • Rocks or gravel
  • Ground flock

Step 1. Sand the CD.

Since every subsequent step involves gluing something to the CD, it’s important to roughen the CD surface, to maximize the surface area the glue can adhere to. Almost anything with a grit, from sandpaper to steel wool, will work for this. Just make sure that you don’t sand the label side of the CD; if you do, you’ll end up with glittering, filmy shreds of plastic that will be showing up in your vacuum cleaner months from now.

Step 2. Prepare the tree bases.

Separate the bases from the tree armatures, then glue the bases to the CD with super glue. If you plan on using your tree copses for miniature battles, consider putting a few figures between the trees to make sure that your troops can move through the terrain.

Step 3. Glue sand to the CD surface and tree bases.

To simulate gorund cover, brush a 1:1 mix of white (PVA) glue and water over the CD surface you sanded and glued the tree bases to. It looks better if you cover the tree bases, leaving only the tree trunks untouched. For this tutorial, we used irregular beach sand, although you could always use model railroad ballast or other coarse material.

Step 4: Priming.

AFter the PVA dries – which happens very quickly when the glue is mixed with water – seal in the sand and glue with an even coat of spraypaint or primer. It helps to keep the trees in during priming, as we don’t want any paint getting into the hole in the center of the base.

Step 5. Adding Foliage.

The primer will dry quickly on the plastic trees. Allow the CD and tree bases to dry while you begin work on adding foliage to the trees. For this tutorial, I used Woodland Scenics Hob-E-Tac, which works well enough if you allow it to dry for a full 15 minutes before it becomes tacky enough to work; you can also use superglue. Regradless of what adhesive you use, glue whatever you’re using for foliage to the tree armatures.

Step 6. Basecoating.

After the primer dries, remove the trees and put a coat of brown craft paint. Not too glamorous, but we have to start somewhere.

This post has apparently reached the maximum graphic capacity of a WordPress post; the second half of the tutorial can be found by clicking here.

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One comment on “Miniature terrain: photo tutorial for three-hour forests, part I

  1. [...] This is the second in a series of posts on how to create copses of forest terrain for D&D or miniature wargames. The first post in this series can be found here. [...]

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