Posts Tagged 'how to'

How to Base Paper Miniatures – Part 2

Paper Miniatures Litko Base Hexagon ZeroI detailed a few of the DIY options available for paper miniature basing here. However there are a few (and I mean a few) commerical options for bases around the web for paper miniatures.

I’m not going to cover the option of simply buying pre-cut plain flat wooden/plastic bases as pretty much that’s the same as permanent flat basing I mentioned in the previous blog post, be it with a little less cutting. I should mention all my paper miniatures are built using 220gsm (140lb) card which means by the time the front and backs are glued together it equates to 440gsm (280lb) thickness. If your using thinner card the bases may not grip as well as they did for me.

The first option are bases described as “card stands”. I’ve only found these as round bases approximately 20mm (3/4 inch) in diameter made of that hard plastic material approximately 6mm tall from base to the top . There are similar bases which are square but unfortunately these are 30mm in size (1 1/4 inch) and a little big for my uses.  Both do come in a wide range of colours and they are pretty cheap, they work out to about 10-20cents (AUD each) and I managed to find them at a few different web stores in various countries (UK round 1 UK round 2, US square 1, US square 2). Basically these stands all work the same they have little offset plastic nodules inside the slot which grab the miniature base tab.

Paper Miniatures Card Base 20mm Round

Over time these bases could slowly tear or wear out the base tab (best to slide them in sideways to minimize damage). However if your at all worried you can always strength the base tab by coating it with super glue this will virtually turn the card into plastic. At the end of the day though if a miniatures tab gets to beat up which should take a fair old while simply reprint the miniature, that is one of the advantages of paper miniatures :). Value for money wise these bases are great so long as you don’t mind the restriction of either 20mm round or 40mm square and your miniatures sitting a little tall. Even if your not sure  grabbing a bag they wont break the bank.

Paper Miniatures Card Base 20mm Round Two

Next up we have the Rolls Royce of paper miniatures stands by Litko games. The bases are custom created/made by Litko so there is a far wider range of choices 12 different shapes and sizes from circles, squares, rectangles and hexagons in various sizes from 20mm to 50mm. They are available in three colours; clear, clear-bronze and solid-black. The bases themselves are cut from 3mm thick acrylic and work by having a slightly curved slot which holds the miniature in place. If you buy a bag of 50 bases they work out at 40cents (USD each), if you stretch it to a bag of 100 they work out slightly cheaper.

Paper Miniatures Litko Base Hexagon One

I tried very hard to shake a miniature out of the base but the bases stubbornly refused to let go of the miniature, so I think Jim over at Litko has designed the curve of the holding slot perfectly. The curve is slight enough that miniatures are not permanently bent and when removed they go back to flat very quickly, the bigger base also means the miniatures are slightly tougher to knock over compared to the 20mm card stands above. I picked up a bag 25mm clear hexagons and will definitely pick up some more bases.

Paper Miniatures Litko Base Hexagon Two

I can’t really recommend one base type over the other, if your in the US and get that super cheap shipping from Litko I’d say just jump at the Litko bases. For the rest of us scattered around the globe paying ridiculous postage no matter what. If your on a very tight budget grab the cheaper bases they’ll be more than acceptable. If you have a few more $$$ to spend grab the Litko bases you wont be disappointed.

Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please. – Mark Twain

Gimp Planet Making – Blue Green Globes (Earth Like)

Blobe Blue Green FourI’ve been helping a friend out making some planets, now he needs lots so I had to develop a technique for making planets quickly in Gimp. In my previous solar system post I covered some basics around making a Solar system so hopefully this post will help flesh out the solar system a little more.

The below process makes heavy use of donjohn’s fractal world generator, I’m unsure what copyright the images it generates are under but for personal use you should be fairly right. The reason I use the fractal world generator is it generates a nice globe and a flat map projection in several variates and gives a nice working base to whip some planets up in Gimp. This doesn’t make beautifully photo realistic planets but it makes passable globes for use on a solar system overview images/maps and provides you with a matching world map you can take and work on later. Naturally to follow the below your going to need a copy of GIMP installed and probably this Script pack which I use heavily. I am by no means a GIMP expert so I’m sure there are other (better) ways of producing the below effects but hopefully it’ll get you started.

I’ll only cover one planetary type today – a Blue/Green earth type globe. If you really just want something to use in a hurry feel free to grab one of these. Usual rules apply CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 and credit myself and donjohn in someway :).

Making a Blue Green Earth type planet – XCF Demo File Here

Go to donjohn’s fractal world generator and generate a random world, make sure you check the resulting flat map (press create) before settling on a final globe and play around with rotation angle to get a nice view. Most importantly once you settle on a globe record all the settings this will let you recreate the same globe at a later date.

Gimp Planet Tutorial OneI’ve found a flat map image height of 1000px works well

Set the Map palette to “Atlas” and right click and copy the globe image and the flat map Images into Gimp as separate “New Images”. (Note: if you right click save as and then open these in GIMP ensure you change the image mode to RGB)Gimp Planet Tutorial Two

Then set the Map palette to “Mogensen” and copy/paste the new globe onto your globe Image in Gimp as a new layer and likewise with your map image:Gimp Planet Tutorial Three

Set the Mongesen layers on both images  in Gimp to Layer Mode “Overlay”. Then right click on your Mongesen layer and select “New from Visible“: Gimp Planet Tutorial Four

You can leave it there and jump down to adding clouds below. However you probably don’t want all your blue/green planets the same exact colour. So lets add some variety. First the ocean. Use the select by colour tool in addition mode (2 red squares) to select all the shades of blue (I set my threshold to 20 but the default of 15 works fine). Copy the Ocean from the Mongesen layer and then paste. Then do Layer to “New Layer”(this keeps the ocean aligned – do this on both images):

Gimp Planet Tutorial FiveInstant Deep Blue Oceans

Play around with different Gimp settings to get different ocean colours, I kept mine in a Blue/green pallette. But red and purple are achievable:Gimp Planet Tutorial Six

Play around with a mix of colouize and layer modes for even stranger effects.

Next Lets get some variety into our land masses,Firstly on the ocean layer on both images trigger layer>>Image size. Then use the select by colour tool on your ocean only layer but select in the empty space. Basically you want to select the empty pixels as by default these are all land mass (well most of them). Then select your Mongesen layer and copy then paste. Then do Layer to “New Layer”(this keeps the land aligned – do this on both images):Gimp Planet Tutorial Seven

Once again play around with different Gimp settings to get different land colours, You’ll find Layer modes less useful this time but Colors>>Colorize , Colors>>Hue-Saturation and Colors>>Color Balance far more useful (Whatever you do, do the same on both Images – Map & Globe):Gimp Planet Tutorial Eight

Hopefully now you have a base globe and a base map colored the way you want and looking pretty good:Gimp Planet Tutorial Nine

The base planetary map is finished at this point. However the globe needs some clouds and shadowing to make it look more ball like. Firstly some clouds on the globe image. Now the easiest thing I found to do was to search up some Earth images from NASA. Copy and Paste these into Gimp use the colour select tool to select and copy the clouds and paste those as a new layer onto your globe and scale them down. Now you can go do that yourself or simply save the png you like below and then follow the next step.

Firstly adjust the canvas size of the globe image.  Image>>Canvas Size and adjust this to 210x210px and center the image. Now File open as Layers and pick the cloud image you saved above. Set this layer  mode as Normal and Opacity at about 90%:Gimp Planet Tutorial Ten

Last few steps to go are to add some simple shadowing/highlighting. First add a new transparent layer to your globe image. Next select one of your original globe layers and first do layer to image size. Now grab the select by color tool and click in the empty space this will select all the empty pixels again. Next select>>Invert and select>>grow 1px. Click back onto your new layer and bucket fill this with solid black (#000000). The layer itself should be at the very top:Gimp Planet Tutorial eleven

Now duplicate the black circle layer and color>>invert. Then layer>>scale layer to 220px X 220px. Lastly move the layer to the left until a small segment of the black circle underneath is visible:Gimp Planet Tutorial twelve

Use the magic wand tool to select the white circle, Select>>Feather 40px. Finally select your black circle layer and press the delete key on your keyboard. Select>>None and hide the white circle layer. Set the Opacity of your black segment to 85-90% (see what looks nice): Gimp Planet Tutorial Thirteen

Almost done we just need to add a small highlight on the Sun-ward side, duplicate your black shadow crescent layer, Colors>>Invert ,  Layer>>Transform>>Flip Horizontally. Set opacity to 100% and Layer Mode to Overlay. Duplicate the layer and set Opacity to 50%:Gimp Planet Tutorial Fourteen

Last  Step; Layer>>new from visible, then duplicate that new layer. Select the lower of the two new layers and Filters>>Blur>>Gaussian Blur 8px. This gives the planet that sort of hazy aura you see around planet pictures sometimes. Save your xcf fie as next time you make a planet you can re-use the shadows and highlights from this file – saving yourself time:Gimp Planet Tutorial Fifteen

Export you planet as a gif/png and your map as a jpg and your done.

Blobe Blue Green FourBlobe Blue Green Four MapNow you are free to create as many earth like planets as you need for your fantasy Solar system(s). The above might seem like a complex process but once you get into a rhythm you can turn a planet out about every 10-15mins.  I’ll cover some slightly different techniques next time such as giving the planetary surface a rough/textured look and alien colours for example:

Daemon Two

Enjoy your Solar System building 🙂

GIMP – Getting Started with Papercraft Modding/Bashing – One

First up normally when I start talking to people about GIMP they get all nervous looking and edge towards a door, I think they assume I mean these, so to clarify my post is about GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program). I wrote this blog post for a few reasons. First I wanted some basic info to go with the Lost Reich posts I’ll be putting up later and as I seem to have posted/sent information like this out a few times to different people I thought others might find it useful.

First up the online Gimp help files are actually helpful and very well written so I would encourage people to have a flick through those. I will admit that for a new user they could seem a little over whelming with the amount of info presented. The full help files can be found here, I suspect most people will want to jump straight to Chapter 3 in that document as that’s were the real meaty help and how to use starts. My post below  is a bit of a shortcut primer to just get you up and running quickly and start hacking some basic mods into an existing paper models  but is no substitute for the full help files and hard won experience.

If your switching across to GIMP from your totally legal and fully purchased copy of photoshop. I would encourage you to stick with GIMP it took me about 3 months to become fully comfortable with GIMP when I switched over from my old copy of photoshop 5/6.  Now I couldn’t live without some features in GIMP such as “Paste as New Image” (suspect photoshop has that now) and the ability to push docks onto my 2nd monitor as separate Windows. I will admit though that sometimes it takes a little longer in GIMP or it takes me time to locate a plugin to do the same job but unless your a high paid commercial graphic designer, GIMP should meet your needs :). Just give it a chance and give your mind a chance to learn (re-learn) where everything is.

* I have assumed with the below that the user has some understanding of terms like “docks”, can install the software and has some basic level of software knowledge. If not drop me a comment and I’ll try and clarify or help further.

Getting GIMP and First Startup

First up download GIMP and install, the version available when I wrote this is 2.8.2, so your success with the below instructions might vary if we are now up to version 4 and/or its the year 2022.  Personally I prefer to use the portable version to the full install version as I tend to run GIMP off my external HDD I carry with me everywhere.

Next up launch Gimp either via the menu item/desktop icon or via the GIMPportable.exe if using the portable version. Now hopefully you’ll end up with something that looks like this on the first launch:

No I’m not a Starwars and Lego Fan..not at all

The first issue most people have is that we have 3 separate windows, if your running dual or more monitors I’d encourage you to leave GIMP in the above configuration. This will let you push the main image window onto one whole screen and manage the docks on your second screen so maximizing space when image editing (be nice if GIMP just treated both screens as 1 big screen..maybe next version).

However if you prefer a single window or have only one monitor, simply place GIMP into Single Window mode by going to the menu item “Windows” and select the bottom Option “Single-Window Mode” (depending on how your OS operates you may need to close and restart GIMP to have single window mode appear). Below are two more Screenshots, one in single window mode and the other how I have Gimp setup on two monitors (I normally have more docks opened out and untabbed):

Personally with dual monitors I find the above restrictive, but everyone has there own preference so use what your most comfortable with.
I wish it looked that clean IRL with no monitor bezels 🙂

On the odd chance someone is missing some of the default docks to get those back simply go to the “Windows” menu item and first check that “Hide Docks” isn’t ticked on if it is untick it or simply hit the tab key. If you still have no luck go to “Windows” menu item again and select the recently closed docks option if there any options under that select them and it should return your docks. Still no good, Okay one more easy solution to try, go to menu item “edit” and select “preferences” then select “Window Management” (2nd last item) on the small screen on the right then select the “reset saved window positions to default values” select ok on the question that pops up and then hit ok and close GIMP and relaunch. Hopefully the default dialogs have reappeared.

Still no luck? You have my sympathies and I have no idea whats happened to your install, maybe best to try a re-install or try the portable version I mention above, but if you want you can rebuild your docks by hand but it is painful. First up hold ctrl and hit b this will return your toolbox you’ll need to re-size it a little as it will probably be long and thin. Next Select the “Windows” menu item again then the  Dockable Dialogs and select the ones you want one by one and drag the docks back together. At a minimum you want Layers, Brushes and Tool Options. However many others are useful such as Channels, Paths and Undo history but you’ll figure out what you use/need over time.

Basic Paper Model Mods

Okay number one rule with anything in GIMP, most stuff can be subject to an undo, as with most programs undo is under the edit menu item or triggered through a ctrl-z, so don’t be afraid to use it :).

Getting the PDF into GIMP

This is actually much easier than you would think, the worst thing is that Gimp can’t handle layered PDF’s so it only imports the default view you get when you first open the PDF. I’ll cover a work around for this in a later post:

First Launch GIMP

Then Go to “File” then “Open” and browse to the PDF you wish to open and select it (I opened One Monks Old Devils-Imps.pdf ), you’ll be presented with the below:

The most important point on this screen is to make sure the resolution is set to 300 (pixels/in – default setting) and then click Import

In the above this was a simple 1 page PDF if I had imported a multi-page (not layered)PDF I would have seen multiple pages (see below) on the selection screen and each page I selected would be given it’s own layer in GIMP – Think of layers like different bits of papers with a different picture/drawing on it.

We now have our Imps inside GIMP seemingly ready to go, however if you simply print the page now from GIMP you’ll notice it comes out a little smaller than out of the PDF. I don’t fully understand why but there appears to be some internal margin in GIMP which forces the document to be shrunk on print out. To get around this we simply shrink the paper (canvas) size a little.
Go to “Image” then select “Canvas Size” (Do not use Scale Image), your canvas will probably be 2550×3300 px, Click on the “px” value (see below) and change it to %, change both values to 92% (optional turn on the little chain-link icon and change just the top value and both will match or very close). Press the “Center” button and then press “Resize” (you may have to play around with the X and Y values to get the robo marks to stay in view)

Okay why did we just do that last step? If you now go to “File” and “Print”, select your normal printer, now see right at the top you have a tab next to “General” called “Image setting” click that (see below). See the Resolution is  set to 300, If you don’t shrink your canvas a little Gimps internal margins kick in and the resolution on this screen will be above 300, normally around 320-325  and hence your print outs are small. Now on the below screen you can select the “ignore margins” button and manually set your resolution back to 300 but I tend to forget and end up wasting ink and paper… feel free to check out the below screen before you shrink the canvas.

One Way of re-colouring

As with most software there are 3-4 different ways of doing something. GIMP is no different and the below is one way you can re-colour in GIMP, the below will however only let you re-colour it wont for example let you apply a different camo texture, but I’ll cover that in a later post. This way is very quick but not without its limitations it will change all instances of that colour/hue to a different colour/hue. So it works best on large single colour critters, Demons, Dragons, Trolls etc.

You have your Image all ready to go:

Next up go to “Colors” and select “Hue and Saturation”, this will launch this screen

I want some Blue Devils, so I select “R” for red as mostly their skin is Red and now I simply adjust the Hue slider until I get a nice Blue shade. If I want a lighter Blue I simply adjust the Lightness and Saturation Sliders (make sure the little Preview box above “help” is ticked on) until I’m happy with the colour. Below are some example re-colours and the settings used to achieve them. In both cases I adjusted both the Red and Magenta channels but have included screen grabs of both.

Blue Frost Demons

How about some Bright Green Forest Demons?

Once your happy with the colour, select ok and the minis will be re-coloured then save your version as an xcf  file and print your document, cut out (or run through your Cameo/Robo) and enjoy your newly coloured minis.

I’ll leave it  there for now as this post is very long, hopefully there is enough above to get you started. I’ll cover a bit more in other posts later this and next week, I have 3 posts part drafted. If you want me to cover something specific feel free to leave a comment asking/requesting it and I’ll try and add it to my next post.

As always have fun

How to Base Paper Miniatures

I’ve been meaning to do a post on how to base paper miniatures, which includes some of the various types of paper miniature basing you can do. There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of basing so there is no right or wrong way to base. Most of the various base idea’s below come from the cardboard warrior forums, so feel free to head over and browse through the gallery to see what others have done. Depending on the type of basing you decide on you’ll need to grab some of Onemonks standard bases or I’ve made up a plain base template as a layered PDF (30mb) which includes Onemonks basic textures. Additionally I’ve  included the raw shape png’s at the end of this post so you can overlay them on any texture you like from anyone, sorry no cut files yet.

First you’ll need to choose a base shape. This initially would seem easy to do and if you only game using one set of rules just use whatever they recommend. If however you jump around between rulesets/RPG’s/Wargamming it gets slightly more difficult to pick a shape. If your using one of the removable base types below you can just make different base sets for each rule sets you use although if you have 2-3 armies making all those bases can get tiring. For myself after much deliberation I settled on Octagons, there are several reasons why I choose Octagons:

  1. Most RPG’s don’t care what base’s you use but by some sort of weird default convention most stuff to be used for RPG’s ends up on round bases. Round bases do have their advantages in that you don’t snag base corners on things and they aren’t as easily damaged. Octagons provide a similar level of protection not quiet as good as a circle but very close.
  2. Most War games (fantasy) like you to rank your troops up into units and use movement trays, normally specifying a square base so troops and units fit tightly into a movement tray. Octagon bases can also be ranked up quiet effectively in movement trays.
  3. Some war gaming rules have the concept of facing and it can be quiet important which way your unit is facing. The facing rules can be based on a Hexagon or Octagon. By using the trusty Octagon you can cover facing very easily and disregard two sides if you need to very easily.
  4. There easy to cut out compared to circles 🙂 .

In the end pick the shape that works for you, for me that’s Octagons but if you want heart shaped bases go for your life :). With some of the below base types if you use black foam core you can save yourself a significant amount edging.

My Current Bases

I’ll cover my current basing method first. I use a modification of the slotted Foam board base (see below) and something Afet posted about here. I bought a sheet of 2/3mm Depron, Depron is used in RC plane construction and is pretty much available everywhere (okay I know the US/UK and AUS can get hold of it very easily).

I find these bases are slightly thinner than a 5mm foam core base below and don’t look quiet so odd on the table next to regularly based metal mini’s but provide plenty of stability for the paper mini’s. The mini’s don’t slip out easily during game play and I can remove the mini’s to store them flat at the end of a game so they take up less space. It also gives the illusion of flat basing which I prefer with my miniatures. There are a couple of draw backs: It takes slightly longer to make each base than the stock foam block method. I have to shorten the black base tabs a little bit on each miniature which again uses up time. Eventually the bases take on a permanent bend and wont grip the miniature as well (this takes a lot of use). Below I’ve documented the process for making these bases:

First up Print and Cutout a base of the required size.

Glue the above base to a piece of 2/3mm Depron/Foamboard

Cut around the hexagon and cut the base in half (or just off center if your going to rank troops) and colour all white edges to black using a thick black marker

Stick the two halves back down onto some thin magnetic sheet ( I use the cheap fridge magnet stuff on ebay), Insert a single piece of card between the two halves as you stick them down to make a slight gap.

Trim the magnet to size and the base is ready to use.

When I make bases for larger paper miniatures I do tend to mount them on thicker bases as they look less out of scale.

Flat Slide Bases (Reivaj bases)

Full credit goes to Reivaj for coming up with this basing method. I’m torn at the moment between using my basing method above or slowly moving my miniatures across to this basing method.

This basing method  provides you with a removable bases, the bases are not to thick so your mini’s don’t have a mounted to a plinth look, they are only slightly more difficult to make than my modified foam block bases above and the miniatures once mounted are near impossible to pull out of the base. They do however have a couple of draw backs: When you make your paper miniatures you have to be careful not to glue the black base tabs together so you can bend them outwards later on, sliding the miniatures into the bases can be a little fiddly and if your not careful you can damage the the base (bend it to much) or the miniature (burr over the tabs).

First up print and cut out a standard One Monk base of the required size.

Trim off the square end tabs as they are not required.

Flip over the base and glue some strips/pieces of cardboard inside the base (black spacers in the below image, I’ve been using doubled up 190GSM card to create the spacers), trim to size and edge.

Fold over and glue the top to the bottom

When Gluing your miniatures up make sure you Don’t glue the black tabs as you need to bend those out left and right.

(You can strength the black tabs with a little sticky tape)

Base all finished. When sliding miniatures in and out bend the base upwards slightly.

As an addition I’ve been  sticking  a thin piece of magnetic sheet to the bottom of these bases to add a little extra weight/strength.


Slotted Foam Block Bases

I’m not sure who came up with this basing method but I’ve seen several users on the cardboard warrior forums using this technique . The advantage of these bases is that they are very quick and easy to make. However they are not without their drawbacks. I have had some problems pushing miniatures into the base slots and removing them which can damage the miniatures base tab, if you use standard 5mm foam core for the bases they are also very chunky. I tend to only use these bases in a pinch eg I’ve run out and need to mount some more mini’s for a game I’ll quickly cut some squares  from black foam board and wont worry about adding a ground texture.

First up Print and Cutout a base of the required size. I tend to find with these bases I need one size bigger than I would normally use for the miniature.

Glue the above base to a piece of foam board

Trim the foam board back to the base shape and cut a groove. I use a small steel ruler to help work the groove slightly bigger.

The base is all finished and ready for use

Onemonk Standard Bases

These are the standard Onemonk bases you can download. There are over 50 pre-made bases and textures available in multiple manufacturers textures. These are easy and fairly quick to make. I have found overtime with use that the tab on the base that holds the miniatures slowly loses it’s grippyness, this tends to occur more quickly than with the other base types. You can fix this issue by simply using a short bobby pin or if you prefer permanently gluing your miniature into the base. This of course then removes some of the advantages of paper miniatures as you will no longer be able to store them flat. I’ve included how I assemble them below as it’s slightly different to the PDF guide located here.

First up print and cut out a standard One Monk base of the required size and score along the indicated score lines.

Flip the base over and using a black  marker blacken the end tabs and a strip down the middle of the base

Simply glue the top to the bottom and edge with a black marker

The base is now ready to use

Permanent Flat Bases

With all the options above I no longer use flat basing as a basing method. Although it looks good it removes one of the key benefits of paper miniatures for me and that’s the ability to store a lot of miniatures in a small space. Saying that it is impossible to remove a miniature from a base short of ripping it off so during gaming they are very durable.

First up Print and Cutout a base of the required size.

Glue the base to your preferred basing material and edge. I’ve used magnetic sheet, Matt board and plain cardboard in the past.

Simply cut the black tab off your miniature and glue it to the base using PVA or super glue

Going All Out

There are some really nice based paper skeleton miniatures across on the cardboard warrior forums, although not removable from the bases they look out standing. Using the above bases as a start there is no reason you can’t use more traditional basing materials to really make your miniatures and bases pop. Although fairly labour intensive to make for a whole army, for special miniatures like Hero’s or PC’s these bases really help to make special characters stand out on the table top. Below is one example I’ve assembled but you could use any of the hundreds of regular basing tutorials on the web to create unique looking bases (here, here, here and here).

Fancy Reivaj style base (sorry about the dark base in the photo)

Here’s a picture of the five different base types side by side at the end of the day they will all look good on the table so pick the base that works best for yourself 🙂

Have fun gaming

Plain Base Shapes Layered PDF (30mb recommend right click save as)

Save the below and load in GIMP/Photoshop, they should be 2550×3300 pixels @ 300 pixels an inch

Circle Square Octagon Hexagon
15mm 15mm 15mm 15mm
20mm 20mm 20mm 20mm
25mm 25mm 25mm 25mm
30mm 30mm 30mm 30mm
40mm 40mm 40mm 40mm
50mm 50mm 50mm 50mm
Pill Rectangle Oct-Rectangle
15x30mm 15x30mm 15x30mm
20x40mm 20x40mm 20x40mm
25x50mm 25x50mm 25x50mm
25x75mm 25x75mm

Wargaming Terrain – How to Make Trees (One Single Trunk)

I wanted to try scratch building some tree armatures for wargaming. Two main reasons, one I wanted to see how hard it would be and two I’ve always been pretty disappointed with the way paper trees look, the paper trees are normally to short and/or have that toilet paper tube look. I think in the case of trees paper may not be the best medium.  Below is a bit of a how to on what I did to make my trees. I’ve only done single trunk trees however I am going to try multi-trunk and fruit trees later on. I apologies for the below pictures but it was very difficult to take some decent photos to show the build process. You can see some further photos of the textured trunk at the end of this blog post. The information contained below I’ve picked up in various forums, tutorials and by looking at some commercially available trees over the past decade or so, unfortunately this means I can’t provide any links to anyone place as inspiration, think of the below as an amalgamation of web idea’s plus some of my own all mixed together.

You will need to gather some supplies before you can start making trees:

  • Acrylic Gap Filler (White cheaper, Brown can save painting)
  • 20-30 meters of 1.57mm diameter (14-15 gauge) galvanized tie wire
  • 20-30 meters of .9 mm diameter (19 gauge) galvanized tie wire
  • Coarse art paint brush
  • Wire Cutters
  • Long nosed pliers
  • Hot Glue Gun and/or PVA glue
  • Masking tape 18mm / 3/4 of an inch
  • Disc magnets 15mm x 1mm/ 5/8 x 1/32 inch(optional)
  • 5 min epoxy if your using the magnets and don’t have hot glue
  • Super glue
  • Strong fingers 🙂

If you can’t find the exact tie wire listed above slightly thinner would be better than slightly thicker, make sure it is tie wire and not high tensile fencing wire. In Australia you can get all the above items from your local hardware store,  except for the magnets, the magnets I used are these magnets available from deal extreme. Deal extreme also sells an 18mm x 2mm magnet which would be interesting to experiment with.

Some of the tools

The dimensions etc listed below will make a tree approximately 20cm/8inches tall, at the end I’ve included some dimensions and lengths for a 6inch tall tree. You should be able to expand this method out to make taller trees by simply adding an extra longer length.  The first step is to grab your thicker (1.57mm) tie wire and cut some lengths of wire:

  • 4 x 12.5cm / 5 inches (potentially optional read below)
  • 4 x 20 cm / 8 inches
  • 4 x 26.5cm / 10.5 inches
  • 4 x 30cm / 12 inches

Wire Lengths

Grab two of the same length of wire and twist them together using your fingers and the pliers. Make sure you leave a tail at the end being held by the pliers of about 1.5cm / 3/4 of an inch, later these will become the roots of the tree. Do not twist the wires all the way together leave at least 4cm / 1.5 inches untwisted on each piece. I’ve done a picture and a very short video to try and show what I mean.

Link To Video

For the 5inch lengths there is no need to leave a tail on them as they will be used as extra branches, hopefully you have two of each twisted length something similar to the below.

Twisted wire pairs

Similar to the above process now grab two of the same length twisted wire pairs and twist them together. This is harder to do due the 4 strands of wire, if you need to you can use a second pair of pliers to help with the twisting. Again do not twist the wire pairs all the way together as the end part of the wire becomes the branches. As a rough guide leave at least 10cm / 4inches on the 20cm / 8inch wire pairs, 8cm /3 inches on the 26.5cm / 10.5 inches wire pairs and 6cm / 2 1/2 inches on the 30cm / 12 inches wire pairs. There is no need to twist the two 12.5cm / 5 inch lengths together as these are used later independently.

Now the fun part begins, you need to shape your wire pairs into some semblance of the start of a tree trunk and branches. Basically you just need to bend the untwisted wire parts down, not as far down as 90 degrees but just slightly sloping upwards, try not to bend the two branches exactly opposite each other, stagger one slightly up and the other slightly down. I’ve included a diagram below which shows the approximate lengths to leave prior to doing a bend, don’t take these figures as 100% accurate but use them as a starting guide and then if something looks off adjust it a little. You may end up with a little extra wire at the ends if you do just snip it off, likewise if one branch is turning out a little short don’t worry to much trees don’t seem to when they grow in nature :). Bend your short root ends up at about 90 degrees.

Click to enlarge picture

Hopefully you now have five parts that look something  like the below.

Wire pairs twisted together

This next part is difficult to describe, however hopefully with my description and the pictures below you’ll be able to work out what I mean. Take your Short, Medium and Long trunk/branch segments and fit them together so that the roots at the bottom are lined up flat but pointing out in different directions and the branches poke out in different directions at the top or as different as you can get them. Next take a short length (8-10cm, 3-4 inches) of masking tape and tape the very bottom of your tree just above the roots, tape as  tightly with the masking tape as you can to help hold the three wire pieces together. The three wire trunks will naturally form a sort of triangle down the bottom.

You can really start to see the tree in your wire armature now. To help strength the tree further and hold it together, You will need to wrap masking tape tightly around the trunk under each wire branch pair.

Masking tape around trunk below branches

Your tree should be fairly sturdy now and is hopefully not in any danger of falling back into it’s component parts. However to really help tie the wire together in a more permanent structure. Grab your hot glue gun/ PVA glue and in the gap between your base masking tape and your first branch piece of masking tape push some hot glue or PVA glue into this gap. The advantage with hot glue is that it dries quickly so less waiting around. The below image shows were you should have the glue placed, feel free to use your hot glue on other spots if you feel the armature needs it.

If you like you can stop there and call your tree miniature armature done and not worry about adding a few extra branches. I’ve done a few trees with just opposite branches and it does have some advantages, you use less Acrylic gap filler, less branches means less “leaf” (ok sponge material) that you have to glue and use on the tree, quicker to paint and most importantly the trees will still look good.  If you do wish to use the two extra branches they are pretty easy to use, basically bend what would be the root end down about 1.5cm / 1/2 inch. Select a location for your branch and size it to about the same length as the other two branches located near it. You want your branches to be evenly spaced around your tree so you will need to bend the other two like sized branches back towards each other ie the angle between your three complimentary sized branches will be approximately 120 degrees. Now using your hot glue gun glue the branch to the side of your tree. While the hot glue is drying wrap some masking tape around the tree trunk and the branch tail to help hold it in place (the tape is very important if you use PVA glue). Unfortunately I couldn’t get a picture of myself covered in strands of hot glue and wincing in pain as it stuck to my hands, but hopefully the two pictures below and the description above give you a rough idea of what to do.

Deciding on position


All Glued and Taped in place

Once you have your branches added on, next is to add a short top to the tree. I use the 0.9mm wire and just twiddle a bit around the the top of the trunk and extend it upwards about 3.75 cm / 1.5 inches and then have small branches pulled down on each side of about the same length (you may need to glue/tape it in place). I’ve circled the topper in blue in the below photo and the extra branches in red.

Extra branches and topper

Topper ready for use

I’ve put magnets in to the base of my tree so that they magnetize down onto the terrain to help stabilize the trees when they are being used during gaming but can be easily lifted out of the way if needed. I’ll need to do a post later on detailing how I make my hills etc with grab points. If you prefer to permanently affix your trees to your terrain you can skip this step. If you look at the base of your tree you’ll notice the roots are all crisscrossed over one and other, what you want to do is untwist and pull these out flat. The picture below shows a base I’ve sorted and  flattened out. You want your root ends at this point to be pointing slightly upwards (Yes my roots are slightly longer than needed).

Take two of your 15mm magnets and super glue them together, next temporarily stick your magnets to the base of the tree and stand the tree on a flat surface check in all dimensions that the tree trunk is approximately vertical and isn’t laying over in one direction or the other. If the tree trunk is laying over re-bend your roots to help flatten it out. If it looks good simply hot glue or epoxy glue the magnets in place.

Next trim your roots to the length about 18mm / 1/2 an inch long. Once they are all trimmed down you want to bend the roots down so that the tips of each root are level with the base of the magnet. I find the best way to do this is to bend them down to about where I think they need to be and then check them by standing the tree on a tabletop and bend any up and down that need adjusting. The roots will seem to curve down over the magnet which is the effect we are after. You can also see in the below picture were I built up the base with a bit of hot glue.

  Lastly before we apply the acrylic you can further bandage the tree in masking tape. I have made trees with and without masking tape bandaging. A quick pro’s and con’s for bandaging:

Pros

Cons

Use less acrylic filler Time taken to bandage tree in masking tape
Easier to cover the wire with filler
Quicker when using acrylic filler

From the above it would appear the best thing to do is to masking tape the armatures however this does add significant time and is reasonably fiddly as I’ve had to cut the masking tape in half length wise to tape the branches. Saying that at the moment I do lean towards bandaging the trees in masking tape. If you do use masking tape make sure to try and respect basic tree anatomy, ie thinner towards the ends of branches and top of the tree.  I also do a last pruning at this stage to check I don’t have any to long branches or branches pointing in the wrong direction, basically just try to give the tree reasonable symmetry. The two pictures below show a bandaged tree and an un-bandaged tree ready for painting with acrylic gap filler.

Bandaged Tree

Un-Bandaged Tree

I tend to stockpile 5-6 armatures before I paint them with a coat or two of acrylic gap filler (If you want to permanently fix your trees to your terrain now is the time to glue them in position on the terrain). Take one of your armatures and put a drop of super glue onto the magnet on the underside and try to get a dot on the end of each root, now place the tree down on a piece of thin writing paper so the magnet and root tips glue to the paper, to get a good smooth bond use a metal surface (old computer case wall for example).

I find I get a better bark texture if I squeeze out some gap filler into a small bowl and then add a few drops of water and mix it in so the gap filler is slightly less goopy. The more water you add the smoother your bark will appear once the gap filler dries, this is a good way to show different types of tree barks.  Next just grab your coarse paint brush (I use a cheap art 1/2 brush) and paint the gap filler onto the armature. When you brush the gap filler onto the armature brush the gap filler on the trunk in an up and down direction and paint a long the branches (red arrows). Try to build up a sort of triangular shaped wedge on the underside of the branches were they join the trunk (Green triangles), Don’t paint to much on the branch wire ends just a thin layer to cover the silver wire.


Painting Gap Filler Flow Diagram

Don’t worry to much if you think the texture looks wrong as you paint it on, even some really weird lumpy textures look very bark like when you get them dry brushed. Below I took are two pictures one shows a group of trees dried after being painted with brown acrylic gap filler and the second a close up of the base and bark texture.

Four 8 inch trees and One 6 inch tree

Close up of base and bark texture

Once the acrylic filler dries about 12-24 hours trim the base to a roundish circle using the wire root ends as a guide. Next  paint the underside of the base with some PVA glue, don’t worry that the base is a little wrinkly, the important thing is that the magnet and the wire tips provide the contact points with the ground and these wont be wrinkly. After I’ve done the coat of PVA glue I then paint the the underside of the base black. You now have three options

  1. You can use the trees as is or
  2. Give the tree a quick dry brush with a lighter colour to bring out the ridges or
  3. Fully paint them with a mid colour,  dark wash and a dry brush.

If you used white gap filler you’ll have to do a full paint or at least a base coat. I’ve been doing the last option as it really helps to bring out the texture of the bark and makes the tree look good on the table. My colour choices for bark have been burnt sienna as the base coat, darkened burnt umber as a wash and Bilious brown as the dry brush highlight. Below are a  couple of pictures of a finished tree armature, in the below picture you can see were I’ve missed the dark brown wash in a few spots as the wood appears redder (most noticeable on branch tips which will eventually be covered in clumping foam).

Single Tree Closeup

Group Shot Finished

Last step is to just add your preferred type of tree leaf material. I’ve been using Woodland Scenics clumping foam stuck on with super glue so they are really durable for wargaming. There are a few ways of making your own tree leaf material but I’ve found the clumping foam to be the best compromise between cost and durability.  The below finished tree isn’t one of the above but it is one of my first prototypes which I painted in a slightly different colour scheme, however as an unexpected bonus the colouring works better when photographed.

For a six inch tree you want to cut wire to the below lengths from .9 mm diameter (19 gauge) wire:

  • 4 x 7.5cm / 3 inches (extra branches)
  • 4 x 12.5 cm / 5 inches
  • 4 x 17.5cm / 7 inches
  • 4 x 22.5cm / 9 inches

Using those as a starting point you should be able to assemble a six inch high tree using the above guide and these wire lengths as a starting point. In the off chance someone would like to read this as a PDF later on I put one together available here (3mb).

Have fun with your trees 🙂

Wargaming Terrain – How to Make Creeping Vines

As promised I thought I’d do some quick instructions on how I made the green creepy vine on the rocks. I picked up some push molds from the mold hut on ebay, the vines are specifically mold number F112 I’d recommend getting at least two it will speed up production. The mold hut has a heap of molds which would be handy for decorative bits on scratch built terrain, some others I picked up are G113, A115 and F147 but there are literally 10+ others which look handy, just have a browse:

Molds from the Mold Hut

The problem with vines is that they are traditionally bendy and conform to the shape of the object they grow around and over. I’m sure there is some ultra expensive bendy specialized rubbery molding agent. However as I was looking for a cheap solution I tried a few different Gooey type sealants I had laying around the house. As it turned out the cheapest one was the best, it doesn’t stick to the silicon mold once dry (no special release agent required), after doing 20 or so molds of the vine I’m not seeing any mold degradation so it appears to be silicon safe.

The only drawback is it needs at least 4 hours to dry before you try and remove the vine from the mold, this however isn’t to much of an issue if you have two molds you set them up before going to work/school then pop them out on return, set them up again pop them out just before bed and set them up again and pop them out in the morning. So you can do about 3 cycles a day and on a weekends if your around the house you can do 5 or 6 cycles producing between 6-12 vine segments. The goo in question is the cheapest Acrylic gap filler you can buy in those long tubes, downunder it costs $2 per tube although you do need gun to squeeze it out ($6-$10) most people probably already have the gun laying around the house. You can also buy the stuff coloured but this more than doubles the cost to about $5 a tube, I also couldn’t find a nice green (brown in below pic).  This is not a Silicon based gap sealant you will have terrible problems painting the vines if you use a silicon based sealant it has to be a plain acrylic gap filler:

Acrylic Gap Filler

Now the easy part grab some of your Acrylic gap filler you only need a tiny amount less than half a teaspoon full per vine mold. If you squeeze to much out simply wrap it up in some kitchen cling wrap/film which stops it from setting and you can then use it later to fill a mold.  If you have the plain white gap filler you can colour it at this stage with a small amount of paint or green ink just mix it in well. Try as much as you can to push the sealer into the mold to fill in all the gaps. Once your happy that you’ve squished the sealant in as much as you can hold a toothpick on either end and run it across the surface of the mold. You’ll need to push down reasonably hard, however if you push down to much you’ll scoop the acrylic right out of the mold, if this happens just push some more gap filler back into the mold and re-scrap with your toothpick. Whatever you do make sure you scrap fairly quickly otherwise a skin will form and you wont be able to scrap. Additionally don’t worry if the surface facing you is not perfectly smooth it’s the glue side:

Molds Filled and Scraped

I timed my test piece at night in late winter early autumn (about 18C or 64F) and 4 hours seemed to let the acrylic set enough for removal. However leaving it as long as 24-36 hours only made it easier to remove. To remove the vine simply bend the mold away from the vine and then gently lift it out remember to be gentle some parts of the vine are very thin. If you do happen to break the vine in half or pull a  piece off all is not lost either save those two bits for when you need a short piece of vine or use a tiny amount of acrylic gap sealer to join them back together. You will notice a little bit of flashing around the edges of the vine, as far as I can tell that’s pretty normal I think a combination of the type of mold and using acrylic goo as a casting material are not exactly optimal:

Vines demolded (left-front, right-back)

Leave the vine to dry for another few hours or overnight if you can and then simply trim any unwanted bits hanging of the edges away with a pair of nail scissors. I’d recommend buying your own pair rather than stealing borrowing your other halves or parents as all hell will be raised when they find bits of gooey acrylic gap sealer all over their nail scissors. Your handy $2 shop/Golo type establishment should have nail scissors for $3-$4 a pair. If your hobby table is anything like mine, it is some form of mimic hobby table that eats tools and so I’d recommend buying two pairs. Two nice trimmed vine segment:

Vines Trimmed

Next up paint the vine segments in the base green  colour (or any other colour you like), it’s easier to give the vines a base coat while they are not glued to your piece of terrain. If you found a nice coloured green acrylic goo or dyed your acrylic with paint or ink you wont need to worry about this step unless it’s not to your taste. Here are a couple of my vine segments painted green and ready to be used on my next piece of terrain.

Vines Base Coated

At this point I tend to stockpile vine parts ready to be used in a small jar. I have about a dozen in the jar ready to go, a dozen segments gos a long way the two rock terrain pieces used 5 and 4.5 vine segments each so it stretches a reasonable distance.  To use them simply mock the segments up were you’d like them to go a long your piece of terrain (Paint the terrain first). You will need to trim off the odd leaf (save them they do come in handy) and clip the top and bottoms so they fit together and align.

Mockup showing One and Half Vines

I’ve used both super glue and white PVA glue to glue the vine segments in place, I prefer the PVA as it gives me slightly more time to adjust the position of the vines. When you place your first piece make sure it’s about 5mm (1/8 inch) up from ground level, then simply glue the additional vine pieces in place. The small gaps and the missing base stem simply fill/build up with a small amount of acrylic gap filler and once dry paint green to match. Next I simply painted on some thin white lines as leaf veins and then lightly washed and highlighted the leaves with a lighter green paint:

Vines Glued and Detailed

You can use the above acrylic gap filler in other molds just remember if the piece is thicker or more dense it will take longer to dry before you can demold the piece.


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