Sunday, October 10, 2010

Aquarium Additions- Personalization, Part II

If you've read the first half on plastic aquarium plants, then you know that this section of the Blog will address painting tips to transform an underwater ruin into a battlefield ruin.

 The key with personalizing pet-store terrain is to have selected terrain that is the right scale and overall look, without having worried about color at the time of purchase.  By thinking about your armies and campaigns, you can modify the store-bought terrain to the proper color-scheme with relative ease.  (None of the projects here took more than a half an hour of actual painting time.)
Be creative and have fun- your tabletop battlefield will quickly become more interesting and detailed. 
Here are three projects based on my most recent trip to Petco for terrain.  (Grecian ruins, sunken tank, and ruined farmhouse.)     {I do not know when and if these products will no longer be carried; as of the writing of this blog, these links are working/accurate.}

IIA- Modifying Grecian Ruins
     The pillars that I purchased look eroded by water.  They are a light color with white highlights.  There is nothing wrong with this, of course, but in the universe we play in, things tend to be dark.  There are a lot of washes available.
Here is the single pillar that is available.

Here is the difference after a coat of Devlan Mud Wash (from Citadel)

The larger ruin is getting a different, more detailed, look:
First, a near uniform coat of a deep tan to darken the overall coloring and look.

Then a coat of wash on one side of the pillars, and some ivory highlighting on the other side.
(there are now three colors on the piece)
I also added some flocking to represent moss that had grown over time.

IIB- Modifying a sunken tank
The first thing that I did was try to decide if it should be the wreck of an alien or Imperial tank.  I decided to try for an older version of an Imperial tank, perhaps from the time of the Great Crusade.
The tank as it was purchased.

Everything except the treads gets a coat of dark green.

The treads get a coat of tan with dry-brushed highlighting to simulate both rust and dirt.

The "grass" at the base and some indentations on the tank are flocked to represent moss and other plant growth.

Finally, some metallic additions that represent both signs of former glory and changes in the metal over years of exposure to the elements.

IIC- Modifying a ruined farmhouse
  When I saw this farmhouse, my initial thought was to try and "save" it, but then I realized that it already looked as though it might have been through a fire, perhaps even an explosion.  There was a huge hole in the back, destroyed windows and doors and ragged holes in the roof..
As purchased.  The green roof didn't remind be of thatch.

A basecoat of vibrant yellow.

Highlighting with what Citadel calls "Bleached Bone"

Some brown and flocking town down the walls and ground and finally make the roof thatch colored.

Grey adds some depth to the rocks and walls and provides a lighter base for the chimney.

Black brushed over some rocks, the chimney, and all of the openings show the soot of a major fire.
(A view of the back and the holes that inspired me by reminding me of an explosion.)

Aquarium Additions- Personalizing Pet-Store Purchases I

Here in part two, we're going to talk  about a few simple conversions.  For ease of navigation, part two will actually be two blog entries.  Our topics are:
I) Making plastic plants more interesting
      A) Adding moss and basing
      B) Changing coloring
II) Taking an undersea wreck and making it look like a battlefield wreck
     A) Grecian Ruins
     B) Sunken Tank
     C) Ruined Farmhouse

IA- Adding moss and basing to plastic plants
     Many of the plants that you can buy for your aquarium have weighted bases to allow them to sit amongst the gravel in a traditional aquarium, with the top stationary or lightly swaying in the current of passing fish or the circulation system,   In a pinch, this will allow you to stand these plants on your mini-wargaming battlefield and go without alteration, but there are potential problems with this.
     In both versions of Warhammer, for example, it is important to delineate when your soldiers are advancing into cover, and without a suitable base designating a vegetated area, this cannot be determined without some house rules and understanding players.  (Games Workshop offers a kit to make four trees that reminded me of aquarium plants.)
     The simplest way to designate the area that is to be considered "cover" is to use cardboard, plasticard, or foam board to designate the footprint of the terrain that will count as such, and to place similar plants upon it at a spacing that will allow the placement of models within the terrain.
Here is a link to the Games Workshop "Citadel Wood."  You will notice that there is extensive rock and grass, but only three trees.  I'll do a separate piece on large sections of terrain later on, but you'll still need to base the non-weighted plants.
This set of tall grass has little weight and bases that don't blend very well with your existing/commercial terrain.
The first thing I did was to snip the three sections apart with my gamer pliers.

You can find these static-grass covered Styrofoam lumps at the craft or dollar store.
I found this package at the local Dollar Tree.

Use the actual plant as a template.  Take a craft knife and trim out a hole for the plant base.
I like to hold the plant and make several deep cuts at the same bevel as the plant base.

Once you are certain that the plant will fit you can use plastic glue or something similar (Gorilla, Super) to permanently fasten the plant to the foam.  This has a large area and is unlikely to tip over, but it is still very light.

An easy and fairly inexpensive way to add a base with weight is to use polymer clay.  I usually have Sculpey on hand at home.  It is easy to knead and use; we simply bake it in our home oven (using a ceramic tile in place of a cookie tray) for 15-30 minutes at 275 Fahrenheit according to manufacturer instructions for thickness of the piece.
I used about a quarter of the block.  First, trim with craft knife, then knead for a few moments in your hands.
Unless you have a problem with various dyes you should be able to use bare skin  (I've used clay that requires gloves in the past, and a polymer clay with pigment that stained my hands in summer).

Roll a log using the palm of you hand and a smooth surface.

Pinch around the plant base, REMOVE THE PLANT, and bake according to manufacturers directions.
While my clay was baking I used Citadel brand Dark Angels Green to darken the plastic.

Plastic glue holds the grass in the base and white glue holds my grass substance.
I used Woodland Scenics Burnt Grass, but there are several available, including the static version from the same company which does look significantly more like the grass found on a golf course.  (If you are planning on covering a large area, use the company spray cement in a well-ventilated area.  White glue only works so well... like using glitter, you can loose flock when the item is shaken.)

Here is the same grass clump type, finished, with each base type.  I feel that the clay looks more natural, but is that what you want for an alien landscape?  It's a matter of personal preference.

IB- Changing the coloring of plastic plants
The grass clumps above only received a single coat of a single color.  You can achieve a more dramatic change with multiple coats of multiple colors.
Here is a water plant with a standard weighted base.  Perhaps you are happy with a plant that seems to float above the surface of your terrain (it is an alien landscape, after all), but I felt that the attachment to the base seemed too unnatural.

I attached peat moss to the base.  This is available in multiple shades and clump sizes at craft and hobby stores.

Next, a coat of a light, nearly neon green. 
The existing brown will be the lowlight/shading while this will provide the highlight.

A coat of dark green over the light and along the stem produces something a bit more bush or tree-like for your landscape.