Friday, 18 June 2021

Spring of Scenery 2021 - Part 8: Alien hive spires

I found some nice models on Thingiverse for 3d printing Tyranid scenery which I thought might be useful as mysterious organic alien hive spires for a game.  Out of idle interest I had a look on ebay too and found someone selling prints of those exact models for a fairly good price. A day or two after I looked, the seller contacted me and offered a 5% discount offer so I ended up with 6 x "capillary towers" for £8.99.

They've been produced on an FDM printer which lays down a trail of molten plastic to build up the 3d structure.  As a result, they do have noticeable print lines but I applied a coat of white sandtex masonry paint mixed with filler which helped smooth out the surface without filling in much of the fine detail.  The bases received a coat of texture paint (burnt umber acrylic, PVA, readymix filler & fine sand) and then the whole lot were sprayed with black primer.

Capillary towers with 15mm EVA suits and life-sized toddler fingers for scale.

I asked for colour suggestions on the 15mm Sci Fi Facebook page and the general opinion seemed to be for a bone coloured carapace with a fleshy underside.  I'd originally been toying with the idea of old school Genestealer blue carapace with purple flesh.  While the blue didn't make it, I thought the purple could be worked in on the more squishy bits.


The carapace was painted with Vallejo khaki and the flesh in Vallejo dwarf flesh. A sepia wash was applied over the entire model, then the base colours re-applied as highlights.  Drybrushing doesn't work as well on something like this because it just enhances the 3d print lines, something you actually want to be minimising!  More highlights were carefully painted onto the bone (Vallejo bone with gradually increasing quantities of dead white added) and the flesh (Vallejo Elf flesh with increasing quantities of dead white added). I dug out my 25 year old bottle of GW purple ink from the "Expert paint set", thinned it with some Future floor polish and gave the fleshy bits a good coat, blending in a little extra purple around the edges.  This helped delineate the edge between the carapace and the flesh and the gloss Future gave a shiny finish to contrast with the very matt finish of the bony parts.


The finishing touch was to splash some PVA on the bases, sprinkle on flock and seal with PVA/matt varnish.

"Wow! What are these things?"

"I don't know, but lets go and have a really close look..."

 Now I just need a suitable scenario to use them for a game of Rogue Stars, or maybe to add a third party to an unsuspecting couple of players next time I run a Tomorrow's War game.

Monday, 14 June 2021

Spring of Scenery 2021 - Part 7: Walls

Getting on for 10 years ago (judging by the postage marking on the box) I got some walls from ebay.  They seem to be some sort of white resin and most had been painted bright red.  I've no idea of their origin, whether they came from a particular company or someone casting from their own home-made moulds.  The quality was variable with some poor casting in places and a few bubbles but overall I was pleased and I think they only cost me something like £5-6 including postage.

I made a start on painting them, spray undercoating in grey and drybrushing the wall a duller brick red and the coping stones a brown/grey concrete colour.  This left the grey in between the bricks to look like cement.  I only got part of the set done, then they were put away and forgotten about...

I found them again a couple of years ago and put them in my general 15mm scenery box.  They made a brief appearance in Escape From Zombie Island 2019 where their thin profile, uneven edges and lack of bases made them constantly fall over, reminding me why I'd put them away in the first place!

Walls appearing in Escape from Zombie Island

Basing my hedges using thin foamex had worked well, so a rootle around in my supplies turned up a small sheet of 3mm onto which I was just able to squeeze all the bases.  I grouped some of the straight sections into pairs to make double-length walls.

Bases ready to cut out of 3mm foamex sheet.

Box of walls with bases ready for cutting.

The walls aren't exactly 15mm scale, maybe 1/72 instead.  A 15mm figure standing up straight could probably just peer over them but adding bases to the walls may completely block LOS.

Walls with GZG New Israeli for scale.

They went that-a-way!

The bases were easily trimmed out of the foamex using a sturdy craft knife. I considered whether to cut off the overhanging joints of the walls and glue back onto the opposite end to make them neat, flat-ended but in the end, I left them as they were. Cutting, gluing and blending in all those little pieces would have taken ages and life's just too short!

Bases cut to size.

The edges of the bases were chamfered and cut into a slightly more irregular edged shape.

That's going to be a lot of gluing!

With the bases added, the walls are just a touch taller than a 15mm figure.

Based wall with Rebel Minis mercenary for scale.

I used "Hard as Nails" adhesive to stick the walls in place.  When the walls were cast, they were either underfilled or the resin shrank a lot, some were 2 or 3mm short at one side or the other.  The underside of most walls was concave, so the nice thick adhesive filled the gaps and ensured a firm bond, also levelling up the worst of the uneven bottoms.  It also helped conceal the gaps between the 2 parts of the double-length walls.

Some of the walls were very uneven in height.

Walls all based.

Walls glued to base with "Hard as Nails" adhesive/filler.

After basing, the bases were painted with burnt umber acrylic.

Bases painted with burnt umber acrylic.

The walls were painted with burnt sienna, then individual bricks picked out with burnt umber, taupe and ochre.  The coping stones were painted with taupe.  I mixed up a brown/black wash with some matt acrylic varnish and applied it over the whole of the walls which toned the brighter colours down and hepled tie everything together.

Walls all painted and dark washed.



I had been planning to dust some pale tile grout over the walls and then wipe off with a damp cloth to leave mortar lines between the bricks but I decided that they actually looked pretty good as they were.  PVA was painted over the bases and they were dipped in a tub of sand and brown tile grout. This was sprayed with isopropanol then a thinned PVA and matt varnish mix dripped over to seal it.

Sand/grout mix applied to bases.

The final stage was more PVA, then a sprinkle of dark green flock followed by finer, lighter green flock and last of all, a few green dyed tea-leaves.

Flock added to bases

The isopropanol/PVA and varnish stage was repeated to finish everything off - or so I thought...

Flock soaked in PVA/varnish to seal in place.

Flock soaked in PVA/varnish to seal in place.

Flock soaked in PVA/varnish to seal in place.

Flock soaked in PVA/varnish to seal in place.

Walls completed?

After looking at the end result in better light, I decided that I did need to do one more thing, just a quick drybrush over all the walls with some Humbrol desert sand to give them a faint dustiness and matt down the faint shine that even supposedly matt varnish sometimes seems to have.

Now they're finished!

GZG FSE Foreign Legionnaires for scale.

Bare earth was left in the gateways.

Additional vegetation was used to hide gaps.

Small reindeer licken & tea-leaf bush.


Vegetation to hide big blobs of Hard as Nails used to fill gaps.

Vegetation hides bad casting at the bottom of the wall.


These walls should get a few more outings now that I know they aren't going to fall over every time I try to use them!

Saturday, 12 June 2021

Spring of Scenery 2021 - Part 6: Aluminium foil rock moulds

When I made my tree hills, one of the main reasons I wanted to do it was to try out couple of new techniques, creating rocks using aluminium foil and painting using the leopard spot technique.  I first read about the aluminium foil method in a book on model railways that I had as a child but never had the opportunity to try it back then.  Having seen people using Woodland Scenics rock moulds on various YouTube videos, I thought I'd try the foil trick to see how it compared.

Materials: foil & plaster.



The foil was crumpled and creased, then shaped into troughs and hollows to contain the plaster.  The plaster was mixed in the usual ratios to a creamy mixture and poured into the moulds.  I left if fairly shallow because I didn't want the weight of the plaster to deform the thin foil moulds spill out!  If I do it again, I will set the foil moulds into a bed of sand to better support them.

Moulds setting.

Moulds setting.

Once the plaster had set, the foil was carefully peeled off to reveal the rocks.  Because they were cast fairly thin, it's easy to snap them to the size that you need.

Demoulded rocks ready to use.

Detail of plaster rock.

Lots of rocks.

Once embedded in the hills and set in place with sculptamould, the rocks were painted using the "leopard spot" technique.

Colours to use (apart from the green).

Burnt sienna and caramel were watered down and dabbed on in spots, each covering about 1/3 of the rock area.  1/3 of the rock area was left plain white.

Burnt sienna and caramel paint applied.

Burnt sienna and caramel paint applied.

Next, a mix of very thinned burnt umber paint was washed over the rocks.  This blends the other 2 colours together and also tints the remaining white areas of plaster.

Burnt umber wash applied.

Burnt umber wash applied.

Next was a shading wash of very dilute black paint.  This really brings out the texture of the rocks.  Apologies for a few duplicate pictures from the previous post in here!

Black wash applied.

Black wash applied.

Black wash applied.

Black wash applied.

Black wash applied.

Black wash applied.

The final step was to drybrush the rocks with taupe to create a dusty highlight.  I think I slightly overdid this stage, so the yellow and red colours are hardly visible.

Taupe drybrushed as a final highlight.

Taupe drybrushed as a final highlight.

Taupe drybrushed as a final highlight.

Although the rocks were finished, there was still flocking required to finish off the rocks.  The last few pictures are detail shots of the rocks in situ with all the flocking, scatter and trees in place.  They actually look better now than in the previous stage, possibly because I took advantage of the sunny weather to photograph them in daylight rather than in the poor artificial light of our dining room.

Finished rocks.

Finished rocks.

Finished rocks.

Finished rocks.

Finished rocks.

Finished rocks.

I count these experiments as a qualified success.  What did I learn?

  • I should have used new foil.  I was recycling an old bit of foil that has been re-used several times in the kitchen, which meant that it had been folded and re-folded multiple times.  Using fresh foil would probably have made the texture of the rocks clearer and sharper.
  • Don't drybrush too much for the final stage! I almost spoiled the entire thing, luckily it's just about OK. I could always apply another wash of black, but the red and yellow tones have disappeared a little too much.
  • This was an easy way of creating lots of different rocks without buying rock moulds or searching for rocks to make my own rubber moulds.  I could even try making foil moulds of some real rocks if I do come across any that I like.  The leopard spotting technique gives more interesting rocks than a plain grey drybrush and it works just as well on plaster as over white paint. 
  • Real leopards aren't actually white with red and yellow spots.  Well, to be honest I did already know that but it's still an easy way to describe the technique!