Making Tiny Foam Bricks
In previous experiments with making ruins terrain I had used flat pieces of foam and carved brick shapes by cutting lines in the foam. This time I’m trying a new idea; cutting foam into tiny bricks and gluing them together into a wall.
Bet, let’s back up for a second. For a mounting surface I had thought I had some foam board stored away but it turns out it was just these couple of Ghostline presentation boards made of corrugated paper board. It also has one side finished in a gloss coated paper with a very fine grey grid that’s only visible by looking very closely.
Looks like this would be great for making your own GMs screen! (I never had one of those, I made my own from manila file folders.)
This is just the cheap craft paint I used to paint the surface of the cardboard. I’m not concerned with using a super high-quality paint for this surface because it’s going to get covered in other materials later. (Flock, sand, etc)
I start by using a hot wire foam cutter to rough cut a bunch of 1″ x .5″ x .5″ bricks. At typical RPG terrain scale, that makes these 5′ x 2.5′ x 2.5′ blocks, which is pretty large.
Once all the blocks are cut out, I use an Xacto blade to sculpt damaged, ruined stone blocks or bricks. I make sure to rough up the flat sides of the foam to help it grab the gesso that I’ll coat it in later. That includes both the parts that were external on the surface of the manufactured plank of foam and also the surfaces that my hot wire knife blade created when it sliced through the foam.
This next picture is just a mock up, the blocks are stacked to get an idea of that this could look like, with a couple of miniatures to show scale. You can barely see the rat-man as he takes cover behind the wall. The mounted elven archer takes aim on his tail-less steed.
Here are the first two walls completed. These are glued together with Aleene’s Original Tacky Glue. It’s a thick PVA adhesive that takes forever to cure but makes a good seal. It also can be cut through with a hot wire cutter if you use it to glue foam blocks together to sculpt. However, it does slow down the cutting significantly if you run into it when cutting layers, so try to avoid having to do that.
Here’s the entire lot I created in one evening. It took a lot of time to cut and shape all those blocks. This is quite a labor intensive process and it would take even longer if I were to try to get more uniformity to my blocks.
As with all my other foam terrain, the base coating is black gesso. I do this for quality and practicality. Gesso is more moisture resistant than acrylic paint and dries to a lightly flexible but still rigid surface. It’s like a shell around the foam if you make it thick.
After the gesso dries I always pick over them for awhile with a brush and more gesso. Holding them at different angles and under different light helps to find the tiny missed spot that always seem to be there.
Finally the next step is drybrushing. Using Daler Rowney acrylic paints, black and white and a Royal Softgrip brush I did about 4 layers of drybrushing from grey to white.
Here’s a picture of them all together. These terrain walls are not finished yet as I will be covering the cardboard with grass and sand, flocking, etc. After these are completed, I will probably sell them off cheaply on eBay. Being an experiment, they are not going to be the standard I want in finished product, but it was a good learning experience.