Enhancing Pre-Painted Terrain

Table Top Terrain Enhancing Pre-Painted Terrain
by James Brown

The good thing about pre-painted terrain pieces is that they can be used straight from the box – that is probably the main reason you bought them. They are, however, a little bare and lacking in individuality. The sets aren’t truly complete until they have been tailored to match your current scenery collection through the addition of flock or other scenic material.
It is important to use the same static grass or flock on your terrain pieces as you use on your gaming table, or as close a match as possible. This is the main reason the terrain sets are supplied unflocked. The paint colour will make a difference as well, but in my experience flock colour is the biggest factor. So, although you should ideally paint the edges of your terrain pieces to match your table, it is also perfectly acceptable to skip this step if you wish.
River Section with Contrasting Static Grass
Above: The contrasting colours of static grass make the river stand out like a sore thumb.
River Section with Matching Static Grass
Above: A single matching colour looks more unified and appealing.
Everyone has their own ideas about the best way to apply static grass. Some people sprinkle it using a flour shaker, or specially designed puffer. Some people use the static charge from their TV, or balloons, or even nifty negative-ion generators to stand the grass up perfectly vertically. I like to carefully place small patches of grass by hand or using tweezers, then tap or blow away the excess, which generally stands the remaining grass up quite well. Not every 'blade' of grass will stand straight up, but nor does that happen in nature.

Take a good look at any large patch of real grass, and you will see that it doesn't usually consist of one solid colour. For example, grass doesn't simply stop neatly when it meets a road or hedge – there is often a fringe of dry, dead-looking growth. Emulating this with a thin border of dead-coloured static grass or flock can give a much more realistic appearance. Different colours of static grass and flock can be mixed and blended, like paint, and this allows you to create exactly the colours you want. It also allows you to create subtle transitions between areas of different colour.

Mixing Static Grass
Above: Can’t find the exact colour you need? Mix your own.
You can also drybrush sections of grass after the adhesive has dried, which is another good way of varying the colour. Remember, following some kind of real-life reference, whether it be photographs or the actual landscape around you, will always give a better result than simply relying on your imagination.
One Colour River vs. A More Realistic Finish
Above Left: One colour – a quick and easy way to a nice-looking terrain piece.

Above Right: A little extra time and effort gives you a more realistic finish.
After the glue has thoroughly dried and you have shaken, tapped, blown or brushed away the excess grass, you may find you are left with more sparse or bare patches than you wanted. It is easy enough to go back and fill gaps with a blob of glue and a dab of grass. This tends to create a sort of clumpy, wild effect, but that is really only a bad thing if you are trying to model a golf course.
Add The Glue Then The Static Grass
You can also use this technique to cover the small vertical edges of your terrain piece, which are usually left bare after the main application of flock. This helps to conceal the edges, so the piece doesn't stand out from the table quite as much.
Rocky Hill with Static Grass Applied
Example Projects
River Section

You don’t have to keep the blue colour of the standard river sets. For example, creating a muddy, rain-swollen river is simply a matter of painting the water a dirty brown colour such as Battledress Brown (FWP325). Take care to avoid brushstrokes as much as possible, applying two or three thin coats rather than one thick one. A coat or two of gloss varnish completes the effect.
Muddy River
Rocky Hill

Step One

Roughly paint the edges the same colour as your gaming table. Again, this is not truly necessary, but it will help the piece to blend in.

Edges of the painted to match gaming table
Step Two

While you have your paints out, a thin wash of dark brown paint into some of the crevices will give a bit of variety and realism. You might also consider a wash or drybrush of dark green in a few places, to suggest mossy patches. Subtlety is key here – too little is definitely better than too much.

Detailing the Rocky Hill
Step Three

Apply static grass to the edges. Remember, matching the colour or colours of the grass on your table is the most important measure for making your terrain look unified. You may also wish to add small patches of static grass to the upper surfaces, and even the cliff faces. Remember, it is always a good idea to refer to some pictures of real terrain for guidance.

The finished Rocky Hill
Paint Colours and Flock Used on the Rocky Hill
Customising a Wood

Step One

Roughly paint the edges of your wood’s main base to match your gaming table.

Base of Woods painted to match gaming table
Step Two

Edge the base with – you guessed it – the same static grass as your gaming table. In the centre of the base, however, you can really go to town with different colours and textures of undergrowth. As well as commercial flocks, you can use dried herbs or even real dead leaves, carefully ground up. Remember to try to keep the height reasonably level, so your tree stands will sit flat.

Different textures and colours added to the centre of the base
Different textures and colours added to the centre of the base
Step Three

Apply similar undergrowth to the individual tree bases, so they appear part of the wood (see example above). The trees themselves already have a modest covering of flock, but you might want to jazz it up. Simply brush on a little white glue, then roll the tree in some flock or sprinkle it on carefully (see example below).

Flock being added to the trees
The finished Wood
Paint Colours and Flock Used on the Woods
Instant Island

It only takes a small amount of work to turn one of the Small Rocky Hills into an island for navel gazing – er, naval gaming.

Step One

Paint the edges of the island in a sandy colour. I have used Battledress Brown (FWP325), drybrushed with Sicily Yellow (FWP362).

The painted Island
Step Two

Add waves around the edges. I have used Vallejo Transparent Water Effects, with a few small drops of blue and black ink, for colour. Clear acrylic gel, available from art supply stores, will work just as well. PVA glue can also be used, but it doesn’t have the same stiff consistency, so you may need to apply it in several thin layers.

The Island with the added water effect
Step Three

Paint whitecaps on your surf, using a pale blue-grey colour (Vallejo Pale Blue Grey is, unsurprisingly, ideal) highlighted here and there with small flecks of white.

The water effect now highlighted
Step Four

Your hill now looks like an island, albeit a rather barren and inhospitable one. All that remains is to add some vegetation in the form of clump-style foliage for scrub or small trees, with some ground-foam flock for undergrowth. I used Gale Force Nine Summer 3-color Clump Foliage Mix and Spring Undergrowth.

The island with flock applied
The finished Island
Paint Colours and Flock Used on the Island

Here are some completed pieces in action. With a few hours' work, it's not hard to turn your terrain sets into an eye-catching scenery collection which will give you years of happy gaming.

Soviet River Crossing
Gaming Table

Check out the full range of Gale Force Nine Hobby Scenics here.

Good luck and have fun,

~ James.