Friday, January 18, 2013

Building More Realistic Terrain - Imperial Fountain

Have you ever gone to a LFGS and seen a bunch of choppy, chunks of foam quickly slap-dashed with paint and called terrain?  Has it ever made you dream of gaming on tables that are as detailed and as cool looking as what you would see in White Dwarf or in a Forge World Imperial Armour book?

Well if you want something done right you have to make it yourself...

Se here's the thing I love Terrain, LOVE IT. I love all the little details, I love the "atmosphere" it can provide in a game. I also honestly believe that more realistic terrain enhances the game experience. When I see terrible chunks of badly carved foam pawned off as a hill, or unevenly cut cardboard fragments spray painted grey and pawned off as city ruins, I cry a little inside. When my friends or I set out to make terrain we go for the gusto. Case in point the Imperial Fountain below. 


Preplan The Design
No great piece of terrain was slap dashed together from a bunch of bits. Take the time to think about what you are building, what it's purpose will be, how gameplay will be effected by it, etc.

In this case I wanted the fountain to fit on a 12"x12" tile for my city fight board. I wanted a massive wall I could get a whole 10x man squad behind for cover, and I wanted something old, but regal looking to add to the atmosphere on the board.

Mix up your materials and think outside the box. The main core of the fountain were Cities of Death wall pieces, lots of pipes and various sheet plastic textures. A brick texture was used for the walls, a cobblestone texture for the floor and assorted styrene strip shapes for all the trim. 1x1" ceramic tiles from the craft store were used for the sidewalk pavement and the understructure was made out of foamcore.

The statue was a modified Chaos Knight repurposed to look like a local Imperial Hero of old and the benches were from Armorcast.

Add Layers of Realism
This is crucial to make a believable terrain piece. Pound some cracks in the side walk pavement. Add some rubble. Add some extra rivets and bolts instead of leaving smooth plastic sections. Especially in 40K, don't forget the skulls! 

The more layers of detail you add the realer your terrain piece will look.


Don't Paint It All Grey
The downfall of so much Imperial Terrain I see is that it's all grey. Granted Imperial Worlds are bleak… but add a dash of color in there some where. In this case it was the large turquoise pumping tube section. It really draws the eye to that area and breaks up the grey well. I also added various brown colors to the cobblestone floor to break up the pattern. It really adds an extra layer of realism.

Rust, Rust and More Rust.
Nothing Imperial is factory fresh, it's old as dirt, all of it. Which means heavy oxidation. In the case of the Bronze statues with a heavy green patina. The main building received some rust washes for around the rivets and the sidewalks got some dark brown washes to indicate layers of accumulated dirt in the concrete pores.

Add Environmental Effects
I wanted stagnant water in the fountain. Like a partially drained hotel pool that has been growing algae all winter long. (I grew up on an tourist island).

The algae in the water was created by dropping green foliage basing into layers of "wet" wet effects. After about 8 layers it started to look realistic and had depth. Super quick, super easy, super effective.

Until next time. Now go paint something!


  1. GUH, this is so beautiful I'm holding back tears. Also hatred, because I totally don't have the time to do terrain with all the stupid armies I'm trying to update to 6th edition lol.

    1. I get your point but it does always surprise me how many people will prioritise an army over scenery when the scenery will be used in EVERY game rather than just when that army is playing. If you catch my drift.

      Just food for thought! Oh, and that fountain is sodding lovely!

    2. While that is true, I don't have a table at home, so all of my gaming is done at the FLGS. That may change next month, I'm buying a realm of battle board, but I also don't actually have any local gaming friends, I rely on casual acquaintances for all my pickup games.

      I've slowly worked on terrain, but it all sits in a tub. It also gets damaged before I've ever used it lol. Hopefully having my own board will make it a little better.

    3. Having your own board is a lovely privilege if you have the space. Also gaming at home is a great privilege because you can drink and curse out your opponents all you want! In a friendly joshing matter that is as they are most likely your best friends :P

  2. Just awesome! So simple, but better than the GW one.

    Thank you so much for the inspiration.

  3. Oh man, that is really great. I love terrain too (actually it's an addiction - for some one to have 3 tables worth of terrain when they barley play at all qualifies as an addiction, right?) I'm gonna have to reach into the archives and show off some of mine too. Love that algae growing in the water, nice touch.

    1. Zab, break it out! The inter-webs needs an infusion of terrain inspiration. It's been rather dry as of late.

  4. ...



    Just, wow.

  5. Beautiful work, man! It's the little extras that truly make the terrain piece pop - the algae and water effects, the robble and of course the spot colors. Definitely worth the extra effort!

  6. Gorgeous piece and certainly inspiring.

  7. Great stuff, sir! I love terrain, too. But, I'm trying to actually get my army completely painted and I'm a sloooooow painter...

  8. Great looking terrain man!

  9. Thanks for all the compliments guys! I aim to inspire :)

    I have a few more articles like this in the pipeline :D

  10. Wow!!! This is amazing! I love what you did with every little thing! Thank you for sharing this, it has inspired me!

  11. Stop it, stop it please... ive got some commissions to get out of the way but after that im definately cracking on with terrain. My ideas were always to create realistic believable terrain... my day job as an architectural designer gives me some good background for this but i hope i can also achieve your levels of execution!