Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Making and Painting Rocks

Recently I have been working a lot on creating some terrain appropriate for 10mm miniatures. One such project was creating hills of an appropriate size and properly sloped. I also wanted some rock formations jutting out of these hills. I'll cover the creation of the actual hills in a future post, but today I want to talk about creating and painting the rock formations.

First I went to Hobby Lobby to pick up some supplies. They had rubber molds of rock formations in several varieties. I got one that had many smaller rocks, since it was for terrain to be used with 10mm miniatures. I also bought a small carton of casting plaster. And that is pretty much all you need for making rocks.

For the plaster, you simply mix the powder with a certain amount of water until it has a uniform consistency, then pour it into the mold. They recommend you first use a spray bottle to spray the mold with water that has a little bit of soap in it. I don't know if that is to keep it from sticking to the mold, or keep bubbles from forming at the surface, or something else. But I did as instructed.

You can tap the mold a few times to get rid of any bubbles. Then just let it dry overnight. I found that one batch of plaster (3/8 cup of powder and 2 tbsp. of water) was about exactly right for filling the mold completely. Then again, I think I may have accidentally used too much water and mixed it a bit too thin, because the resulting rocks were very brittle and many crumbled and broke when I removed them from the mold. So be careful about using too much water.

Here is a picture of the first batch of rocks, and the mold I used to make them.

Next came the painting. I had never painted rocks before, so I had no idea how to proceed. I started by using spraypaint to basecoat the rocks black. You definitely want to spray paint on a base coat because if you try to paint on the bare plaster, the water soaks up into it and it takes a lot of paint to cover anything.

If you want to replicate what I did, all of the paint colors I will mention here are GW/Citadel paints. If you use different paints, there is a really handy utility here for finding matching colors in different paint lines. How it works is you just pick the paint line that you want to match to, and the paint line you use. Then it gives you 0-3 matches for each color in the line you are trying to match, along with a number rating. The lower the number, the closer the match is. Try it out, it is very useful for finding a color you have that matches one that someone recommends in a painting tutorial.

After the black spraypaint basecoat, I gave all of the rocks a very heavy drybrush of Codex Grey. I followed this with a lighter drybrush of Fortress Grey. You can see the results of these two steps in the pictures below.
Rocks Rocks

At this point, I was thinking that the rocks looked decent, but too grey. Rocks you see in real life jutting out from hills often have some color to them, but I have no idea how to replicate this look with paint. I tried a few things, including applying ink washes in various colors, sometimes one after another. I was never happy with any of the results. The ink washes blended the colors together too much so that at a distance you couldn't really see as much of the detail anymore. I tried to correct for this by doing another drybrush after the inkings, but I still didn't like the colors it was producing.

I experimented with introducing color to a few of the rocks, as you can see below. Since I didn't like the results, the rest of the rocks I just gave one final drybrush with Ghostly Grey, but only along the ridges and places that jutted out. You can see the results of this last step below, as well as the rocks I experimented with inking in various colors.

Also at this point, the rocks were still very brittle and kept crumbling on me while I was painting them. I didn't want them to crumble more after I was finished and ruin the paint job. So I brushed on a coat of watered down Elmers/PVA glue to make the rocks sturdier. It worked well and kept them from crumbling any further, but if you're going to do that I would recommend doing it before you paint the rocks. Some of the glue didn't dry completely clear, and it left some white pools and dulled-down areas on the rocks.

Overall, I liked how the grey rocks turned out, but I still really wanted some rocks with some color to them. So I made up another batch of rocks to try a different method. Again I spray painted them black and then did a heavy drybrush of Codex Grey, as can be seen in the picture below.

This time my next step was another drybrush of the GW/Citadel foundation paint Khemri Brown. In the picture below, the results of this step are showin in the large rock to the right. The next step was a lighter drybrush with Bleached Bone. You can see the results of this in the rocks to the left.

There are also two rocks in the picture, the smaller ones at the bottom to the right, that I tried some inking on. The one farthest to the right had yellow ink an then brown ink applied. The other one had some green ink applied, and then was drybrushed with Bleached Bone. It does give the rocks some interesting colors and looks good up close, but from a distance the details just don't stand out. So I decided to stick with the just drybrushing method.

So to sum up, for grey rocks subsequent drybrushes of Codex Grey, Fortress Grey, and Ghostly Grey. For rocks with a little more of a browning color, drybrushes of Codex Grey, Khemri Brown, and Bleached Bone work pretty well. All with black spraypainted basecoats.

I'm pretty happy with the results overall, for a first attempt. But if you have any advice or techniques for painting rock formations, I'd definitely be interested in hearing them.

1 comment:

  1. I know I've come to this a little late, but better late than never. The link to the paint site is really appreciated, and I like what you are doing with the 10mm stuff. Very informative. I've added you to my blog role.