I also faced an old nemesis of mine: coconut fiber! If you’ve read my article on making jungle terrain, you’ll know my frustration with this material.
And with that said, we’re back from our summer break!
When I’m thinking of a swamp as terrain for my wargaming needs, I picture the bogs and marshes from The Neverending Story and from the Lord of the Rings. Using the internet and PureRef, I made myself a mood board to capture the look and feel I’m going for.
Dark, extremely muddy, dead, wet, black are some keywords coming to my mind while doing my visual research.
I planned this build to be quick and dirty. It was dirty. But, as usual with my builds, not quick.
So here’s the idea: I cut out some rigid, non warping bases, apply a pva-coconutfibre-slurry all over and add dead trees and reeds and some gloss/water finish.
So far, so good.
What you’ll need.
- Plastic card or dense foam board (avoid warping material)
- utility knife
- medium grid sand paper
- coconut fiber (yes, you read right)
- (way too much) PVA glue (If you think it’s too much, it really isn’t enough)
- Super glue
- optional: tea leaves, dried herbs and/or coffee grounds
- Cheap acrylic craft paints (brown, black, brownish earth tones)
- Black paint from the rattle can
- dried sticks
- Matt sealant from the rattle can
- Gloss medium
Building swamp terrain
Before we continue to the actual tutorial, please be aware of potential challenges involving this build.
This build is extremely messy and might be very frustrating! Be sure to protect your workspace and keep calm and always add more glue if in doubt!
You have been warned.
OK then. Let’s craft a swamp!
I first cut out roundish shapes from my trusty dense foam plastic sheet. I tried using large and strong scissors, but a good utility knife works way better. Furthermore I sanded the edges and the tops to, hopefully, insure a better bond between base and basing.
At this point, I’d like to quote my own jungle terrain tutorial, I did a year ago:
Oh, and don’t use wet coconut fiber and PVA glue!Eric
Coconut fiber or “Oops, I did it again!”
The coconut fiber takes ages to dry. After 3 days it was still slightly damp. I suggest leaving it for 4 to 5 days to fully dry.
I then splashed my mixture approximately 5 mm to the base. In the end I even mixed a water-PVA mix and poured it generously onto the fiber. I sprayed everything with some Isopropanol alcool to break up the surface tension of the water in the mix and allow the PVA to soak in completely.
After 3 days of drying time, which still wasn’t enough, I mixed brown and black acrylic paint, added lots of PVA and enough water to soak into the coconut fiber. I applied that paint concoction liberally unto the bases using a large flat brush, regularly dipped in water to improve the flow. At the end I gave everything another coat of alcohol to ensure a better absorption. Then I left everything to dry for 24 hours.
For this next step I used dried sticks I collected a while ago. This allows me to simulate dead gnarly tree stumps, the last witnesses of a once lush forest.
At this stage I encountered another problem. The bigger sticks were sticking to the substrate, but not to the base. Thus I added Super glue into the substrate. For that I stuck the glue pipette into the soil and squeezed out a whole tube of glue.
I then left it to dry for 3 days.
Schockingly, I found all my bases heavily warped!
I bent each single base carefully with my hands. This created some substantial fissuring, but that’s what helped eventually. I then covered the fissures and the dried glue at the stems using that same paint-water-pva mixture.
I decided to paint the whole swamp wargaming terrain pieces using dark colors. I wanted to keep the paintjob easy and simple. That’s why I sprayed some moderate amount of black paint from the rattle can on the trees, especially the lower parts, and to the base, with a focus on the edges. The result looks quite convincing, in my opinion.
David gave me excellent advice on how he does reeds. There might be a hobby shortcut in the future on this topic.
Just put some drops of PVA glue on a piece of baking paper and let it dry a little bit. Then cut some pieces of twine and press them into the glue, so that they stand upright. Once everything’s stuck, leave it to dry over night.
Once dry, you can pluck off your miniature reeds from the paper. If you used the right greasy baking paper, that should work effortlessly. In my case, I had to cut them out at the base. Our hobby is all about trial and error and lots of experimentation.
Anyway, I glued them on the swamp bases. After that, I applied some of that same dark brown acrylic paint mix on the reed tufts’ bases. However, I watered the paint a little bit down to better blend them into the ground.
Optional: Algae and Grime
Using my airbrush and some green ink, I randomly applied some greenish patches here and there. Alternatively, you could use a watered down green acrylic paint and apply it as a wash using a large paint brush.
After everything’s dry, which shouldn’t take long if you used the airbrush, I sealed the whole swamp terrain bases with a matte sealant from the rattle can before proceeding to the final step.
Finally, it’s time to add the ingredient that sells the terrain as swamp: water!
I could have used some dedicated water effect. But since I had nothing suitable at hand, I opted instead for bog standard (no pun intended) gloss varnish and a drop or two of brown-green paint.
I just applied the mix in some random grooves here and there and let it thoroughly dry.
And with that, the swamp wargaming terrain is ready to lure some incautious soldiers into its muddy embrace!
Enjoy the mess!