How to make FORESTS

Tutorial – Forests

We would all like to play on a tabletop that has more trees, right? The big question is how do you get more trees without having to use a ton of individual trees getting in the way of playing?

The answer, of course, is to create a forest! Well yeah, duh, you say. Here we’re going to show you how to make that forest without having to purchase (or make) a bunch of single trees AND having room inside that forest for your armies and vehicles to move into them!

Note – These instructions are for a 28mm scale tabletop, but this would work perfectly well at any smaller scale as well!

Materials Needed :

  • A solid Base (we use MDF)
  • Foamboard
  • 1/4 inch Wood dowels
  • Paintable Latex Caulking
  • Trowel or other spreader for the caulking
  • Sand
  • Ballast and/or small rocks
  • Flock (static grass, fine/coarse turf, etc)
  • Clump Foliage (lots of it!)
  • Hot glue and a hot glue gun
  • PVA Glue (diluted 1:1)
  • Primer
  • Paints and appropriate painting tools

Procedure :

Step 1 : Prepping your materials

Cut your base material (MDF in our case) to an appropriately sized piece with rounded corners. Make it more interesting by adding curves to the edges, maybe even kidney shaped. Whatever shape you want your terrain piece to be!

Cut your foamboard to approximately the same shape as your base, just slightly smaller. This will form the base of your canopy.

Cut your wood dowels into appropriate lengths for the tree trunks. The size
of your forest will dictate how many of these you will need. In our case for a 30 cm x 30 cm (approx) forest we used 11 pieces of dowel cut to 75mm (approximately 3 inches).
If you want to you can add texture to your dowels as these form the trunks of your trees (this is not necessary but it would look pretty cool).

Alternative : Instead of wood dowels, if you are using a smaller scale such as 15mm/1:76,  try using roofing nails as they have a large nail head on them to dig into the caulking and hold them in place!

Step 2 : Adding the forest floor

Add a layer of caulking to the MDF base. Spread it around covering the entire piece approximately 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch thick.
If you go too thick it will take forever to dry, but if you go too thin it will not hold your tree trunks!

On top of this spread a layer of sand and lightly push it into the caulking so that it holds to the piece.


Step 3 : What’s a forest without trees?

Take your wood dowel pieces and push them into the caulking around your piece. Place them approximately 25mm (1 inch) or so in from the edge in a ring around the piece, leaving about 25-40mm (1 – 1 1/2 inches) of space between them.
Add one or two pieces to the center for support. We want to leave most of the center of the piece open for your armies to move around in!

Step 4 : Forest Debris

Add in some fallen tree limbs (twigs from your yard work great for this) and rocks scattered here and there around your forest floor, wherever they look appealing to you. Push them into the caulking while it is still pliable so that they are secured once it’s dry.

Step 5 : The Canopy

While your caulking dries (we left ours overnight) start making your canopy. To do this you will be hot gluing clump foliage to the foamboard canopy you previously cut out.

Start with a ring of foliage around the bottom, outside edge of the foamboard. This will mask the bottom edge of the foamboard and make the treeline look more realistic.

Once you’ve completed that, start hot gluing clump foliage to the top of the foam board, working your way in from the edge towards the center. If you want to add height to your canopy, try using Foliage Clusters (available from woodland scenics) to get the larger pieces. Alternatively you can add another piece or two of foamboard to the areas of your canopy that you want to add height to and continue with the clump foliage.

Set your canopy aside to dry (which shouldn’t take long). At this point you may want to add more colour or texture to your foliage. You can paint it a variety of forest colours, add some coarse turf to the top or any number of other options to vary the surface. You can even add a small branch or two sticking slightly out of the top for variety (again those twigs from your yard come in handy for that).

Step 6 : Primer

Now that the caulking has dried completely you should prime the entire base section. We primed ours with brown spray paint just to save on painting time later and it seems to have worked fairly well!

Step 7 : Colour your world

After the primer has dried it’s time to start painting your forest floor and tree trunks!

For the tree trunks keep in mind that trees are rarely brown! Use a variety of grays mixed with some tans and browns for best effect.
If you primed the floor in brown to save a step you can then dry brush the entire forest floor with a lighter shade of brown.

Do a 2nd drybrush with an even lighter shade still to pick out the highlights.

Now you will need to use a gray or gray and tan shades to pick out any of the rocks you placed earlier and you’ll also want to paint any of the fallen tree limbs you placed at this point too.

Step 8 : Greenery

Once all of your painting has dried it’s time to add flock to the base. Spread some diluted PVA glue in some areas of your forest floor where you want to add grass and flock until you’re content with the look.

Using a variety of colours and textures of grass flocking will add more realism and interest to your piece.

Step 9 : Seal the deal

Seal the entire piece with whatever sealant you usually use on your terrain pieces. Some suggestions are diluted pva glue sprayed over the piece or an acrylic varnish in gloss, followed by a matte varnish to knock the shine off.

Now take the canopy that you finished earlier and set aside, place it on top of the tree trunks on the base and voila; you have yourself a forest!