How to make ROADS and RIVERS

Tutorial – Making Roads and Rivers

There are many ways to make roads and rivers for your tabletop.Some make them simply out of cut pieces of cloth or felt.Others go to extreme lengths and build them right into their custom tabletop.

We’re going to show you our way of making scatter terrain dirt roads and rivers .. modular pieces that can be placed on any table and arranged in whatever way you wish.

Materials Needed :

·MDF cut into appropriate widths and lengths

·Joint Compound/Spackle


·Fine gravel/Ballast

·Paints : 2-3 shades of brown, 2-3 shades of blue, dark green, black, primer.

·Gloss varnish (We use Americana Triple Thick gloss varnish)


Procedure :


Step 1 : Preparing a base

Cut your MDF boards into appropriate widths and lengths.As we are focusing on the 28mm scale we will give measurements for t hat, but you can easily scale up or down for another scale of miniature.

For WW2 roads we use 3 inch widths with lengths of 6 inches and 12 inches.You can also cut out a couple of curved pieces and Y sections to add more options.For pathways we use 1 to 1.5 inch widths in the same 6 and 12 inch lengths.

Step 2 : Adding texture

Add the fine gravel or ballast to your joint compound until you get a nice texture.Don’t overdo it or you’ll never be able to spread it out properly.Just add enough that you will have a bumpy gravely texture.

Spread this mixture onto your MDF boards with your spatula until it’s a nice even surface, about 2mm thick (too thick and it will crack too much as it dries, not to mention it will take forever to dry).

At this point you may want to add wheel tracks or tank tracks to the surface.For wheel tracks just drag a thin piece of wood or plastic through the compound along the length of the piece, being careful not to scrape it all off.

Let this dry overnight.

Step 3 : Priming

Prime the entire piece and let it dry for a couple of hours.

Step 4 : Adding colour

Paint your base colour onto the piece.Usually you’ll use a darkish brown, but you can decide what looks best for your board.

If you want to add a dark wash that will sink into any recesses to add depth, now is the time to do so.

On top of this you will lightly brush on a highlight colour to add some variation to the piece.

You may want to add another very light drybrush of an even lighter colour as one last step.

Step 5 : Flocking

Add some grass flocking to the sides of the road, if appropriate.

Step 6 : Protecting the piece

Coat the entire piece with a gloss varnish to protect it.When dry, spray lightly with matte varnish to knock the shine down.


Step 1 : Preparing a base

As with roads, the first step is to cut out your MDF bases into appropriate lengths and widths. For 28mm scale we suggest 4 inch widths and lengths of 6 and 12 inches.

You will also want a couple of Y sections and 45 degree turns.

Map these out on a piece of paper first so you can figure out the angles, as these can be difficult especially on the curves to get your pieces lining up evenly.

Step 2 : Making the riverbanks

Place a line of joint compound along the edges of your pieces, about 1/2 inch in on either LONG side (do not put any on the short sides as this is where the river flows through). Make these lines about 1/2 inch wide by 1/4 inch tall. This will form your river bank.

For variety you may want to make some wavey sections of riverbank so that your rivers are not perfectly straight. Of course, this is completely up to personal taste.

Allow your joint compound to dry thoroughly!

Step 3 : Priming

Prime your terrain piece and allow to dry.

Step 4 : Colouring the riverbanks

Paint your riverbanks a nice earthy colour to match the rest of your terrain. Use a dark brown base, followed by a drybrushing of a lighter shade of brown. You can then use a very light drybrush of tan to pick up the small highlights.

Step 5 : Giving your river colour and depth

Paint your river! This is a multi stage painting process that you will probably need several paintbrushes to do, as we are painting over each stage while it is still wet (and acrylics dry fairly fast, so you don’t want to move too slow on this stage).

Make sure you have your various river colours ready. We recommend a medium-dark green, dark blue, medium-light blue and black as a minimum.

Paint your medium/dark green colour at the edges of the river right up to the banks.

While still wet, add the medium/light blue mixing it into the green about 1/2 way towards the bank, while moving closer to the center of the river.

Now add the dark blue mixing it about 1/2 way into the lighter blue and moving right to the center of the river.

Last paint on a small bit of black right at the center of the river making sure it mixes well with the dark blue.

For all of these stages don’t make straight lines but blur and squiggle the edges. Using these stages you should have a sense of depth and movement in your river.

Step 6 : Making the water shine

Now that your paints have dried, brush on a layer of your gloss varnish. Allow this to dry completely.

You will repeat this step until you have the amount of shine you want. Usually 2-3 times depending on the varnish you are using.

Step 7 : Flocking the riverbanks

Add some grass, reeds and bushes to your riverbanks depending on your personal preferences.

Your rivers are now complete!