After seeing some amazing scenes and shots around the web involving many a Battle Mat, I was inspired to create my own after reading some posts on Wargaming with Silver Whistle. After looking around the web for some instructions and guidance on how to perform this task, I stumbled on Tobi’s Paint Pot and his fantastic tutorial on making a flexible gaming mat.
After taking a look and seeing it wasn’t quite as daunting as I first thought, it was time to gather up the resources, set aside some time and have a crack at it. I have been eagerly awaiting this project for a while now, so was quite excited.
My primary resources was from Tobi’s Paint Pot. I pretty well followed that tutorial, along with some ideas from step throughs on the other battle mats on the site.
I knew I was after a fairly generic grassy mat. No specific area or theme, other than it could be used in multiple games, for any generic grass area. I was not planning on incorporating roads or rivers on this project as I have an idea on making flexible roads and possible rivers to overlay on the battle mat. While I do think roads and rivers built into the mat itself look better, I prefer the flexibility of adding them when and where I need them.
The main change I was using here was the canvas. Instead of artists canvas, which seems to cost an awful lot over here, I opted for some backed canvas drop sheets. They are similar but of a coarser quality, however considering the primary layer is acrylic and paint, I didn’t see that as an issue. Especially for the cost.
Ingredients and cost:
- Canvas Drop Sheet (plastic backed) – around $25 for a 12′ x 5′, enough for two tables, from Bunnings Warehouse.
- Acrylic Filler (Accent) – around $3 a tube. I found 4 tubes to be slightly less than I needed. I would opt for 5 or 6 tubes to make sure there is good coverage all over. Find and use the cheapest you can, if does need to be flexible though.
- Gloves – use what you can afford to lose, otherwise the cheapest you can get. This stuff is messy and sticky!
- Paint – $6 a pot from any cheap store. Whatever colour/s you like. I went for a warmer brown as a base so a simple brown/ yellow mix worked for me. This gets all mixed into the gloop, so no real need for expensive paints.
- Bird Grit – $5, form anywhere you can find it. Again, into the gloop this goes so don;t get expensive stuff. Tobi’s Paint Pot recommends 3Kg, I only had 1Kg on hand. IT seemed to turn out okay so I think as long as you get somewhere within that vicinity you should be fine.
- Buckets/ Anything to mix the gloop – $1.30 from the supermarket. Otherwise use what you have.
- Flock – $varies. Possibly the most expensive part of this process. You will need a LOT of flock. Good thing is you can pretty well use anything you already have (or buy specifically to project needs). For this project I used a 75g bag of Heki 6mm Wildgrass, a half bag of 50g Heki 3mm Dark Green, a 50g bag of old 3mm bright green grass I had lying around. I then also scattered a third a tub of Woodlands Scenic dark soil and Woodland Scenic green clumping material over the top.
- Safety gear – Mask, and goggles of you need them. There may be a lot of stuff floating around so protect yourself.
All up this project would have cost me about $70, probably slightly more than I was after but a lot less than if I had purchased a pre-made mat. The other benefit is I can make this style of mat to suit.
The steps really are simple, I just followed the run down I mentioned above and got to it. I’ll try not to repeat too much here, but give you my findings as I went through the process.
- Throw down a drop sheet. I can;t stress this enough, this IS MESSY. Make sure you have something to catch all the excess and spillage. This also may need to stay spread out for a while so make sure you make it in a place you can leave it – a few hours to a few days, the drier the better.
- Tack out your canvas. I placed my 6’x4′ tabletop down on the drop sheet, then tacked the canvas to that (I actually just screwed in a half dozen screws to make sure the canvas didn’t move while setting. Yes it does shrink, so make sure something is holding it firmly in place.
- Mix the gloop!
- Get your bucket, one for each colour you want on the table. Add paint (I was using only one base colour so added the brown and yellow into the one container), water and grit (I went with a ration of 250ml of water per 2 tubes of acrylic I was adding) and give it a stir.
- Add your acrylic filler, just squeeze them all out in the bucket. Give it another good mix. One thing I found was that because the acrylic is white, it lightened the colour of the portions that were mixed properly, this helped me see the bits that needed more mixing (as they were darker).
- I found that I was looking for a consistency that wasn’t too runny, but also didn’t leave finger marks on the areas I applied it. This isn’t too fiddly as the acrylic settles and is pretty forgiving.
- From this step on, you are on a time limit! So, once mixed, time to apply it. Tobi’s Paint Pot is correct, this is easy to spread with your hands. Just splot some down on your canvas and start spreading it out. You do want to work as quickly as you can because while the acrylic mix doesn’t dry instantly, you do need to spread the mix and then apply the flock before the acrylic dries so the two can bond and adhere well. Again this is pretty forgiving, but you do need to be aware of it. Make sure you go over the edges of your table size to allow for any possible shrinkage.
- Once you table is covered with gloop it is time to apply the flock/ grass. In my haste I didn’t even think about using a strainer to get an even distribution, I used my hands. While this worked pretty well, a strainer would have been better. I started to use my static grass applicator but I needed to cover too big an area too quickly (it would work perfectly for smaller pieces though).
- Make sure you get a nice mix of colours to suit your design. Any sort of contrast colours of clumping materials can simply be thrown up over the table to let them fall. It does look more natural.
- Once I was happy with my grass/ flock arrangement I let the whole thing dry for a couple of hours, then I made a very watered down PVA mix and used a spray bottle to squirt the PVA over the top of any flock or larger clumps to make sure they were a little more resilient.
Stuff to note!
- As this is a large project, or at least a project that requires large portions of some components, make sure you really look at the cost to quality of the parts. If you can get away with a cheaper option that still does the job, do it. The cheap acrylic, paint and canvas drop sheet seem to work fine, so try and aim for those if you can.
- Probably the one area I would really look for the best quality I can is the flock/ clump material. This is really what I going to be seen by people.
- Can’t say this enough, this is messy work. Get those drop sheets going.
- the 12’x5′ canvas I found is great at first glance and I do expect to get 2 table tops out of it. That being said it leaves VERY little space or room for error for a 6’x4′ battle mat. It still seems to be the best price point I could find though, coming in at $12.5 per 6’x4′ canvas.
- Make sure you have enough mixture. I used 4 tubes of acrylic filler and it was just enough o cover a 6’x4′ table. As you can see in the shots, the extra foot is not covered and I am likely to cut that off once completely dry. If I used an extra tube or two I would be able to cover that extra foot giving me a usable 6’x5′ mat for the extra cost of about $3 to $6.
- Really give it time to set and dry. The acrylic acts as the bonding agent for the flock and grass so give it the time it needs to dry and bond.
- Making a battle mat and taking photos by yourself can be tricky!
Results and Thoughts
Here are a few shots of the finished product,
as a bonus, it really does roll up!
quick teaser shots of an upcoming new project!
and now for a few shots showing how hills form, and how they look with miniatures on them (from various angles).
I am very happy with the way this turned out and can already see uses for more mat. I will learn from this and make sure I have more acrylic mix next time.
I thoroughly enjoyed the project, all up it took about one and a half hours to make, not including the drying time. I have been wanting to try this for a while but always thought it was a bit daunting, after giving it a shot I thoroughly recommend giving it a go it you want this style of battle mat.