Friday Quick Tip: Sandstone/Limestone Cliff/Hill Face

With classes picking back up, time is at a premium yet again.  A lot of introductions and supply lists for my latest batch of art supplies this week.  But in trying to keep with my wants for this school semester I've been working on a small terrain piece in the form of a display board.  With a few ideas floating around in my head I got knee deep into modeling it and found a nice way of carving out a rather convincing hill face that won't eat up your nights. 

The supplies needed are minor at worst.  A hobby knife, pink/blue insulation foam, a large paint brush, and some white glue.  You'll also end up using your hands for this one, so be prepared to dig your mitts into that foam.  Shorter fingernails will likely work best for this as you won't want to dig too much into the foam.

Some of you might remember my extremely extensive Hills Tutorial from a few years back.  These hills have started their life in much the same way as those, with a hot wire cut slope.  But that's mostly where the similarities will end.  The angle I use is aesthetically pleasing and works nicely for gaming as well as it's a shallow cut that keeps the lost space to a minimum.  In the image above to the right you can see the angle nicely.  

To start things off, I went at the side of the hill with the utility knife cutting a lot of shallow lines in a crosshatching pattern.  The knife blade should dig into the foam around a quarter of an inch.  Be sure to use lengthwise cuts as well as the regular x-patterned ones.  These lengthwise cuts will be useful in creating a striated layered look.  Just be careful!  I found myself getting lazy a few times, almost cutting myself as I hacked away!  Luckily, all of my fingers are still in place with no jagged stitch-work by a young nervous intern.

Go the full length of the hill side you're working on, and if you have any other hills/segments to work on, you might as well have at them as well to save some time!  Take note of the top and bottom edges of the foam in the photo above though.  I wasn't afraid to cut around those areas and you shouldn't be either!  You need that randomness to the edges as well and if you get too crazy with the knife, you can always patch that area up a little later with some rocks and gravel.  

Now that the length of the foam is crosshatched and roughed up, you can get to the heart of the work and create a craggy rough appearance.  To start off, run your fingers into the grooves and rip up some of the foam.  You want to create longish grooves and dig out some spots to make overhangs in some places.  This is extremely messy, so pick a spot, and stick to it.  A spot that you can easily vacuum around will be best.  Be sure you're not getting it up around your face either, you don't need this stuff to embed somewhere deep in your lungs.

To help out the grooves and striated look, take your hobby knife with the knife blade as you see above and drag it along in some places to really dig into the foam and build your layers.  This will really help drive the aesthetic home and gives you a little more control over the final look.  The big thing for your finished hill side is to get rid of any hanging foam.  Drag your hand lightly along the cliff face a bunch of times and most of the loose bits will fall away.  

To help seal the side of the hill and keep it from flaking away on you, you'll want to seal it with some watered down PVA White Glue.  Just apply the white glue loosely from the bottle onto the hill face and using a watery paint brush wash the entire surface in glue.  Be sure to use plenty of glue and plenty of water to get into all of the nooks and crannies all along the hill.  Allow the glue to fully dry and give it another coat.  After one coat the hill side was firmed up but not quite solid enough to withstand much punishment, with two it seems much more game worthy.  

My biggest worry when I started the hills was that the foam would break away and the entire experiment would be a wash.  But thanks to a few glue washes, all of my fears were left behind.  I'm very happy with the effect I've been able to achieve with such simple tools and in quick fashion.  This is an interesting take on what can otherwise be a bland area of your terrain, and while it might not be something you would use on every single hill face, it could definitely break up the monotony of your gentile rolling slopes!

Expect more from this project as I move forward with it.  The techniques I am testing out with this will likely find their way into a full on gaming table project later this year!