In this article I’ll show you how I made a realistic grass mat for wargames that can be rolled up for storage. I hope this works out as well for you as it did for me. This project takes a lot of time, work, and money…but is totally worth it.
I made the mat using basically the same process used for my desert gaming mat, except the grass mat has a lot of grass products stuck on. So if you are going to make one of these, I suggest reading both articles.
Very important point: Do not use PVA (aka Elmer’s) glue for this. I learned the hard way that PVA is not flexible when dry, which is the whole purpose of a roll-up mat…
Here is a list of the materials I used, with links to the products so you can find them easily (I do not make any money from these shops):
Canvas – I used 10oz. Duck Canvas.
Caulk – I used DAP Alex Flex caulk because it has a high silicone content that helps with flexibility.
Paint – I used Valspar Muddy Mississippi as the base with highlights of Crunchy Granola and Café au Lait.
Glue – I used Scenic Express Täk-E-Glue in white. I also tried and liked CopyDex, but it is expensive in the US. You need a glue that dries flexible, which generally means a latex-based glue.
Matte Medium – I used Scenic Express Prepared Matte Medium.
Static Grass – You will need a lot of static grass, in a lot of colors. Use 2mm static grass so it rolls up well and has a smooth surface for gaming. I used Scenic Express 2mm Late Summer Static Grass for the main grass color with the following as accents: Scenic Express 2mm Late Summer Static Grass; Scenic Express 2mm Dry Grass Static Grass; Heki 2mm Dark Green Static Grass; Woodland Scenics 2mm Dark Green Static Grass; Woodland Scenics 2mm Medium Green Static Grass; Woodland Scenics 2mm Light Green Static Grass; and Woodland Scenics 2mm Straw Static Grass. Again, feel free to pick your own colors, but these are the ones I use.
Varnish – I used Krylon Matte Finish Aerosol Spray
Step 1 – Stretch the Canvas and Spread a Thin Layer of Caulk.
Stretch your canvas over a tabletop and secure it well so that it does not crumple as the caulk dries. (NB: Read about stretching the canvas here.) Then spread a very thin layer of caulk over the entire canvas, making sure the caulk gets into the canvas. I forgot to take pictures of this step, so here are a couple photos from my desert mat:
You will need more caulk on there than this, but this seemed like a good point at which to take a picture…
Note how thinly the caulk is spread
This time around I skipped repairing the “holes” in the initial caulk layer with silicone. Turns out that step isn’t necessary.
Step 2 – Mix and Spread the Caulk, Sand, and Paint Mixture; Sprinkle Sand on Top.
Here’s the messy part. Get help with this, and make sure you have a lot of plastic drop cloths protecting everything. I mixed about 15 tubes of caulk with 4 cups of water, 6 cups of sand, and 1 cup of paint.
Ingredients about to be mixed…
Once the mixture is mixed up, use a trowel to spread the mixture on the mat. Spread it about 1/8″ thick. Use a damp sponge to even out any peaks and valleys.
After the caulk is spread, but while it is still wet, sprinkle some more sand on top of it to help with texture. Let it dry overnight and brush off the excess.
Step 3 – Paint the Mat.
Next paint the mat with your earth colors. I used Valspar’s Muddy Mississippi for the base, drybrushed with Crunchy Granola and then Cafe Au Lait, but you could use whatever colors you want.
The painted mat – this looks darker than the colors ended up being.
At this point you have worked very hard to create a lovely looking dirt mat. Pat yourself on the back because over the next few steps you will cover up almost all of that hard work. But so it goes.
Step 4 – Add the Flock.
Now we start adding the grass. The grass is made up of a base coat of flock followed by layers of static grass in multiple colors. Starting with a base layer of flock seems to give the static grass more heft and depth of color, and some areas of flock showing through adds great texture.
To affix the static grass, mix the Täk-E-Glue with water, about 60% glue to 40% water. Dab this onto the mat leaving small patches of the painted dirt to show through, and then heavily sprinkle on the flock. Brush off and save the excess when dry. I left too many patches for my taste and had to correct that later, but your mileage may very.
This is the mat with all of the flock glued on.
Step 5 – Add Accent Patches of Dark Static Grass.
On to the static grass. Glue the static grass on with the Täk-E-Glue and water mixture, and use a static grass applicator to shake the static grass onto the the glue. The goal is a large number of small, irregular patches. Just dab the Täk-E-Glue and water mixture onto the mat. I used two shades of dark green, but in hindsight could have gotten away with just one.
Here are a couple pictures taken during the beginning of the patch process:
Step 6 – Add Main Static Grass Color.
Now we add the main static grass color using the same method we used for the dark grass patches. To my eye, the main static grass color should cover 85% or so of the surface area of the mat, allowing some bare dirt patches and dark green grass to poke through. Aim for irregular patterns and “feathering” where possible for a natural look.
This shows the beginning of adding the main static grass color.
Once the static grass is dry, brush up the excess and on to the next step.
Step 7 – Add Highlight Static Grasses.
Time for the highlights! The end is near!
To apply the highlights, first spray watered-down matte medium onto the mat. (NB: I mixed my matte medium up to about twice the strength recommended on the bottle since I intended it to be a glue and not just a sealant.) Then shake on the static grass using the applicator. Super easy.
I used a variety of highlight static grasses, starting from the darker colored grasses (medium greens) to the lightest (straw colors). The final highlight is a light sprinkling of CelluLeaf to break up the static grass texture.
There’s no science to applying the highlights, but you don’t want to cover the whole mat in highlight colors. You want variations in tones and smooth transitions…or at least I did. The following pictures show the effect I went for:
Note the dirt patches and dark static grass peeking through.
This picture is truer to the real color.
Step 8 – Seal and Varnish
To finish, spray the mat liberally with watered-down matte medium. Once the matte medium is dry (leave it overnight), spray varnish over the whole mat to seal it and get rid of any shine.
All in all, this project was very successful. I’m pleased with how natural the grass looks and it folds easily without losing any of the grass!
Look at that fold!