How to Make Grass Hills
This article shows you how I made hills to go with my grass gaming mat. The process and materials are similar. But the hills have just three easy steps!
Styrofoam - 1″ thick expanded polystyrene
MDF - 1/8″ thick MDF
Spackle - Use whatever brand you like
Durham's Water Putty
Glue - Watered-down Elmer's glue is fine and what I used
Sand - Playground sand will do
Paint – I used Valspar Muddy Mississippi as the base with highlights of Crunchy Granola and Café au Lait
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 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. Definitely use 2mm though - anything taller will not stand up to play.
Varnish - Krylon Matte Finish Aerosol Spray
Step 1: Assemble Structure
The first step is to make the structure of the hills. Basically, the structure is composed of one or two layers of 1″ XPS styrofoam glued onto a 1/8″ layer of MDF.
The first part is to draw out the shape of the hill on the 1/8" MDF, cut it out with a jigsaw, and feather the edges with a sander. Below you can see a finished MDF. After making the MDF base, trace around it on the XPS foam with a sharpie and then cut out the foam.
After making the MDF base, trace around it on the XPS foam. Then cut through the XPS foam with a hot wire knife so you have something like the below. I recommend cutting a little short of the traced line so that there is a little bit of an MDF base around the edge of the hill, rather than more fragile XPS foam.
Next, take a hot foam knife or a serrated knife and cut a slope on the hill. To mark out the slope, I drew a line that mimicked the sloped edge of the hill, but 4″ away from the edge, and then cut from that line (at the top) to the edge (at the bottom), so that there is a 1:4 slope.
The next-to-last step in assembling the base is to glue the shaped XPS foam onto the MDF, and then apply spackle to smooth out the slope of the hill. Once that is dry, and it, paying especial attention to round out the top of the slope. The below picture shows a two-layer hill. The top layer was made just like the bottom layer.
The final step of step 1 (see how easy it sounds when you lump steps together?) is to brush a few thin layers of Durham's Water Putty onto the the hill. I used about 50% more water than suggested on the package, but you want to do 2-3 thin layers. The result will be a nice, hard layer.
Step 2: Texture and Paint the Hill
Now we are going to texture and paint the dirt base of the hill. Basically, you just brush on watered-down PVA glue, liberally douse the glue with playground sand, and then shack off the excess:
Then paint the whole thing with Valspar Mississippi Mud, followed by drubrushes of Crunchy Granola and Café Au Lait as a final highlight. You can use whatever paints you want, but these are the ones I used to accomplish a summer European soil look.
Step 3: Add Grass
The end is near! Well, at least of this project. Now we are going to add the grass.
First, brush watered-down PVA glue on the hill, leaving a few small bare patches of dirt. Then sprinkle on flock, shake off the excess, and let dry. You should have something that looks like this:
Once dry, brush on more diluted PVA glue, covering up almost all of the flock. (The purpose of the flock is to "thicken up" the static grass. Im not sure why it works, but it does.) Then, using a static grass applicator, apply the main color of static grass (for me, it is Scenic Express 2mm Late Summer Static Grass), then turn the hill upside down and knock off the excess.
If you need to do another base layer of static grass to get a good thick layer, you will need to put the diluted PVA (or matte medium) into a spray bottle and spray it on, and then apply the static grass. From there, spray one diluted PVA glue with.
After the main static grass color is dry, you can dab small patches of watered-down PVA glue with a brush, or spray with a spray bottle, and then add patches of darker and lighter static grasses. I generally spray the PVA on for the highlights, and do small patches for darker grasses. Not sure why, it just looks right to me.
After the static grass is all dry, spray liberally with Krylon matte spray varnish.
Anyways, this is what it looks like when done:
I hope you found this useful, and thank you for reading. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact us!