Monday, November 4, 2013

Head for the hills! Urban hills that is . . in 5 minutes!

If Time = Money, and Terrain = Time, then Terrain = Money.  This tutorial will help you save a little of each.

Hey guys, Caleb with White Metal Games.

With every new project you take on, you have to ask yourself what is your end game.  If the project is going to be a competition piece, then by all means, take months to complete it, 50 shades of grey shading and all.  But sometimes the goal is just to get a model or piece of terrain on the table and quickly.

There are some amazing models, dioramas, and display boards out there.  We see them at cons, we see them at GT's, and online.  And they raise the bar really high.


This tutorial is for the guy with two kids and five minutes to build a hill who has spent his last dime on baby food and diapers this month.  I salute you, sir, for trying to stick to the hobby at all.

For everyone else out there with money to burn, by all means, take the time to build a nice hill.  But if you have no time to spend and even less money, this is the tutorial for you!

Here's what you'll need for this urban hill:
  • Some hard packaging foam (not the cheap kind you get in the mail, the hard stuff you get with electronics.)  
  • A base of some sort (I used MDF here, but cardboard would work fine.  After all, why waste good money on terrain when you could blow it on miniatures)
  • Some expanding foam (You get a can of this at DIY stores or Walmart or the like for about $4 bucks a can)
  • Some spare sprue from you the latest kit\
  • Sand, dried spices, ballast, or whatever other basing material you have around.  Dirt from your back yard will be fine.

Okay.  I call this the five minute hill.  If it takes you longer than five minutes to do this then that equation up above was a complete waste of my terrain (whereby terrain = time).

First, apply a generous amount of foam to the base.  Be sure to go around the edges.  It looks a bit like a curled up intestine.  Gross.

Now break up bits of the foam.  If you have any large, flat pieces, stick those on top.  They will form a place for miniatures to stand on.

Use the rest of the foam and just thrust it into the foam pile.  Shove them in there anyway you like.  Like how you got your sofa in your living room.

Take a few bits of the sprue and do the same.

If you have anything else to throw in there, like bolters, skulls, or other bric-a-brac (that's fancy talk for junk), now is the time to add it too.

While the foam is still malleable (that's fancy talk for squishy) apply some basing material.  Be generous.  The holidays are coming up and your want to get all that generosity out of the way now.

Okay.  That should have taken you less than five minutes.  At this point the hill is done.  Now all you have to do is paint it.

Oh, what, you thought that was part of the five minutes?  How misleading of me . . .

So, let the hill dry through your night terrors, and when you wake up in a cold sweat, apply a thick layer of black spray paint.  The cheaper the better.

Yes, the spray paint will dissolve the foam.  You want that to happen.  The solvent will partially erode the foam.  This is desirable to help give the foam a less 'round look.

Once that's dry, take some cheap black paint (interior paint from your garage, or craft/hobby paint is fine) to touch up any areas where the foam shows through..

Once you have a good layer of black down, find some grey paint.  Dark preferably.  Dry brush or overspray some grey paint onto some of the surfaces.  If you spray paint this, it will dissolve the foam further.  So do so at your own risk.

Then, if you really want the gold star, do it again with an even lighter grey paint.  Let's call this light grey, and let's call this technique highlighting.

That's it, your done.  What, did you expect fireworks?  It's a hill, not the Mona Lisa.

Build a bunch, impress your mom.  Move out for God's sake.

If you liked this tutorial, then check out more of our work here and here!



  1. The 5-minute hill looks like a large pile of dragon poop, which could be an objective in a game where fertilizer is needed for the crops...

  2. The 5-minute hill looks like a large pile of dragon poop, which could be an objective in a game where fertilizer is needed for the crops...