Foam Core is a useful, versatile product that can be used for a wide variety of projects related to the tabletop wargaming hobby.
In this tutorial, we'll walk through how to make a basic, straightforward piece of terrain that not only looks good on the tabletop but is actually modular, and lets you push the pieces together like a jigsaw puzzle, so that you can create fairly large structures that are actually reasonably stable.
Step 1: Gather Your Tools/Materials
It's always a good idea to gather all the things that you might need before you start the project--that way, you're not forced to drop your work and run to the hobby store to buy the supplies you need.
Box-Cutter/Carpet Knife: This will do most of your heavy-duty cutting, and will really be the workhorse for this project. Be careful, though, as it is EXTREMELY sharp!
Straight-Edge/Ruler: Great for measuring your pieces and cutting a straight line.
Hobby Knife: This will be used for a lot of the detail work that will show up in this project. This is also EXTREMELY sharp.
Hot Glue Gun: Really any hot glue gun will do for this project, although you should note that a low-temp glue gun will be rather frustrating to use. Do note that hot glue is VERY hot.
Paintbrushes: Your nice, super-reliable brushes will be very useful for getting this terrain painted. Note that you should also have a very old/cheap brush on hand for mixing up/painting the texture onto the terrain.
1/4" Foam Core: It's available from pretty much any store that carries craft or office supplies; the amount you need really depends on the size of your project. For this project, I used ~3 square feet of 1/4"-thick foam core.
Hot Glue: Nothing special, just any kind of hot glue will do. Make sure that it's the right size for your glue gun though.
Part of this project will entail making your own texture paint, which you can make with the following ingredients:
Again, the amounts of these that you need will vary, depending on the size of the structure which you are building.
In addition, you will probably want a few different shades of gray paint, as well as a dark wash, which will be used to create a more varied and visually-interesting piece of terrain.
Step 2: Design Your Terrain
Although this step is optional, it is highly recommended, since sketching out or drawing your ideas--even in a less formal manner than that shown here--will help you better visualize your project, and help you decide on the actual dimensions for your terrain. Note that if you design your terrain to use the interlocking slot-and-tab design shown here, you should be careful to design these parts to be the same size!
Note also that when dimensioning your terrain, you should take into account the thickness of your material--in our case, 1/4".
Step 3: Draw and Cut Pieces
Being careful both to follow your own dimensions and to not cut your fingers, mark the pieces out on the foam core sheet and cut them out.
In order to cleanly cut your foam core, ensure that your blade is sharp, and cut the foam in 2-3 passes, pressing the side of the blade against your straight edge and cutting through the top layer of paper on the first pass, then the foam, then the bottom layer of paper. Using the hobby knife for the smaller cutouts is highly recommended.
This is also a good time to make sure that those little tabs actually fit into the slots in the base of your terrain!
Step 4: Glue Your Terrain
Using the hot glue gun, glue the parts of the terrain to one another. For some parts of this particular build, I beveled the edges of foam by cutting away everything but the outer layer of paper; however, for almost any build, it should be perfectly fine to just glue the foam directly to the paper, and vice versa.
At this point, you will also likely have accumulated a large number of foam core scraps around your workstation. It turns out that these make excellent pieces of rubble when glued in piles around destroyed sections of the building.
Note also that I have cut out large sections of the building in order to simulate the devastated battlegrounds of the 41st Millennium--although this particular piece of terrain will work for almost any 1/56-scale tabletop wargame.
Step 5: Texturing
Once you've got your terrain built, it's time to apply texturing. This is done by using your old/cheap paintbrush to mix the sand and glue in a small plastic (preferably disposable) container, until you have a reasonably well-textured substance. Then, simply apply this mixture liberally to your terrain using a stippling motion, as opposed to using the traditional brushing technique of painting with strokes--the latter method will result in streaks in your terrain, and will look fake.
Give your terrain at least an hour and a half to dry before proceeding to the next step!
Step 6: Priming and Painting
Once the glue has dried, you can either paint right over the glue or first prime it with some kind of primer, as I did here--the choice is yours, however.
Once I had finished priming the piece, I then gave it a once-over with my darkest shade of gray paint, then waited for that coat to dry. Once that was done, I liberally applied a coat of Citadel's Agrax Earthshade shade paint, which will serve both to bring out the detail and to give the terrain a grimy, streaked appearance.
Once this is done, we drybrush progressively lighter shades of gray over this--this drybrushed coat of paint will catch the edges of our texture, accentuating it even more.
Note that, in order to make your terrain more realistic, all your strokes should be done in an up-and-down motion, in order to simulate the gravity-driven streaking that occurs on old concrete buildings.
Once you've gotten it to where you're happy with it, set up your terrain and start gaming!