For those that play the Pirates CCG by Wizkids Games you know how ugly the plain flat cardboard islands are. This will show you how to make some 3D ones out of some simple materials.
Also a good basis for making Warhammer and other gaming terrains
Step 1: Supplies
I used things I had around the house for the most part.
Styrofoam insulation board (Only because it is very fine grained and is easy to work with)
Plain Clay Cat Litter (unscented or any "extra" additives)
Sawdust (everything has a use) or if you want to buy static grass for model railroads.
Toothpicks (round ones are better)
Thin cardboard or card stock
White Glue (like Elmers)
Paints: Black, Gray, White, Green, Blue, Yellow other colors are optional.
Step 2: Sub Assemblies
The design of your islands are pretty much up to you but there are some basic parts you can use to make a wide variety of designs
I make this out of the foamcore board, cutting the edges down to a beach like profile.
Made from chunks of insulation board either cut to shape or chipped away with your fingernail or other tools.
Made from the toothpicks and sawdust layered on the top or small strips of paper for leaves.
Chunks of insulation board cut to shape then roofs made from card stock. Windows and doors painted on. Chimney may also be added using foam board or toothpics
Anything not covered in the above, like a shipwreck, treasure chest, mermaid.
Step 3: Base Construction
Using the Foamcore Board cut out an irregular shape for the island. Then taking your knife CAREFULLY cut at an angle around the edge to give it a sloping cross section for the beach area (leave straight if you plan on putting a rock right on the edge.)
Trim more if desired for smoother slopes and edges
Step 4: Adding Main Rock)s)
Take a chunk of your insulation board and break off a section that looks rocklike. Sculpt it more by pulling small pieces off with your fingernail or carving with the knife.
Glue to the foam board where it looks best.
Step 5: Adding Small Rocks
Now to add the small rocks (clay litter).These can be placed anywhere but I prefer to put them around the base of the large rock and sometimes running near the beach.
Add a generous amount of white glue to your target area, sprinkle liberally with rocks, gently press them into the glue and let dry.
Shake off excess.
Step 6: The Stuff That Gets Everywhere!
Sand for the beach. Do the same way you did the small rocks, apply glue, pour on sand, let dry and shake off the extra.
Step 7: Base Coat
Now that the base is completely dry you need a base coat of paint. I find it's best to take a toothpick and press it in the bottom up into the biggest rock to make a holding handle.
Now coat the entire top side with black paint. Yes I said black.
Step 8: Drying Time Is Here (on to Other Things for a Bit)
While the paint dries you might as well take time and make some of the extras you are to add to the island(s).
Start by taking a small piece of foam and making a box shape with a pointy top, not very big, up to 3/8" long I'd say.
Next use a strip of paper that fits over the pointy top of the box, trim so it has a small overhang on the box. Glue together, add a chimney from a small strip of foam or toothpick if you like.
Let dry then paint side/roof any color you want then paint on doors and windows. I prefer to make my houses white with an orange/red roof to give it a tropical feel.
There are 2 kinds I'll work on here, simple bushy leaf type and palm trees.
Leafed trees are just a section of toothpick whittled down for the trunk with a small ball of paper glues to the top then coated with clue and dipped in static grass (or your home made stuff). I sometimes add a dark wash over these so they look a different shade then the ground.
Palm trees are a little harder. Using a small piece of wire wrap some thread around it, going from one end to the other. This simulates the bark. Paint palm tree brown. Now paint some paper a green palm tree leaf color, after it dries cut little tapered strips from it. Give them a slight curl with your fingers. Superglue might be better for this since it dries faster. Add a few around the top pointing down, work your way up and around with more leaves. Give the trunk a wash of dark to bring out the texture.
Dark Wash: This is a thinned paint that will settle into the deep areas of a model.
Step 9: Dry Brushing
This step is what takes the most practice.
You will need a stiff brush and several shades of the colors you want to use.
Starting with the ground, a nice dark brown. To dry brush you need to get some paint on your brush but not a lot. Stiff bristles work best since they don't bend over onto the work. Put some paint on the brush then wipe it across some scrap cardboard or similar. This will leave enough paint on the brush to just get the upper surfaces of the base. Now before it dries go over the base with light strokes, I like to go in circles. Keep doing this till you have most of the black covered, just showing in the deepest areas. Repeat with a dark gray on the rocks.
Now onto the lighter color, do the same as before but with a lighter touch so you can still see the black and the first color.
Last coat is white, this is a very light touch just hitting the highest points on the rocks and ground.
Step 10: Greenery
Grass is the next step, applied just like the rocks and sand by putting glue down and sprinkling the grass over it. You can do small patches up the rocks too, making them not so dead looking. If you want you can add some painted (brown) string up the rocks to simulate vines, adding green for leaves at intervals.
All I did this time was the bottom grassy.
Step 11: El Finito!
All that is left is adding your trees and buildings. Just glue them where they look good and you should have some nice looking islands for your Pirate (or other) Games!
Don't forget to sign and date them on the bottom.