Mini Island Gaming Terrain




About: I'm an artist who using just about anything in my art projects, a type of recycling. I haven't posted in a while because my digital camera died and I'm looking for a replacement.

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

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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
Foamcore Board
White Glue (like Elmers)
Paints: Black, Gray, White, Green, Blue, Yellow other colors are optional.
Paint Brushes

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.

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    61 Discussions


    Reply 3 years ago

    Do you have any pictures of your creation to share?


    8 years ago on Introduction

    this is very well done, but a finishing touch could be to make waves from clear water resin. 10/10.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    ahhh i love you and i love this game. I have almost the set of i think 6 different box sets thats how much i love it. (including the all rare skeletal jack sparrow and ghosted black pearl) i will totally be trying this!! brilliant idea!

    4 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks, I'm glad you like it. I haven't played the game in some time. I started getting them when it first came out and bought quite a few then but I couldn't afford any of the newer sets as they came out too fast. I wish I had at least gotten the Santa one, I thought it was cool. I hope the instructable is clear enough and you use your imagination and make some great islands (and post them here!)


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    dude, i have a couple of the santa one if your interested in buying one. Just message me let me know i might be able to sort something thru ebay or whatever. Either way let me know!


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    sorry to double post, just some info on the card: White Beard Holiday Promotional Ships. Includes Captain Whitebeard and the Sleigh ship which has the Joysides Attack. This ship cannot be shot at, and she cannot sink. She begins the game fully loaded with treasure from her controller's collection. Her base move becomes 6L when she has no available cargo capacity. Its a very very VERY hard card to come across.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the offer but I haven't played in years and right now the furture is quite uncertain. I'll let you know in a few months, off to the hospital in a few weeks.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    OmG, this is so awesome. I really like the idea of "make stuff from what you've got".  And this method opens infinite possibilities.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks on both compliments, only problem is the camera I used died last year and I haven't gotten a replacement. It was a Fujifilm Finepix 2800Z that I got free because it was damaged, I fixed it but something electronic went up on it about a year later.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    This was made by my son using similar methods. Rocks are chipped bark, as used to suppress weeds outside supermarkets etc.

    2 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    That bark looks awesome. Thanks for sharing. I'd have never thought of that on my own.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    That looks great, the bark gives some really nice natural shapes and saves a lot of effort.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Great stuff. That palm tree is perhaps the coolest tree I've seen recently. Very impressive. You may want to use the macro setting (usually the little flower icon activates it) on the smaller blurry pics, but otherwise... for old hats like me this was great. I'm doing larger scale, but lots of great ideas that will bridge easily.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    probably the best instructable i have ever seen! suck a good idea !!! I am going to make one all in one where everything is connected on one board but i really need to know how to make the ships. any ideas?? really easy plus rating favourited. please show me som ephotos if u make a ship. maybe a possible instructable? thanks.

    1 reply