Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

No Western gun fights, but I have paused long enough in working on the canvas topping to try it out.


COLOUR:  Firstly, it doesn't photograph easily. The colours in the picture are not accurate but they are the best I've achieved after trying a couple of photo shoots and reaching my limit for fiddling with colours on the computer. The green is paler that I planned, thanks primarily to it being so badly diluted, but most of it is darker than it looks here and there is stronger contrast between the 5 colours of paint on it. I think this is something that  calls for better lighting, my tripod, some white balancing and a skilled photographer who really cares. Don't hold your breath.   

The cloth is not nearly as finished as I intend but time is short and energy low so its been declared good-enough-for-now. One thing I intend to try later is Bluebear Jeff's suggestion of sponging on colour. I did try a spongy mini-roller but it was a dud. The good thing is, it can be over painted and  repainted as often as I like.

I had hopes that the figure bases would blend better than they do. The paint colour was originally selected in part by painting swatches on paper and placing stands over them. Apart from any colour issues, the texture of the stands contrasts with the painted surface. Scattering flock on the table will help but that's not something  i want to do for every game. A more mottled paint scheme with stronger colours might lower the contrast between bases and surface. (Or I could just refinish all my bases.......)

HILLS. I was afraid that the heavier canvas would not settle as well as the lighter, more elastic cloth that I have become used to. It doesn't but it settles better than I anticipated. It works well over very shallow contours or over shaped foam hills. With steeper contours, you get a very natural slope with occasional hidden air pockets. Fine for stands of light plastic figures who glide over the top, not so much for single 40/54mm metal figures who sink down slightly then fall over. 

However, it belated  occurred to me that hills painted to match could be dropped on top and would blend in. This would allow for the inclusion of bluffs and cliffs which are extremely difficult to mange when draping cloth over shapes. 

An added "feature" of the mottled finish and gentle slopes is that hills are really hard to see. Could add an interesting twist to games over video.

This is an old hill, not yet repainted to match but its already acceptable to me. 

WOODS, RIVERS & THINGS. One of the things I decided recently, was to go back to putting template shapes down under woods and villages. I used to but had given it up for just marking the perimeter. Sometimes that works better than other times. 

The canvas shapes I have tried don't cling as well as felt clings to felt but a quick experiment shows that double sided tape would fix that when it matters. I have enough canvas left over to do as many as I want and since canvas takes paint, I could paint streets, paths and gardens, forest floors, oasis pools, plowed fields etc, what ever is needed. I just need to bone up on graphic art. (Anything not done in this live will be left for a later one.)

Actually,  I feel the temptation to paint on roads and rivers and just paint over them again when they get in the way. This would allow temporary terrain boards for specific historical battles or teasers and avoid unsightly edges. Next best thing to a sand table.

Battle to follow.

OTHER WRINKLES AND OBSERVATIONS. When laying out some troops, I included the San Carlos Volunteers who are still singly based. Being unable to resist, I plopped them onto a sabot and tried pushing them. The canvas is stiff enough and slippery enough that they slid easily along, something not feasible on either my sand in paint finish on my base table top or on my old soft cloth. Luckily the single figure on sabot vs multi-figure stands debate is OVER. ok? 

Wrinkles and creases are a little bit of a problem though. Not so bad with 40mm figures where they are knee high at worst but with 1/72nd a few are chest high. They might come out over time, or be susceptible to stretching, maybe.  I'm not sure when I last used an iron to press fabric. It may have been while I was still in her Majesty's service but its possible that there may be one somewhere in the back of some cupboard but that's an experiment that'll probably have to wait until I get a round Tuit. 


  1. Ross

    I like the look of it. What scatter material do you use for the roads? How do you take it off the table (without putting it everywhere else which is what I would end up doing)? Can you recycle it or is it a one shot weapon?


    1. The roads used to be good old traction sand until that turned into very small gravel. It has now been replaced with fine sand intended for sand boxes but beware of the yellow stuff. Luckily despite it being used liberally, after 6 years of roads and basing about 2/3 of the 50 lb bag remains.

      It is recycled in 2 stages. If the board is being reset without the covering being changed, the road crew comes out with small brooms and whisks the old road to its new location then adds more sand if needed. If the covering is being changed it is whisked into a dust pan and poured into a container. I try to roughly sift the purest sand back into a sand tin while any that is irretrievably mixed with flocking goes into the flocking tin.

      The inevitable bit that made it all the way to the floor gets swept up. No carpets in my games room.

  2. Nice work. I was looking forward to this bit, mainly as I've been thinking about doing something to my own hex mats.

    I'm glad you got the old sabot versus multi-base issue sorted. Now use of sabres by cavalry, point or edge?

    1. Testor's camoflage paints are really good for adding a faint dusting of colour and/or some more solid mottling. But best done outside. I have trouble getting hold of them though.

      Point for the heavies in a charge. Edge is ok for light cavalry skirmishing as long as the sabers are well honed.

      No waffling here, its both are better in their own way, every time!

  3. Ross,

    If I might make some suggestions and observations . . .

    First, I think that it looks pretty good in the photos you've shown us!

    Second, might I observe that the canvas has two sides? This means that you could if you chose to, paint roads on one side and leave the other without them.

    Third, another technique used on theatre sets is called "spattering". Typically a largish paint brush is used with wet paint on the tip only. This is tapped against the edge of the hand to send a spattering of paint droplets against the canvas flat (to provide some "depth" and break up the solid colour.

    Perhaps the best way to test if this might be a good thing for you with the canvas is to try it with water on some dry concrete (so you can see what the drops look likes before using paint on the canvas). An alternative might be to try using an old toothbrush and a "finger scrape" when wanting to do just a small space (for a dusting of yellow flowers for example).

    Fourth, the sponge that I mentioned last post is not your typical kitchen sponge but the really large "rough" garage-type sponges (if you know what I mean). I have also seen set decorators use real sponges for that technique. The important thing is for there to be lots of holes on the sponge . . . you don't want a smooth sponge.

    Finally, let me once again assure you that it looks good just as it is, Ross. Nicely done, sir.

    -- Jeff

  4. Yes, I agree with Jeff, it looks good as it is, in advance of any further improvements.

    "Luckily the single figure on sabot vs multi-figure stands debate is OVER. ok?"

    OK :-)

    1. Steve, I speak of course of this particular collection.... :)

  5. Hi Ross

    It looks good. I couldn't really see the problems you mentioned, but then you did mention photo issues. I see what is a perfectly good ground cover and no need to worry about it.


  6. Thanks Dave. There are no high hills in any of the pictures but the issue would only show in a video of moving single figures on them anyway. As for the creases and folds, they are noticeable up close but not terribly so, esp with 40mm figures. If I were ever to explore 10mm troops though, I might have to count the creases as terrain features!