Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Foam Board Tabletop Terrain Part 2 of 2

Tabletop Terrain (a.k.a. Battleboard) Part 2

This project isn't quite finished yet but in the interest of time and by request of some friends, here is how I painted my Batlleboard. I'm copywriting Battleboard, just in case you cared. Also, I'm not an expert so if I did something wrong or if you mess up your own Battleboard then tough shit. It's your problem not mine.

First off, let's go over the paint and supplies I used.

  • Cerulean Blue Acrylic paint from Michaels.
  • Aqua Sea Glass by Krylon from Lowes.
  • Frost Blue Metallic Acrylic paint from Michaels.
  • Icy Blue Metallic Acrylic paint from Michaels.
  • Sky Mist Acrylic paint from Hobby Lobby.
  • White Acrylic paint from Hobby Lobby.
  • Clear Gloss Minwax Polycrylic from Lowes.
  • Paper Towels (lots of them).
  • A 1 inch synthetic paint brush.
  • An artist's palette (or you could just use a piece of cardboard).
  • A cardboard box.

Since the foam insulation I used is green, the first step in the painting process is to basecoat the entire 2ft. x 2ft. Battleboard blue. I wanted to make sure I got the cerulean blue in the cracks of the grid.

Then I wanted to get the rest of the Battleboard quickly covered in blue paint. At this stage it doesn't really matter if you get complete coverage. All you're looking for is to get it started off in the right direction.

Don't forget the sides of the Battleboard. For some reason unknown to me, this took me about an hour and a half. I thought this would have been much faster than that.

Once the first layer of basecoat is dry, we can move on to the final basecoat. While shopping at Lowes I found a semi translucent spray paint and thought it would be interesting to try out. Spray paint can be tricky to apply properly sometimes. You should test your spray pattern on a scrap piece of paper or cardboard before using on the foam. From my experience there are 3 possible spray patterns you can get from cans of spray paint. The first is too much paint on the surface. It looks like a puddle of paint and will drip or start running on you. This is an indication of either holding the can too close to the project or moving the can too slowly as you spray. You could also have a combination of the two with the same spray pattern. The second one is the one we're looking for. There will be a wide area that looks wet and a dry area surrounding the wet area. This dry area that surrounds the wet section is called overspray. The third spray pattern you can get is not really a pattern at all. When you look at the painted surface it will look like little particles or dust is covering the surface. This is caused by holding the can too far away from the project. The paint carrier is flashing off before it has a chance to reach the surface of the project. This also brings up a good point on what is in paint. The three basic parts of paint are pigment, carrier, and binder. The carrier is what is used to carry the pigment and binder to the surface of the project. In the case of acrylic paint, most carriers are water. The binder is what's used to make the pigment adhere to the surface of your project, think of it as glue, and the pigment is the color. People usually ask how far away to hold the can of paint from the surface. The general rule is 6 to 8 inches but this is highly dependent on other factors such as time of day, ambient temperature, humidity, location, phase of the moon, alignment of the stars, and Darken Rahl's approval.

On to the first coat of spray paint. I sprayed the sides of the board first and then painted the top. The overspray from the sides would get covered up by the subsequent spraying of the top. Start spraying off to the side of the surface and steadily move across the surface and then off of the other side.

Here's the first coat of aqua.

Allow adequate drying time in between coats. It was above 90 degrees out when I did mine, so it dried rather quickly but I allowed 30 minutes just to be safe.
The second coat.

With this size project I used the entire can of paint for 3 coats. Another tip is to paint the Battleboard in a shady area. If you allow the paint to dry in full sun then you run the risk of the paint drying too fast. Yes, drying too fast is a problem. If it dries too fast then the binder won't adhere properly to the surface and will flake off and look chalky. Each coat of spray paint took me about 5 minutes to apply for a total of 15 minutes for all three.
The third and final coat.

Great! Now I can move this blue beast back inside. I let the Battleboard sit overnight to allow the layers of paint to completely dry before moving on to the next step. As you can see from the previous photo the aqua paint has dried much darker than I anticipated. I'm a little disappointed about this. Oh well, let's see where this goes. My next layer consisted of drybrushing with the frost blue. The technique here is to put some paint on the brush and then brush onto a paper towel until it looks like no more paint is coming off. Then go to the Battleboard and use the dry brush to brush the surface. After an hour and a half of drybrushing this layer is complete.

The next layer is icy blue. Both the previous layer and this one use a metallic paint which will give the Battleboard a shiny surface. Here I'm using the drybrushing technique again. This layer took me an hour and a half. I'm starting to see a pattern here.

Now that we have a shiny blue monstrosity, I need to tone it down a bit. Here I drybrushed a light blue called sky mist. The goal of this layer is not to cover the metallic but to dull the sheen. Again, another hour and a half of drybrushing. My arm is starting to get tired.

The last layer of drybrushing is mad with white. Here I'm just trying to highlight the very edges of everything. White is a little tricky to drybrush. The best way I've found is to brush the paint off on the paper towel and when you think the paint is all off the brush. Brush the paper towel some more. You want very little paint on the brush. An hour and a half later it should look something like this.

The final stage is to protect the painted surfaces with a lacquer or urethane. I used to do quite a bit of woodworking and learned a lot about finishes. First of all, if you don't want the clear coat to yellow over time then you need to avoid oil based products. Oil based lacquers and urethanes can take forever to dry and cure. I know a guy who used Deft lacquer on a guitar and after a month it still wasn't cured. So my advice is to just avoid oil based clear coats all together. What you're looking for is an acrylic or water based clear. It's not always easy to identify which ones are oil and which ones are water based. The best way I've found is to look at the methods of clean up on the back of the can. If it says clean up with mineral spirits, white spirits, lacquer thinner, or paint thinner then its oil based. Acrylic and water based clears will always clean up with warm water.

I haven't yet completed the final clear coat layers. I chose to go with the glossy version because I can always buff out the clear coat if it's too shiny. The only difference between glossy clears and satin or semi-gloss are the flatteners. Satin is nothing more than a gloss with flatteners added. I always buy gloss and after it cures completely, use 0000 steel wool to reduce the sheen to my liking.

Curing of the final coat is another important discussion. How do you know if the clear is cured? The best method I know of is to depress your fingernail into the surface. If it leaves an impression then it's not cured yet. One advantage to water based clears is that they cure much more quickly than oils. The Minwax Polycrylic that I bought says it will cure in 72 hours. This is again dependent on environmental factors in your area. If you're going to use lacquer then make sure the humidity level isn't too high, otherwise you'll end up with a cloudy look to the finish. This cloudy look is referred to as blushing. If it rained recently then wait a couple of days to let the humidity drop.

I hope you enjoyed this short tutorial and thanks for following along with me. This was an interesting experiment and I still haven't decided if I like the final appearance. This weekend project is the perfect way to work on spray painting and drybrushing techniques. If you're new to painting miniatures and are afraid to mess up then grab some foam board and make something.