Okay, this took a bit longer to put together than I was planning – sorry for the wait! This post is the follow-on to Battlefield Masterclass, which was a step-by-step guide to painting a gaming board. Give it a read if you haven’t already!
As I mentioned in the previous post, we’ve both painted more than our share of gameboards in our time as professional geeks. We both know that one of the most frustrating elements is always going to be the grass, for so many reasons!
- It never seems to stick down perfectly, so whenever you lean on the board, you get covered in it!
- As a result of this, the more you use your board, the quicker it goes bald. This is frustrating when you’ve spent ages making it look pretty!
- Repairing bald patches isn’t fun, either, because unless you’re really careful, it’s almost impossible to get a perfect join – it will always stand out.
- Real grass is never just one colour, but it can be a pain to mix different colours without “join lines”.
With all that in mind, we thought we’d share a load of our top flocking tips to raise the standard and get everyone’s gameboards looking as pretty as our one’s turned out!
One thing that’s worth mentioning before we go on – what if you don’t want to flock your gameboard? Deserts, wastelands, icy crags… none of these places need grass! If you want to do this, as I mentioned in the previous post, I’d really recommend texturing the whole board first. The smooth plastic of the Realm of Battle means that heavy models will slide down the hills unless they’re textured, and don’t forget the old adage – a decent flocking hides a thousand sins!
What We Used
Citadel Scenery Painting Pack
Citadel Dead Grass
A couple of sheets of old newspaper
Sieve (steal one from the kitchen – don’t worry, you’ll return it in full working order!)
Several decent-sized bowls (mixing bowls are good)
Citadel Purity Seal
What We Did
The most important part of flocking a gameboard needs to happen before you even lift a brush. If you don’t stop and think about what you’re planning, you’ll make a mess of things! Here are a few things to consider in the planning phase:
- What sort of flock are you going to use? You’ve got the old-fashioned “dyed sawdust” flock that’s fallen out of favour in recent years but is still readily available; its main advantage is that it covers well and sticks down easily, but its clear disadvantage is that it tends to look artificial and very retro. Alternatively there’s a vast range of static grasses on the market. These look more realistic, but (you guessed it) have to be dealt with very carefully or they won’t stick down. If you want to be cunning, you can mix sawdust flock and static grass – this gives a really tough finish that still looks decent. We opted for three different colours of static grass (the dark and light greens from the painting pack, plus the yellowish Dead Grass), as we wanted a really “realistic” look to the board.
- Where are you going to put the grass? There’s a lot to think about here, but the first two things I always consider are very practical. First up, I want to cover all the hills, as much as I can, to avoid the aforementioned Slidey Model Syndrome. Secondly, I want to cover any patches where the drybrushing’s a bit naff, or the board is damaged, or there’s detail I don’t want. (For example, I know a lot of people who flock over the skull pits on the Realm of Battle.) After you’ve thought about that, mull over the level of coverage you want. Do you want a rolling, verdant plain, or a vista of hard-packed dirt broken up by patches of tough grass? We opted for full coverage on the hills, lots of grass elsewhere, but patches of mud – especially at the edges of the board sections. This is a purely practical choice – if you flock right up to the edges, they’ll be the first thing to wear down. It means you get a brown “grid lines” on your gameboard when you put it together, but that’s only noticeable if you’re looking out for it – and don’t forget, you’ll be adding a load of terrain as well!
- Are you doing anything fancy, or just flocking the whole thing? Just take a second to think about whether there’s anything cool you want to do. For example, on the gameboard, three sections have large patches of slate-like rock showing through the mud. If you put these sections in a line, you get what looks like an old, abandoned road. We decided to go with this, and be very sparing with flock on the areas where the road would have been. We also accentuated it by using lots of Dead Grass around it.
Finally, before you get started, prepare your flock, because you won’t have time to do this once the glue’s on the board and starting to dry! Open up your packs of flocking material and get them into bowls. If they’re compacted (believe me, the dark green in the scenery painting pack will be), sieve them! This might sound crazy, but trust me, it works. It takes a little while, but it’s definitely worth it to remove the large clumps. If you don’t, your board will have lumpy grass. Who wants that, eh?
Once your flock’s accessible and separated out, you can actually get on with it!
This bit’s really easy. Pick one board section to work on. Get a brush that’s an appropriate size for what you want to do (I used the big one from the scenery painting pack), and liberally apply PVA glue to all the areas you intend to flock! This is important – cover everything that will have flock on it, even if you’re doing multiple different colours. This is important for reasons I’ll explain in a bit!
If your glue’s too thick, you can water it down, but don’t use too much water, as you want as much sticking power as you can get. The best way to tell is to paint the glue onto a small area – if your mixture’s too watery, it will “shrink back” from the edges of the area you’ve glued. When it’s at the right consistency, it should spread nicely, and stay exactly where you put it.
Like I said, you need to cover everything. If you’re doing multiple colours of flock, still paint everything! There’s a good reason for this. If you just apply glue for, say the dark green, then flock it, and reapply glue for the next colour, you’ll end up with either a visible line between the two colours, or an overlap. Work quickly – you don’t have much time! As soon as the PVA starts to cure, it loses some of its sticking power.
Okay. Time to get some flock on there! If you’re using multiple colours, start with the colour you’re using least. Sprinkle it not-too-heavily in the areas you want it to be. We applied the yellow at this stage, putting it mostly at the edges of the road sections, and at around the rocks. Don’t tip it off yet! Next, apply the next colour, and so on, until you’re left with the colour you’re using for the main bulk of the table. We did light green next, in small patches. Again, don’t tip anything off or remove any excess until ALL the glue is covered in flock in the next stage!
Right. The main colour of flock. There’s going to be a lot of this, and you need to make sure you drop it in an even coating, without lumps. So guess what? It’s time to get that seive out again! Carefully apply the main flock colour over everything.
At this point, a lot of people will tip off the excess flock, and lose way too much in the process. Don’t be one of them! Here’s a sneaky tip. Without moving the board at all, cover it all in a sheet or two of newspaper, and pat it down. Apply pressure to every bit of the board. This pushes the grass flat, and helps it stick properly. The real benefit of this method is that you don’t have to wait for it to dry before tipping off the flock.
Here it comes – the moment of glory. When you feel confident that you’ve patted it down and the flock’s stuck in place, remove the newspaper, stand your board up on its end , and repeatedly tap the back of it until flock stops cascading off it. Then rotate it ninety degrees and do it again – repeat until nothing’s falling off. Put your board to one side (preferably flat, but don’t worry if you can’t) and leave it for a couple of hours for the glue to dry. (Tip: If flock’s sticking in places you didn’t want it to, where you haven’t glued (for example, the skull pits), use a hair dryer on a really low setting to clear it.) Gather up all the flock you’ve knocked off, and return it to a bowl. You’ll be amazed how little you actually used! You can then repeat the whole process for the rest of the board sections.
At this point, I’d recommend standing back and staring fondly at what you’ve done, because unless you’ve made some hilarious slip-ups, you’ve probably got a board that looks pretty decent! Go and make a cuppa, chill out for a bit, and try to work the rogue particles of flock out of your throat and lungs. (This last bit usually take a couple of days!)
Finally, after a couple of hours, return to your board. Check that all the glue is dry, and none of the flock is lifting up at the edges. If this is the case, apply more glue and wait for that to dry before continuing!
Head outside and give each board section a good coating of Purity Seal, or your matt varnish spray of choice. If it’s raining, or it’s rained in the past couple of hours, leave it for a bit, or this won’t work – high humidity levels can cause purity seal to go cloudy, which just sucks. If this has happened to any of your models, you’ll know what I mean! Still, if it does happen, just use a second coat of purity seal, and nine times out of ten the clouding goes away, because of SCIENCE! (It’s a similar principle to this weirdness.)
So that’s it! A painted, flocked board. It probably looks rather awesome! Our one does, as I’m sure you’ll be seeing in some upcoming features I’ve got in mind. What did you think? If you give it a go, take a photo and post the results up in the comments section!
EDIT: Top tip from Jeff over at Pirate Viking Painting for sealing your flocked board and stopping the grass going everywhere:
“I have also had good results with giving the THOROUGHLY DRY grass a liberal coat of VERY watered down PVA (think milk), this makes the grass weld to the table and will stand up to even shop grade punishment!”
Damn fine point, Jeff! I’ve done similar things on shop boards in the past, and yep, it works! Like he said, just make sure the grass is totally dry first…