Thursday, June 21, 2012

DIY Grass Flock: A Tutorial

So here's a useful thing that I haven't been able to find much information on: making your own static grass!

Well. A substitute anyway.

It is not actually static grass since it doesn't stand on end due to static electricity the way the genuine article does. But it does produce quite a realistic look-- waaaayyy better than painted-then-drybrushed sand. And the best part? It costs under 3 bucks (USD) for as much as you could care for.

It is a little labor intensive as you'll see in the how-to, but for those of you who, like me, have more time than anything else, it might be worth it.

*UPDATE*: Since posting this tutorial, I've refined my method somewhat. You can see the updated version with some more helpful tips here.

How to Make Your Own Grass Flock:


-Gardening Twine (about 2 USD from the local hardware store for a small spool-- which is all you'll need.)

-Scissors (Make sure they're comfortable!)

-Crappy acrylic paints (I used some tiny tubes of Basic I had lying around.)

-'Pledge Acrylic Floor Polish with Future Shine' for thinning (optional.)

-Paper towels or an old rag.

-A small jar or other container in which to dye and collect your new grass.


 1) Use your crappy paints in your jar to mix up a color of green for your grass. As you can see, my first green was rather teal, but don't worry too much if your color looks a little unnatural. The color of acrylic paints are usually brighter when they're wet than when they're dry, but more importantly, gardening twine is made up of brown natural fibers, so the color of the twine will wind up darkening the color of the grass and giving it an earthier feel.

When you have a color that you like, thin the paints down until they are the consistency of milk. I use a mixture of four parts water to one part future floor polish ('magic wash') for this, but just plain water will also do.
My color. I mixed the straight basic green with cadmium yellow and a little red. The ratio was about 4:2:1.

 2) Next, cut yourself a nice section of twine. I went with 4 six inch sections to start with. You'll then need to separate the twine into individual 'strands'. This is easy, just unwind the braid.
As you can see, 'individual strands' does not mean 'fibers' so don't panic. This is not where things get difficult.

3) Now, wrap your strands into a loose nest around your fingers...

My fingers look like little birds!

...and then submerge them in the thinned paint. Use an old brush or other pokey type device to make sure that the twine is thoroughly soaked.

 Let the twine sit in the paint for at least 20-30 minutes-- Long enough for the pigment to soak deep into the fibers, but not so long that it begins to dry.

4) Once that's done, spread out some newspaper or paper towels. Pick out your wet wad of twine and slap it on there.

Big ole wad o' green.

Separate those strands again and spread them out on the newspaper so that they won't wind up sticking together too much. Then take another sheet of newspaper or paper towel and gently pat the top of your grass. You want to press down just hard enough to wick off a little excess moisture, but not so hard that the pigment runs back out of the twine. If you leave too much pigment in the twine, the fibers will stick together, but if you lose too much pigment, your grass will just be brown. Though if this happens, don't worry. Just dunk the twine back into the paint for another go. Also note that a few brown areas are okay-- they make for an excellent natural variation in the color of your grass.

Set these guys aside and let them dry completely. Go clean and dry your jar so it will be ready for the harvest. The strands should have a kind of 'crunchy' feel to them when you come back.

5) Now comes the most trying part: turning your 6" lengths of dyed twine into tiny tiny blades of grass for tiny creatures to stand on.

Once your strands of dyed twine are dry, hold them one at a time with one end over the mouth of the jar, and begin snipping with your scissors. As you clip the strands down into grass-sized chunks, the fibers should mostly separate and collect in the jar. You're aiming for blades of grass in the .5 to 2mm range, though it depends on your scale.

This can take a while. I suggest putting on a T.V. show or podcast to while away the time. I used Doctor Who:

Don't know who painted this, but it's 'Fantastic.'

This is why it's important to have comfortable scissors. The ones I used for this batch were junk and gave me calluses, so I ditched them and got myself a $2 pair with a rubberized grip. It went so much faster.

The first trimmings!
 You should note that you won't get uniform lengths with this method, which for me is good-- I dislike the idea of my warriors dismembering each other on perfectly manicured lawns.

You should also note that despite your best efforts, there will be some longer fibers mixed in when your done. This is not so bad as A) they can be trimmed with scissors or picked off after the grass is applied to a base and B) these fibers cause the grass to gather in clumps in the jar. These clumps can then be taken in fingers at application time and gently squeezed and teased to produce an even sprinkling of tiny grass fibers.

 Above is about half way through the trimming process. It yielded a decent amount of grass. But it was all the same color. The beauty of this method is that you can create whatever blend of colors you want. So I went on to mix up a yellower green, a redder green, and a blacker green, dyed some more twine, and chopped it up too!

The result was a full half-jar of grass flock with natural color variation between shade and highlight, absolutely bristling (*headslap*) with verisimilitude! And this method doesn't only apply for green grass either. Why not dark purple if you happen to be in the realms of chaos? Or perhaps a nice crimson if you plan on staging the time war on Galifrey?

Actually, if Stardred ever comes out, I might use it to make red grass for a partially teraformed Martian setting. Might also make it my Red Sand Black Moon setting, a la Carmen's Fun Apocalypse Time.

So that's it! Not too bad, right? And nice and cheap, huh? Good! Here are some pics of what it looks like on the base of the tree I'm working on. (What's that? Another tutorial? Yes, provided the tea-leaf foliage works well.)

So until then, Peace!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Following the call for John Blanche minis over at King's Miniatures, the fantasy/miniature gaming bloglomeration has been flooded with awesome zany miniatures and art. Made me blanche to look at them.

This led me, through the typical by-ways of blog browsing, to the fantasy art originals site, where they have collected a number of his original illustrations from various publications...

...and they're #$%^&ing awesome!

Seriously, some of the most inspiring artwork that I've seen in a long time. I've been fed up with drawing for a while now, but I think thanks to Mr. Blanche, I have a whole new direction to explore.

So to jump on the Blanche-wagon, here are my favorite illustrations from that website. I highly encourage everyone to check them out.

TOP 6 John Blanche Illustrations (The Absolute Must-Haves):

Untitled 08
The Sea People
Untitled 14
The Scoam
Untitled 22
The Downfall of Numenor

TOP 10 (I.E. four more that are Definitely Should-Haves):

The Phaeton
Land of the Marble Halls
The Dance of the Witches
Untitled 21

Number 22 is my absolute favorite. I think. His Battle of Five Armies is also great, though it didn't quite make this list (the Numenor one is better.) Oh, but they're all amazing! Those Reds! Those Blues!

I went ahead and emailed the people who run fantasy art originals, and they said that prints may be available soon! I can just picture a small collection of them hanging above my desk in all of their intricate glory, inspiring me to new heights where people wear conical hats and ride flying fish between fiery tottering wire constructs that sway freakishly in the upper atmosphere!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

My Custom Blood Bowl Pitch Pt. I: The Concept

So I had the great fortune last Thursday night to finish my very first in person game of Blood Bowl! I have played online using FUMBBL before, but never have I played an entire game sitting in the same room as the people I was playing with. And man we had a blast!

It was actually four of us-- my roommate, two friends, and me-- with my roommate Rob playing humans against my friend Dan as orcs, while Eric gave recommendations for both sides and I provided guidance with the rules. It was a long game since I was teaching while we played and we didn't really enforce the four minutes per turn rule, but those 3.5 hours just flew by.

It really surprised me just how into it my friends got. I'm used to getting strange looks when I explain the game to people, and the rules are more complicated than most people have the patience for. But once the game got rolling, my friends could not get enough of the sheer personality of Blood Bowl. It just goes to show what a well-crafted and entertaining game it is.

This got me even more excited for designing and building my own pitch. Having friends to impress really helps with motivation. I first got the idea for a foamcore pitch here.

So as promised, here are the plans for my own custom pitch:

Rough sketch, not even close to scale. Sorry for the drawing.
I am making the pitch from two pieces of 22 x 28 x 3/4" foamcore. I am making each half of the board 16" long, which will give me an extra couple of inches to add to the end zones. As you can see, I'm incorporating the dugouts and the score and turn boards into the board itself, as I feel the separate ones which come with the game take up too much room. I am not, however, going to model them for realism. Instead I'm going to use what I like to call (to myself) 'selective texturing,' so that I can 'draw' whatever I need on the board with flock or sand. That way it will add somewhat to the verisimilitude of the game, but not to the extent that it becomes hard to use. Similarly, I don't like the idea of carving lines into the board--especially with such thin material--so I'm going to use the ground texture to mark out the squares. It's hard to describe, but you'll see what I mean when I start posting WIPs.

The logo in the middle (the version in the sketch is crappy) will be a version of the University of Chicago Phoenix. Got to honor the ole Alma Mater:
The Maroon. I mean Phoenix. Used without permission.

I still haven't decided on the color scheme yet, though I'm leaning towards blue for the home team, and orange for the away. For flocking, I'll be using my own home-made grass flock (tutorial coming soon!) and either sand or coffee grounds (probably coffee--less paint required). For the logo and the endzones, I will make masks/ stencils and spray diluted paint onto the grass with a spray bottle, or if that doesn't work, an old toothbrush. Again, you'll see.

So until then, Peace!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Game On!

Welcome, one and all, to Amateur Hour! If your idea of fun is to read about an average guy trying to do a bunch of things he knows virtually nothing about—then failing, experimenting, trying again, failing again, and finally posting the whole embarrassing affair to the internet—then boy are you in the right place. 

This whole idea came about when I decided to get back into miniature gaming. I used to play a little bit of Warhammer 40k but I eventually abandoned the hobby as too expensive. However, I recently rediscovered the classic game of Bloodbowl, which can be obtained for free or next to free. After reading through the LRB 6 (The player-maintained living rulebook) the deep desire to collect, paint, and play with little plastic men was reawakened deep in the nerdimost chambers of my being.

Unfortunately, since I still had school to finish at the time, I could not leap straight back into my old obsessions. In the interim I had to limit myself to ogling the many excellent miniature modeling and gaming blogs out there which I cannot hope to rival in quality (for a small selection of these, see the right side bar.) In this way, I discovered the preponderance today of not only Blood Bowl, but a whole slew of other vintage and independent games (especially Skulldred by Delaney King over on King’s Miniatures. Check out that stuff.)

That was when I realized it. I must try them all.

And then that was when I realized another it. I’m poor.

And that was when I realized a third it. I wanted to try to do it as DIY as possible. This would allow for maximum creativity and minimum expenditure.

And that was not really a realization at all. I have always loved doing and making things for myself. My girlfriend makes fun of me constantly for it. I already make my own beer and my own bread, my own fiction, and my own artwork. I plan to start making my own yogurt and cheese, growing my own food, mixing my own cleaning products and building my own furniture; my response to discovering nearly anything I enjoy is to wonder if I can produce it myself.

So I figured, why not put it all in one place? Hence this blog. Of course, I can’t tackle all of this stuff at once. It will probably be mostly miniature gaming and modeling, with the odd beer post every once in a while. At least until I become obsessed with something else.

Sound good? Good.

So to begin in the next installment: My Custom Blood Bowl Pitch.