Monday, June 23, 2014

DIY Grass Flock: an Updated Tutorial

So a while ago I posted a tutorial on how to make your own DIY static grass. Well, technically it's grass flock; I don't believe it would do the whole magical-static-grass-stand-uppy-thing if you were to use an applicator. (Though it might. I haven't tested it because I don't own one of those doohickeys).

Since making that tutorial, I've stumbled across a few ways to make the process of cutting and dyeing the flock a little easier. So I thought I'd put them in the form of a mini-tutorial/update here.

The first discovery I made is the above-pictured fine mesh strainer. But first an explanation: in my previous tutorial, I recommended dyeing the Jute (gardener's twine) with watered down paint before cutting it up. I've changed my mind on that, though. For one thing, dyeing with pigmented paints can make the twine tougher to cut, because the acrylic binder stiffens the fibers and causes them to stick together.

So now I would recommend cutting the twine first. You will still have the problem of the fibers tangling together, which the process of pre-dyeing was originally meant to eliminate, but the half-hour of chopping up twine with a pair of scissors will be much easier on your hand.

And getting rid of those tangled fibers is where the strainer comes in. Dump the chopped up jute into the strainer basket and shake it around over a plate or some other collecting surface. The shortest fibers will fall through onto the plate, leaving the snarls of tangle-causing larger fibers in the basket.

From here you have a choice: you can either dye the cut flock before applying it to your terrain piece, or you can dye it after you've glued the grass down.

In either case, you'll want to use the second innovation: a watered down non-pigmented coloring medium. Something like say, I don't know, Winsor & Newton acrylic ink. Because the stuff does not have pigment, it also does not have binder. It therefore will not cause your grass to clump when dry the way regular acrylics do.

Whether or not the flock clumps, though, it still really helps to have a way to apply it evenly. That's where that strainer and plate setup comes back again. I put my terrain piece on the plate with PVA glue in the areas that I want the grass to stick, and I shook it through the strainer again. This layered down grass in a nice, even blanket. I then allowed it to dry before turning the piece upside down, tapping off all the extra, and brushing away any stubborn fibers with a clean, dry brush.

Now, if you dyed the grass beforehand, you're done! If not, now is the time to apply some color.

As you can see above, I decided to go with applying the uncolored brown flock and then dying it on the piece. To do the actual dyeing, I just mixed up and watered down a couple of shades of green and greenish-yellows, and then used an eye dropper to drop them in random patterns on the piece. It took a while to dry, but came out looking pretty nice.

Here's a nice teaser shot of the in-progress howes and barrows. I'll have the finished pictures for you to grock on next time. For the nonce, why not filter your thoughts through a fine mesh strainer into the comments box. Coat it in a lovely, soft layer of thought-colored flocking. Leave the tangles and knots in your head.