Tau Scenery Tutorial

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Some of you may remember this terrain piece from the 2008 Terrain Comp, where it came in second by 1 vote. I'm pretty pleased with it, so I decided to do a step-by-step tutorial in case anyone else wants to make something similar, and so that they don't run into the same unexpected problems I did. Wink All measurements are given in millimetres.

The Tutorial

You will need:
  • A Styrofoam block, around 150X50X20 in size. Styrofoam can be bought over the internet, or if you are currently attending secondary school you may be able to raid the Design and Technology block for some. Wink
  • Thin plasticard, at least 120X120, plus a little bit more for the panels.
  • Coloured paper
  • A bit of plywood or something similar to base it on, around 160X160
  • An Ethereal model - either the standard metal model, or if you wish to replicate my conversion, a Fantasy Empire Wizard and a spare Tau head.
  • Flock and static grass
  • A 0.5mm black fineliner pen - WHSmiths sell them, as do most art shops
  • Clear matt spray varnish - again, sold in most art shops
  • Superglue and PVA glue
  • A junior hacksaw
  • Sandpaper
  • A vice
  • A craft knife
  • Scissors
  • A pencil
  • A compass (the sort you draw circles with, not the navigating sort)
  • A ruler
  • Green stuff (optional)
  • 4 lolly sticks - I used the ones from Fruit Pastel Lollies (optional)
And that's it!
1. Start by shaping the memorial wall. First, cut out your 150X50X20 block with the junior hacksaw, using the vice to hold the styrofoam in place.
2. To create the curve, first find a large spherical object to draw around. Place it against the front top corners of the block, ensuring that the line doesn't get too close to the back, and draw a pencil line around it. The top of the block should now look something like this:
Do the same to the bottom of the block to ensure a straight cut, then cut it out with a hacksaw, making sure you use both lines to guide your saw. When you have done this, use the sandpaper to sand down the cut surface until it is smooth. The piece at the bottom of the above diagram is waste.
3. Use the sandpaper to sand the top of your wall down to an angle going down to the left, ensuring that the left corner stays at its current height of 50 and that the right corner is sanded down to about 40. The whole thing should now look like the piece of foam to the right of this picture, in front of the large block. The piece in the foreground is the waste, and the bit on the far left you should just ignore.
4. Paint the wall in Skull White. If the wall is not a light colour like the blue foam I am using here, it may need a fair few coats as styrofoam has an irritating habit of absorbing paint.DO NOT USE SPRAY PAINT!!!!! It will actually dissolve the foam - as I found out to my dismay on the piece in the far left of the above picture. Wink Always test these things on a spare bit first, kids.
5. Now the wall is essentially done, you can start work on the panels. Measure the curved surface of the wall, dividing it up longways into quarters and allowing for a millimetre or two in between each panel. Each of those quarters is the width of each panel. Measure the height of the shorter right corner and take a millimetre or so off the measurement - that is the height of the panels. For me, the dimensions of each panel were 38X24.
6. Draw a rectangle on your plasticard in pencil - the dimensions should be the panel heightXfour times the panel width. Divide this up into quarters like so.
See those little boxes? Each one is a panel. Clever, that. Cut along the pencil lines with scissors to produce your panels! You may wonder why I'm using scissors instead of a craft knife, but with thin plasticard it's actually much easier to use a small pair of scissors, plus it's very easy to make a nice straight cut. If you make a little nick in the corner or mess up the line a bit, don't worry - you can turn it into weathering! As you can see here, in the last two panels I've cut deep cracks into the panels with a craft knife radiating out from a chip in the side. There's also a few bolter holes, created by placing the point of your craft knife on the plasticard, pressing and turning it around a bit. In order to make the cracks stand out more, paint with a little watered down Chaos Black and wipe off the excess with your finger, leaving the paint in the cracks. Even if you didn't make a mistale in the cutting, you may wish to add a few cracks anyway.
7. I'm sorry, but I have to warn you that this bit is REALLY tedious. First, divide the width of the panel by three and draw two lines that distance away from each edge. Use the fineliner for all this drawing. Leave a little space at the top for some fancy bits. I chose some fancy Egyptian-esque stuff, with the name of the Sept the poor dead Tau came from written at the top in Tau letters. For those of you who don't know their Tau, the Tau Lexicon (foundhere) has a list of Tau letters and their English counterparts. Now for the boring bit - write A LOT of little squiggly lines, like so:
Unfortunately, all this rather obscures those nice cracks you did earlier. To remedy this, just before the ink dries, apply ONE VERY TINY DROP of water, then quickly dab it off with a bit of tissue, clothing, etc, being careful not to smudge the ink. This has the effect of lightening the lettering, therefore making the cracks more obvious, as you can see on the third panel. Unlike me, you might wish to do this to every panel to keep it more uniform.
8. As fineliner ink tends to smudge very easily, you will need to varnish the panels. You can do this using a can of spray varnish to spray the panels. Once you have done this, put them somewhere safe to dry for a while - once the shiny, wet look goes, it's dry. I left mine overnight to be on the safe side.
9. This step is optional. You may wish to create a base on which your wall resides, to break the transition from grass to wall somewhat as well as looking more formal. To do this, first glue four lolly sticks together 2X2 with superglue, like so:
When they are fully stuck together, place the wall on the sticks so that the furthest back point of the curve just touches the edge, the left and right sides are equally far over the edge, and the distance between the wall and the curved ends of the lolly sticks is exactly the same on both the left and rights sides. Some measuring will doubtless be required. When the wall is in place, you will probably want to use copious amounts of sellotape or somesuch similar to stick it down.
10. Once this is done, mix up some green stuff and apply it to each bit of the wall that's hanging over the sticks. Shape it roughly with your fingers until it looks like this:
Then wait for it to dry and use a craft knife to neaten it up. Then remove the wall. You now have a plinth, complete with a graceful curved step up to the wall. Hooray for you. Now paint the whole thing Skull White to match the wall - again, it'll need a few coats. If you're feeling lazy then yes, you can use spray primer for this bit. Then, stick the wall on with superglue or PVA so that the straight back of the wall lines up with the edge of the lolly sticks - but don't use anything like contact adhesive as - guess what - it dissolves styrofoam.
11. Now you've done all that, the varnish on the panels is doubtless dry now, so you can stick them on. I find it best to stick the end panels on first, so that you can better judge the locations of the middle panels.
When you've stuck all the panels on, you'll notice a bit of a space above the panels that could use some filling. To fill it, grab that fineliner, draw a big triangle and fill it with patterns. Keep it flowing and post-modern - I find things like interlocking triangles, little dots and curvy stuff fits the Tau aesthetic well.
For a slightly clearer look at similar patterns, look on the detail of this quick Ethereal sketch I did:
12. Now it's time for the big Tau symbol. First, draw a big pencil circle with your compass of about 120 diameter. Then, draw a smaller circle touching the edge of the big circle of about 40 diameter - the top of a milk carton is the perfect size for this, so I just drew around one of those. Then, draw a line cutting directly through the middle of the smaller circle and down to the edge of the big circle. Cut the big circle out with scissors:
Then cut down the middle line:
Then cut out the little circle. Now, draw another circle of the exact same size as the small circle on a piece of plasticard and cut it out. Here you can also see the milk carton top I drew around.
Put it all together and there you have it - a complete Tau symbol! Like the panels, as it's white plasticard there's no real need to paint it further, unless you plan on doing some fancy techniques on it beyond us simple types. Wink
13. Now it's time to make your Ethereal. To make mine, I converted an Empire Wizard - his staff is the planisphere staff, with no alteration other than the cutting off of excess un-Tau-ish detail such as the moon stuck on the side - and the removal of a finger, of course. It is painted to represent gold, being layered up from Snakebite Leather to Iyanden Darksun, with the spheres being coloured glass. The...thingy he's holding in his right arm is the dagger arm with everything but the handle cut off and the moon I cut off the staff earlier glued on the end where the blade was. And I removed the excess finger. It's painted in the same way as the staff. The Tau head will need to be cut down a bit at the neck for it to fit onto the body, as the Wizard has a smaller neck. The rest of him is painted in about 4 or 5 layers to represent bronze, going up from Scorched Brown to about a 60:40 Snakebite Leather/Scorched Brown mix, IIRC. The green bits are meant to represent aged copper, and they were painted in about 4 or 5 layers going up from Snot Green to a 50:50 mix of Scorpion Green/Bleached Bone. The Tau-ish text written, on the white base in fineliner (which will therefore need varnishing in a similar way to the panels) reads "Bap'Lar'Shi", which according to the Tau Lexicon is Tau-ish for "Lost heroes", implying that it's a memorial for those whose bodies couldn't be recovered. The pose is meant to be a sort of a protective stance, implying that the Ethereal stands vigil over their memories, and protects them - think Gandalf doing the "You shall not pass!" thing. Or something like that, I dunno. Anyway, he looks like this, and I'm pretty pleased with how he came out. Azn (Although it should probably be somewhat darker for bronze, but oh well. It's alien bronze. Wink)
And here's how the whole thing looks so far, with the plywood base:
14. Once you've glued everything down to the base with superglue (you may wish to leave the Ethereal just standing on it, in case you want to use him as a model or something), it's flocking time! First, cover all the base that's showing with PVA - you can squirt it right onto the base, then spread it around with an old paintbrush. Then, sprinkle your flock on, tap off the excess flock back into the bag, and wait for it to dry. You can represent a hairline crack in the Tau symbol by spreading a very thin strip of PVA out of the bottle across the symbol, then sprinkling some static grass over it to represent grass growing through the crack.
15. Now, it's time to add someT'roi - and no, that's not a swear word, that's Tau-ish for flowers. First, put some more small spots of PVA on here and there, and spread some static grass (as opposed to normal flock) onto the glue. Then, get your coloured paper, tear of tiny bits of it, cover them in superglue and roll them up between your thumb and forefinger, as our lovely assistant demonstrates here:
Wow, that thumbnail needed a clean...anyway, do that to various bits of paper and put a few in a clump on each patch of static grass. I find it best to mix up two colours of flowers, in this case red and purple, to give it a bit of variety. Let them dry, and you're done!
The finished terrain piece:
Thanks for reading!


1. Broken Links

Your pic links are broken

Posted by jmslft16, 25th June 2010 at 04:03pm [Report to Mod]

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