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Small red hill
One of the finished pieces.

I have created a couple of rocks and hills to be used in Alkony wargames. This is a tutorial about how to make this terrain from styrofoam.

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Basic concept

I planned a chase scenario with rolling terrain, so I needed some small hills to create variety for my wasteland terrain. They should not be too wide, because that could just stop the whole chase, and the chased ones would take another path if they would see it from the distance. They also should not be too high. Some could be just high enough to jump on it with a mount, and jump down on the other side.

Our games use movement with 25mm horizontal grid, so they should fit onto rectangles those sides are multiples of 25mm. The elevation levels are 12,5mm high, so I’ll make smaller 12,5mm high rocks, and the some 25 mm high hills. This is an elevation that doesn’t slow the chase down to a stop, but it gives players a choice to cross them or go around them.

Choice of material

I had a couple of small expanded polystyrene foam blocks from the box of a piece of furniture, so I used them.


The foam blocks were almost perfect in size.

The smaller one was 12,5mm high, that’s exactly the size I looked for. It was a 20x20cm square, so I just had to cut it up into small blocks. A 1x2 block would be large enough to make a difference in the terrain, so I made three. I’ve cut up the remaining part into three 2x2 and two 4x4 blocks.

The larger blocks were 30mm high, so I needed to cut 5mm from them. I’ve cut a little piece halfway free from one of them, so I thought I’d make that a small ledge. They were 16x16cm squares, so I’ve created two 7,5x15cm and a 15x15cm pieces. (That’s 3x6 and 6x6 blocks.)

They won’t be modular horizontally, so I’ve cut angles and different shapes into every side of them. I’ve made them flat though, so I can build them up vertically. (Had I wanted horizontally modular ones, I had to leave the sides also flat, to attach them easier.)

I tried to make each one different. I’ve cut elevation into some of them, and carved impassable terrain in others.

After I created the shapes I wanted, I rolled up some aluminium foil into a ball, and pushed it onto the top and sides of the hills, to create a rocky pattern. It didn’t come out as nicely as I wanted, but it looks good enough.

Small hills after black wash
These are the final shapes of the hills. I took the picture after applying the black wash.
Small red hills combination
Even though they are not modular, they can be combined into different shapes.

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Base coat

I brushed on Pentart Decoupage Glue for a transparent layer. It also helps to get a more rigid layer to the foam, so It wouldn’t crumble during painting.


Pentart acrylic paints brushed on.


Originally I though I would only use black and white, adding other colours occurred to me later.

I started with a black wash with mostly random consistency. I’ve put some water on the parts I wanted to paint as rock, then put some dots of undiluted black paint on the foam, that I brushed over the pieces. Where my brush touched the wet parts, the diluted paint swept into the cracks like a black wash, while on the dry parts it worked just like a normal black paint. On the sides I pulled the brush downwards to the bottom, to create the illusion of a vertical wall.

I’ve applied the wash partially to give it a base colour, but also to see how do the pieces look like after the shaping. As my method is quite random, I could not be sure what will I get in the end.

After drying I’ve mixed a dark grey shade, and painted the parts that were still exposed despite the wash. Then I’ve used the same dark grey to give a heavy drybrush to most of the pieces.

After that I added two or three layers of lighter and lighter shades to highlight it. During highlighting I try to pull the brush downwards on the miniature. The upper parts will be more highlighted that way, and gives the piece a natural shadow. If you don’t need natural shading, you can just do a normal drybrush.

Small hills after grey paint.
After finishing the grey paint.

This was the time I realized that it was too normal for my Alkony terrain to use regular grey rocks. I was thinking for a while what colours should I use. Red, green and yellow came to my mind. When I checked my collection of paints the one that was closest to me was the Red Wine – that's a darker shade of red. So I decided I'll go with that.

I concocted a wet (wash consistency) red glaze from that (1 part dark red, 2 parts matte varnish, 1 part water) and using a size 10 wide headed drybrushing brush I’ve drawn lines on the rocks that I’ve smudged a little with my finger. By the time I’ve finished with the last, the firsts were dry enough to continue. The lines became wide blurry stripes by the end, but the red turned into pink.

I’ve added 1 part dark red again, so it became more like normal paint consistency. I’ve changed to a size 4 brush and drawn lines on the pink stripes, that I’ve smudged a bit with my finger. After I’ve finished, I started again with the first one, and I’ve done this for three or four times. I’ve drawn these randomly on the previously outlined red stripes to get a good look.

When the paint started to run out, I’ve added some water to dilute it to wash consistency. With the size 4 brush, I’ve added dots of wet paint on the lines. I did not need to smudge these as the wetness helped them to run freely. After three or four runs I’ve finally run out of paint, but I was content with the result. As the dots flow and then dry up, they create a transition into the surrounding colours. If some of them remains, it can be covered up later, if you don't like the results.

Small red hills - red dots after glazing
The separate red dots of the glazing can be cleary seen for now, but they will disappear by the time they dry up to create a seamless colour.

I’ve also started to paint one of the half-made terrain board sections with the red glaze, to have a matching board for these rocks. After finishing one piece I decided against using this colour scheme. While it might look nice, but a more normal paint scheme could be used for a wider variety of games, and the red rocks won't look out of place on a dark grey board either.
While I waited for the paint to dry, I’ve painted red dots and stripes on two of my previously white primed draft horses, to indicate a breed that evolved to hide in these red striped surroundings. I’ll finish them later but at least the shade is the same as the rocks.

Then I started the highlights. I’ve mixed a light grey (8 parts white, 1 part black) for this.

 Small red hills - light grey paint
The light grey paint was this light. It's always good to take shots of colours used for later reference.

I highlighted the upper edges with drybrushing, then the whole upper parts very lightly, so they became a bit lighter. After two layers I’ve mixed more white into it, so it became almost white. I’ve lightly drybrushed the upper edges with it. On the second go I’ve only highlighted some selected parts of the upper edges.

Small red hills before highlight
A hill before highlights added. When you start, take care to make the upper parts lighter. On the photo it already looks lighter because of the light of my lamp.


Small red hills after highlight
The same part after the highlights. Now the upper parts have been painted lighter. The parts below the edge remain darker, as if the light did not shine there.

It was after I hoped I'm finished, when I realized I've forgot about the bottoms of the hills. While I could have left them just plain white, I thought that painting them black or dark grey would make it easier to use them stacked on each other. If there would be a gap between the pieces, a white bottom would just shine.

Small red hills - complete collection
The complete collection of the small red hills after painting.

Finishing seal

I’m still undecided about it. It looks nice enough as it is, and I’m afraid I’ll ruin it with varnish. I, however, don’t want to just leave them without a seal, as people treat terrain rougher than miniatures.

Future plans

  • Sealing them with matte varnish


  • None yet

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How do you make hills for miniature wargames? Do you have any questions about the tutorial? Tell us in the comments!


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