Carving styrofoam for bases [Archive] - OSW: One Sixth Warrior Forum

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02-03-2009, 00:34
Hello all...
not long ago Egonzinc posted an excellent tutorial on his custom made foam bases...WONDERFUL work!...
I had already been entertaining the possibility of using insulating foam board for my walls and brick/cobblestone streets in the city/village dio photo props I'm constructing...
many others have posted their work using plaster as the base...but I needed the dios to be as light as possible (the individual dios will measure, roughly, 2ft by 4ft...and will need to be mobile so they can be transported to various outdoor locations where the 'real' distant background will complement the dio 'foreground' for photo shoots-
so i wanted to see if I could get away with JUST using the foam for the brick/rockwork...
I believe, after doing this little test piece that, indeed, this will work out beautifully...
I had originally intended to carve the brickwork/rockwork into the foam with a hobby knife, but previous experience working with this foam in model railroad scenery made me aware of the foam dust and static'clingy foam particles that make clean-up so difficult afterward...
I remembered that I had my Dremel engraving tool (bought with the intention of trying to engrave markings into plastic) I tried using it to literally engrave the rock/brickwork into the foam...
Here is a small section of the blue insulating foam I used as a test piece-I buy it in 8ft by 4ft sheets (3/4 to 1 inch thick) at my local Home Depot-before working and before gluing, the clear plastic film must be removed...see pic:
Here I'm using the engraving tool to 'draw' the lines into the foam...for this little experiment I just did it 'freehand'...for a nice city street (like the Osterbeek-trolley base i have in mind for one of my photo dios) I will use a straight edge to make the bricks as uniform as possible:
for this little experiment I didn't go too wild...I didn't 'gouge' the bricks too much, but it would be very easy to distress the bricks even more by using a hobby knife to chip larger 'chunks' of 'brick' was easy to add little scrapes an nicks with the took me about 2 minutes to engrave this little piece.
I'll also add that, even though the foam surface is smooth, it's not as smooth as glass or styrene, it has a little 'porous-ness' to it which was just what I needed to replicate brick or rock in 1/6 scale...otherwise I would have had to cover the 'brick' with plaster, defeating the whole purpose of trying to use JUST the foam for weight savings...
Here, I grabbed the nearest 'gray' color (RLM 02) to see what an acrylic coat would look like. (when constructing the actual streets, I'll more than likely use a series of 'earth-tone' paints with grays mixed in to replicate actual stone or brickwork)
VERY IMPORTANT!!!!....only use acrylic (water-based) paints and adhesives on this foam...other enamel or laquer-based paints and solvents will eat thru the foam like acid.
Everything used on the foam needs to be water-soluble.
The acrylic paints (Tamiya and Pollyscale) dry VERY QUICKLY...within 5 minutes, I was able to cover the 'bricks' with a water-based black 'wash' (VERY thinned black paint...actually more like black 'tinted' thinner),,,the wash is very thin and 'wet' (no surface tension like water) so it flows into all the cracks and crevices...emphasizing depth and shadow...
...and...before it dried the 'wash' was wiped from the surface of the 'bricks' with a paper towel...
at this point, I would normally 'dry-brush' some highlights in various grays and browns...and add some dirt and/or grease stains...
you can see how the wash has settled into the cracks between the bricks and has even tinted the small 'pores' in the brick...and emphasizing the 'scratches' that I engraved into the top of the bricks.
Here is a quick photo of a figure in jack boots posed on the brick surface withing minutes of wiping the wash from the surface:
The 'flat' acrylic paints and wash dry to a flat finish...but it's easy to spray a clear flat over the entire surface to obtain an even 'flat' surface...i will spray a light dusting of a light gray or earth color to 'tie' everything together before I'm done...
Here are a couple of small irregular 'brick/stone' effects I tried on the same piece of foam ( I want to build a couple of stone walls for other dios)...on this one I flowed a white wash between the stones to replicate mortar-on the actual wall i will be much more heavy-handed with this effect-i'll probably use full strength white and wipe the paint from the protruding stone)

and here is a close-up of the brick after about 10 minutes...the wash has dried...

I really like the way this looks, especially considering that I haven't weathered or distressed the 'bricks' at all...the two effects on this test piece of foam were completed in 20 minutes from start to finish...

I didn't want to just throw away the scrap piece that I used for I cut a piece to fit one of my 'display' wall sconces...finished the carving, drybrushed a 'mid-stone' then 'light gray'...then painted the edges with black...
'Max', 12SS panzer crewman is now perched atop his base, scowling at the Canadians who killed his commander during their counterattack at Norrey-en-Bessin...
This sconce will be mounted on the wall when his positioned is determined...

Here is the final addition I made to 'Max Winsel's' base...
and his 'final' repose...
he's meant to be holding the dogtags of his tank commander...(Hence the scowl)
I added the 12SS shield to the front of the sconce...I think it adds a nice 'museum' quality to the display...I'm also planning to add some 'multi-media' items around his display (some foamboard-mounted black and white period photos; a 1/72nd scale Panther tank I'm building, and a replica Iron Cross)
As always, Thanks for looking,

02-03-2009, 11:35
Looks amazing, I've been wanting to try some foam bases after that tutorial as well!

04-03-2009, 19:20
great piece of info cheers!

04-03-2009, 19:28
this is awesome. I'm most certainly gonna try my hand at this. Thanks for the tutorial.

04-08-2009, 20:22
arbomambo thanks for the tutorial bro. where do you buy that foam from? i checked out home depot but they have some crazy big stuff that's in white and really chalky. thanks again for the tips

04-08-2009, 20:40
Hiya, Jinroh75, and all!

I've not been able to find the blue foam in So Cal... all we have is the crappy white "ice chest" foam that you found at Home Dropout. The two possible suppliers I've found are Aircraft Spruce and RCFoam. Aircraft Spruce has a good assortment of materials that would be of use: bluecore, polyurethane foam, thin wood and metals.

Arbomambo, thanx for the "how-to" pictorial!

Good luck, Jinroh75!

Proud son of Rose and Wes

04-09-2009, 13:50
russ thanks a million man! gonna try one of these out. thanks!

04-13-2009, 21:35
thats pretty awesome dude

01-30-2010, 15:47
I have tried this with an exacto and it didnt come out very well.. I see from your tutuorial some good ideas for me to try again.. thanks for posting these..

03-04-2010, 14:28
Great advice. thanks for the insight. I cant wait to try this

03-07-2010, 23:18
Ask for pink or blue board insulation around here it's placed under metal siding and roofs. We buy it in 4X8 sheets in various thicknesses.

06-02-2010, 11:57
Thats to cool! Heres an idea i jsut thought of as looking at this, you could use a big cube of styrofoam and carve it and mave foxholes, mortar pits ect.

06-18-2010, 18:49
I did something similar to this for a project in my college sculpting class but instead of fully priming the foam, I primed the areas that would be "undamaged" and then applies flat white spray paint to the un-primed area. the resulting affect of the aerosal eating the foam made the un-primed area appear to be mortar blasted. If you want an awesome diorama idea check the old halo 2 commercial with the diorama on youtube... they had some awesome techniques that worked well.

06-19-2010, 16:54
Very nice tutorial.

you can also use a soldering iron to melt the foam, exactly the same manner that your dremmel tool does. light pressure for small cuts, slow for deeper/wider cuts.

I have found that either pressing the foam with my knuckles makes nice random 'dents', or for larger pieces, simply pressing it into dirt outside, then brushing the dirt off gives random dents, chunks, holes, etc..

I love the paint you used. it seems to go on very evenly, and make a great coat. i will have to locate something like it for my projects!

07-07-2010, 10:32
Great job! I only wish you would have done a YouTube video on it to really appreciate it, the pictures are excellent too. Maybe next time?

07-07-2010, 12:31
YouTube - Model Railroad Scenery using Extruded Foam: Part 3 - HQ

04-25-2012, 11:01
Did anyone save this tutorial? None of the photos are available. Sounds as though it was a good one. Also.. WarSpawn, thanks for adding that YouTube video.