It's been a while since I've posted something for my "tabletop gaming friends". So I thought I'd pull some images out of the archives and add something new. Here's how I made a some "scratchbuilt" rivers.
About four years ago, when I was making a lot of terrain for my buddies, Jaye and Steve, I had the opportunity (thanks to Jaye) to see if I could sell some hand-made river sets at a gaming convention. Sadly, not one thing sold. Happily...Jaye and Steve got all the rivers!
My first set was a "muddy brown river" series. I tried to standardize the width of all the segments, so that they could be interchanged to create multiple layouts. They were about 6" wide at the adjoining edges. After painting them with acrylic, I glazed the "water" with clear high-gloss varnish.
The next group got a bit more elaborate. The "green river" set had some larger segments, that featured little islands, some swampy areas, some "y" junctions, etc. For the rocks, I used little pieces of styrofoam, or bits of pine bark. The rest of the textured surfaces were made of sand mixed with gesso. I don't have any "making of" photos from the original river sets shown. So for this blog, I've re-created the process for you below.
First I made some templates out of posterboard. After tracing the shapes onto masonite board, I cut them all out with a jig-saw and a table saw, then sanded the edges of each section. On the right below, you see where I cut out a thicker piece of cardboard that will be the river's "bank". I spray-mounted that to the board.
Next I mix up a "concrete" made from sand and gesso. You can vary the amount of sand to achieve different results. Then you generously apply the mixture, following the contour of your cardboard edge. Taper the "bank" to the sides of the board.
You can allow the gesso to dry at room temperature, place it near a fan, or put it under a lamp like shown below. With some of my earliest attempts, I was able to get some really cool cracking in the dried surfaces, when using mostly gesso with very little sand. But for some reason, I couldn't replicate that effect for this demo. You can see the different textures on the pre-painted segment below, after it dried.
The last images are of various effects you can achieve, simply by painting the surfaces with the right color combination. You can have a nice green bank near clear blue water, or paint the same texture to look like ash-covered rocks with flowing lava! Or perhaps you need a very dry, muddy river bed...which could also be painted to look like the snow-covered banks of an ice flow!
Hope that helps you create some interesting stuff for your gaming tables!