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As part of the scenery archive that Shonuff is organizing I said I would write an article on how to go about designing a set terrain piece for an army or board. I feel that this is the first step in going from generic terrain (like hills and woods) and making army specific themed terrain pieces. To those of you who have made terrain before this might all be common sense but it might just be helpful to some.
The first step in designing a terrain piece is to come up with a concept of what you want. This is just a few word description whether written down or in your head detailing what the idea of the terrain piece is going to be. At this stage it can be as broad or as specified as you want. At this stage for my example I had the description of an archeologist camp site.
The next step is to start detailing the design to establish a theme for the terrain. This is when you start detailing the ideas behind the terrain piece. This can include what races will be visible or represented in the piece or whether there is a back type of terrain to be used. For my example the archeologist camp was going to be an Empire explorer in the deserts of Khemri and as such would incorporate items from both cultures; the Empire in the tools and tents and Khemri in the artifacts that have been found.
The next stage is to do a rough sketch of how you want the terrain piece to look. This can be as simple as a shape for the base and scribbles saying tree here or tent there. However if you are developing a more complex terrain piece or something that has to interact with existing terrain (a multilevel city fight board for example) then more detail will have to be included in the sketch. At this stage I try to include as much detail as possible and make extensive notes on things like basing, heights, how different elements will be introduced and so on. Carrying on with archeologist camp here is a copy of the sketch I originally did for this outlaying the rough size and location for major items.
The next stage is to check and see if what you have designed is possible to achieve with the material on hand. I for one do not have an unlimited budget to make terrain so there will be restrictions based on this, however I have been playing for a number of years and never throw anything out that could be useful so have a very extensive bits box. It also helps that I have played undead as skeletons are great for terrain in nearly any army. For my example a quick check through my bits box and other available material revealed the following items suitable for the piece, Empire weapons, Imperial guard tools, Tomb King weapons, head and armour and assorted Mordheim bits. At this stage I have too many pieces to use in the piece without it being overwhelming for the type of piece it is but it is better to not use a few bits then have it look to bland as you do not have enough.
Now with your selected pieces start to plan out on the base exactly where each bit will go in relation to the others so that you can start to assemble the piece and make any necessary conversions. This is also the time to work out the size of any components you have to make for your terrain piece. In my example I worked out the size of the tent and the awning required based on the existing pieces and the arrangement I chose.
Finally now is the time to assemble and paint your piece. I have lumped this together as many others will be detailing the finer points of the modeling or painting process while I was going to focus on the design. Here you can see my completed design and work in progress shots of it.
Hope you enjoyed, comments are welcome.
PS: I will edit this thread to include my sketches as soon as I locate them and get them scanned in.