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Gelatinous Alien Plants (part two)

Foliage clumps are a very useful item to have when making vegetation. They can be used in many different ways to make many different plants. We used decorative plastic pebbles to make these. They were on sale for $1 a bag at a craft store, so the completed set of trees that were made from them cost less than $10. Small plastic beads also work really well for this so keep an open mind about your sources for plastic.

We made the foliage clumps by mixing two shades of green and one of yellow. The trick with this is to get some plastic that is shaded close enough to blend, but still be noticeably different.

Spread them out in a Pyrex dish and heat them in the oven. The dish gets very hot so you have to make sure that you don’t touch it (use an oven mitt and a spatula), but the plastic is surprisingly cooler. Once the plastic is hot enough to start becoming spongy and begins sticking together, start pealing it off in chunks. The time between when it is almost too hot to touch and when it is too cool to still work with is only about a second so you have to work fast. As long as you keep it moving, very little heat is transferred between the plastic and your hand. In other words if you hold it tightly, your hand gets hot, and the plastic is quickly too cool to work. However, if you make minimal contact and work fast then you won’t even feel the heat in the plastic. You probably want to try this a few times with a small amount of plastic to get the hang of it before you try doing it in mass. Using thin leather gloves is highly recommended during this process.

The resulting randomly shaped and sized clumps were then hot glued onto the trunks.

12 thoughts on “Gelatinous Alien Plants (part two)

  1. Your gelatinous jungle series is awesome – but it seems some of your stuff is only on the tau something forum and not on your blog, too bad.

    As you seem to have taken (like me) an interest into thermoplastics, may I suggest (if you haven’t already) the heatgun, hotwire cutter and aceton ?

    With aceton, you can turn anything that doesn’t like aceton into some Nurgle / Tyranid horrible thing, or landscape a full styrofoam terrain board in minutes.

    Great blog, keep up the good work, it’s just the best resource I could find on making wargaming plants.

    1. Thanks! I’m glad that you liked the gelatinous stuff. I still have several articles in the series to post so keep looking for them. I actually have stuff posted on several different forums. Eventually we will get it all added to the blog since the plan is to gather it all together in one place. Some of the stuff is new and has never been shown anywhere before, and other stuff is being consolidated or rewritten. It will just take time to get it all added to the blog, so please have a little patience.

      The aceton sounds very interesting and I think that I will have to give it a try. Do you have any links to terrain that has been made using it? I have been thinking about using a heat gun for a while now, but just haven’t gotten around to trying it yet. Same thing goes for the hot wire, it’s on my list of things to try when I can find the time.

      1. I really don’t have any, but I have experimented a bit with it, basically it will make a hole in your styrofoam sheet, the depth depends on the amount of aceton you leave on the spot. So when I brush aceton around, it may only texture the surface a bit, but if you pour a tiny pool in some place, it will eat a centimeter or two.

        Do that repeatedly and you go through the styrene sheet, this can be used to make canyons and stuff.

        http://imgur.com/KoJfNcK,dD5c8f1#1

        For the “Nurgle/Tyranid” bit, when aceton melts the styrofoam, strings of non-foam polystyrene will form, giving the damaged styrofoam an alien / gooey / icky look.

        On acrylic, you can use aceton to bond two pieces of acrylic/plexiglas, by “painting” both with aceton and sticking them together.

        It can make perfect seams with some experience (I never got that far), and it could probably glue the tiny acrylic spheres together without any glue or heat.

        Speaking of styrofoam-killers, I recently tested contact glue on styrofoam, and while it did damage the surface of the foam, just like a thin coat of aceton, it worked just as fine as on any other material, and my terrain tiles are sure to never come apart.

        I have never used the heatgun on styrofoam so far, but it could give you the control you lack in your acrylic-melting operations, and I’ve used it to shape PVC in the past with great success (for LARP gear).

        The hot wire cutter is just pure awesomeness, and it’s cheap (when you find a reliable source of resistive wire).

        With a bit of practice, you can make almost anything from foam, and it’s especially nice for terrain features or bases, or walls, or buildings because unlike foam core, it’s inexpensive.

        http://imgur.com/KoJfNcK,dD5c8f1

        I even made my own with a V-shape to cut LARP sword’s edges and it was a true technological miracle 😉

  2. Thanks! I’m glad that you liked the gelatinous stuff. I still have several articles in the series to post so keep looking for them. I actually have stuff posted on several different forums. Eventually we will get it all added to the blog since the plan is to gather it all together in one place. Some of the stuff is new and has never been shown anywhere before, and other stuff is being consolidated or rewritten. It will just take time to get it all added to the blog, so please have a little patience.

    The aceton sounds very interesting and I think that I will have to give it a try. Do you have any links to terrain that has been made using it? I have been thinking about using a heat gun for a while now, but just haven’t gotten around to trying it yet. Same thing goes for the hot wire, it’s on my list of things to try when I can find the time.

    1. I really don’t have any, but I have experimented a bit with it, basically it will make a hole in your styrofoam sheet, the depth depends on the amount of aceton you leave on the spot. So when I brush aceton around, it may only texture the surface a bit, but if you pour a tiny pool in some place, it will eat a centimeter or two.

      Do that repeatedly and you go through the styrene sheet, this can be used to make canyons and stuff.

      http://imgur.com/KoJfNcK,dD5c8f1#1

      For the “Nurgle/Tyranid” bit, when aceton melts the styrofoam, strings of non-foam polystyrene will form, giving the damaged styrofoam an alien / gooey / icky look.

      On acrylic, you can use aceton to bond two pieces of acrylic/plexiglas, by “painting” both with aceton and sticking them together.

      It can make perfect seams with some experience (I never got that far), and it could probably glue the tiny acrylic spheres together without any glue or heat.

      Speaking of styrofoam-killers, I recently tested contact glue on styrofoam, and while it did damage the surface of the foam, just like a thin coat of aceton, it worked just as fine as on any other material, and my terrain tiles are sure to never come apart.

      I have never used the heatgun on styrofoam so far, but it could give you the control you lack in your acrylic-melting operations, and I’ve used it to shape PVC in the past with great success (for LARP gear).

      The hot wire cutter is just pure awesomeness, and it’s cheap (when you find a reliable source of resistive wire).

      With a bit of practice, you can make almost anything from foam, and it’s especially nice for terrain features or bases, or walls, or buildings because unlike foam core, it’s inexpensive.

      http://imgur.com/KoJfNcK,dD5c8f1

      I even made my own with a V-shape to cut LARP sword’s edges and it was a true technological miracle 😉

  3. Thanks! I’m glad that you liked the gelatinous stuff. I still have several articles in the series to post so keep looking for them. I actually have stuff posted on several different forums. Eventually we will get it all added to the blog since the plan is to gather it all together in one place. Some of the stuff is new and has never been shown anywhere before, and other stuff is being consolidated or rewritten. It will just take time to get it all added to the blog, so please have a little patience.

    The aceton sounds very interesting and I think that I will have to give it a try. Do you have any links to terrain that has been made using it? I have been thinking about using a heat gun for a while now, but just haven’t gotten around to trying it yet. Same thing goes for the hot wire, it’s on my list of things to try when I can find the time.

    1. I really don’t have any, but I have experimented a bit with it, basically it will make a hole in your styrofoam sheet, the depth depends on the amount of aceton you leave on the spot. So when I brush aceton around, it may only texture the surface a bit, but if you pour a tiny pool in some place, it will eat a centimeter or two.

      Do that repeatedly and you go through the styrene sheet, this can be used to make canyons and stuff.

      http://imgur.com/KoJfNcK,dD5c8f1#1

      For the “Nurgle/Tyranid” bit, when aceton melts the styrofoam, strings of non-foam polystyrene will form, giving the damaged styrofoam an alien / gooey / icky look.

      On acrylic, you can use aceton to bond two pieces of acrylic/plexiglas, by “painting” both with aceton and sticking them together.

      It can make perfect seams with some experience (I never got that far), and it could probably glue the tiny acrylic spheres together without any glue or heat.

      Speaking of styrofoam-killers, I recently tested contact glue on styrofoam, and while it did damage the surface of the foam, just like a thin coat of aceton, it worked just as fine as on any other material, and my terrain tiles are sure to never come apart.

      I have never used the heatgun on styrofoam so far, but it could give you the control you lack in your acrylic-melting operations, and I’ve used it to shape PVC in the past with great success (for LARP gear).

      The hot wire cutter is just pure awesomeness, and it’s cheap (when you find a reliable source of resistive wire).

      With a bit of practice, you can make almost anything from foam, and it’s especially nice for terrain features or bases, or walls, or buildings because unlike foam core, it’s inexpensive.

      http://imgur.com/KoJfNcK,dD5c8f1

      I even made my own with a V-shape to cut LARP sword’s edges and it was a true technological miracle 😉

  4. I have a fairly well equipped wood shop in my house so for me it’s easier (and cheaper) to just machine a piece of scrap wood into whatever shape I want. I have done very little with Styrofoam in the past since I usually work with wood. However lately I have been very seriously considering branching off into using it for casting. Casting with resin gets very expensive if you are casting larger objects, so using expanding foam just seems to make more sense. The stuff with the acetone sounds very promising to me and I will have to give it a try. The applications with the acrylic in particular that you described have given me a few ideas to try!

    1. I see. Actually, styrofoam is almost free for me, as you can easily find big pieces of scrap at any construction site, I use an ATX power supply and my wire never breaks in styrofoam (it does in EVA or acrylic though, but it’s cheap enough).

      I would definitely like to have all the wood tools, but even then there are many things you can create with styrofoam / hot-wire cutter that you can’t possibly make with wood.

      In the second picture I uploaded you can see a sort of ice mesa with really nice side details that would be completely impractical to create on wood or anything.

      It takes about 15 minutes with a foam cutter to achieve that result, which looks gorgeous even before any paint.

      I think it could help you make much less blocky hills, the two simple hills in the same uploaded picture took all of 5 minutes each at most – I’m sure they aren’t what you want, but that gives you an idea of how quickly you can reach a result.

      It’s also the only way I’ve seen to make great river beds, and I’m sure your vegetation would love some water tbh – I think you’d make incredible marches with mixes of your plant techniques and any kind of fake water.

      Anyway, I’m only trying to convince you because you make awesome stuff and deserve the best tools – I’ll be back to check on this blog 🙂

  5. One important thing though: for most of your creations, I found it really hard to find the same materials (your gelatinous ones at least).

    I eventually found the clear lace at a bead store (http://www.superbeads.co.uk/), but I haven’t found clear acrylic forks and spoons so far, and those acrylic spheres are impossible to find it seems.

    Either way, having a website or other to find the same materials would be awesome.

  6. I think my friend that you have greatly underestimated the power of the power tool! About eight or nine years ago there was an article in White Dwarf about how to make capillary towers out of Styrofoam. After reading the article I thought that “I could do that in wood”, so I gave it a quick try. The resulting five quick and easy towers were made out of some scrap 2×4 lumber that I had. I now have better tools and more experience, so I could probably do a better job if I ever got around to redoing them. Anyway the point that I am trying to make is that I can make something out of wood faster than I could with Styrofoam just because of my particular skill set.


    My hills are actually blocky for a reason that has nothing to do with the material that they are made of. I am trying to maximize the flat surface area on them (because I hate it when models fall over in a game). At the same time I am also trying to minimize the sloped section of the hill (because I hate it when models fall over in a game). For these reasons I prefer a stepped look to my hills, but this is a purely personal preference.

    I think that your problem in finding materials may be that you are looking in the wrong places. Try and find a store that specializes in selling really low quality cheap stuff. We have a store in town that sells party supplies (mostly for kid’s birthday parties) that stocks about four different brands of clear plastic forks and spoons. Don’t get hung up on the type of plastic you use for making the foliage clumps. Any small plastic beads will work. Even the gem cut beads will work since they will look more organic after being heated and the sharp edges go away. The link you gave for the bead store actually has a wide selection of clear beads that will work. The Tri beads and the Star Flake Beads are actually identical to the beads that I used for many of the smaller plants. If you can’t find any beads that are small enough to please you then just cut up some larger beads into smaller pieces.

  7. Thanks for the store advice, the plants i really wanted to make were the yellow and green clumps as well as the spoon and red berries one, and i thought all those were made from round beads without holes.

    From that bead website i ordered some cleae acrylic berry beads that should be just perfect, I’ll tell you when i get them.

    For the hills and capillary towers, what I mean is that you don’t easily get much detail from wood, it’s much harder to create a good approximation of the FW capillary towers, or making realistic / textured hills / mesas and such, like you can see on terranscapes’ YouTube channel for example.

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