Smoke in real life has no clearly defined shape. Instead, it is constantly shifting and changing. Because it needs to be clearly defined for most games, it is given an arbitrary shape by the rules. This can present a little bit of a problem to someone who wants it to look realistic and also follow the rules of the game. The following is two methods to make markers that will both work with the rules and look good.
Cotton balls will work, but they come in a predetermined shape and size so they are a little limiting. We like to use Fiber Fill instead, it is a little sturdier, and can easily be pulled apart in random sized chunks. This is the stuff that is frequently used to stuff pillows and can be purchased in the sewing department of many stores.
Next you will need some batting. It is the same stuff as the fiber fill, but in a sheet form. It is commonly used to make quilts and can also be found in the sewing section of the store. It comes in a variety of thicknesses, so choose what you think will work best for your needs.
The first method is for when you don’t need a hollow marker. Start with a base that is the shape and size prescribed by the rules you are using. We used a sheet metal washer but almost anything will work. If you are using something really light we do recommend adding a little weight to stabilize it. The batting is then glued down to the base and trimmed to fit. This will be used to mark the edge of the smoke in a clearly defined manner, and simultaneously hide the base. Fiber Fill is then glued on top of this to give it that wispy appearance. A thin coat of paint was then used to hold it all together and darken it up a little. Real smoke is a little lighter in color, but we painted ours darker because we think it looks better on the table that way.
This next method is used when a hollow marker is needed. To do this we made a simple basket from some 1/4inch wire mesh that we got from the hardware store.
First figure out how big your template is and how high the spaaaaaace inside needs to be. Add twice the desired height to each side, and subtract twice the thickness of the bating you have. This will give you the dimensions of the starting square. We are using the Flames of War template for our basket.
Cut the corners out (leaving the little tabs), to the dimensions of the desired height.
Fold the sides up and interlace the little tabs on the ends.
Fold over the tabs to firmly secure the sides.
You should now have a box that is slightly smaller than the template, and tall enough to put your miniatures in.
Set it on a piece of batting, and cut it to shape. The sides should be a little long since it is easier to trim it after the glue dries than it is to work with a smaller piece.
Paint your basket an appropriate color before gluing and clamping the batting onto it.
Once dried, trim the excess. You should now have a fluffy hollow box.
Add Fiber Fill to the top to break up the shape and paint.