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Thread: Painting Foam?

  1. #1
    Destroyer of Worlds snapshot_superhero's Avatar
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    Question Painting Foam?

    Hey guys! I finally convinced my wife to let me buy a sheet of pink insulation foam and I'm excited to get started!

    I am working on some terrain for an upcoming tournament and I was curious as to how you guys paint the foam? I know I can't use aerosols to prime so I'm a bit stumped.

    Do you just paint the paint straight on the foam? I'd be afraid that the paint would quickly chip off. Do you use paint on primer? I have gesso that I can use, but I'm not sure if that would work.

    Any tips you could offer would be greatly appreciated.

    PS - as a side note, I have primarily citadel paints. Could you suggest a good color, or combination of colors that would be good for wooden crates?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Conqueror pariah3j's Avatar
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    I've always 'primed' my foam/insulation stuff with wood glue. I will water it down down a bit and "paint it on" using a larger throw away brush. Usually put 2-3 coats on it to make sure and then prime w/ a flat black primer, i perfer the areosol spray on stuff because its easy/quick.

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    Destroyer of Worlds fire4effekt's Avatar
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    I use the cheap acrylics from Micheals, its usually apple barrel of something then give it 2 or 3 coats and then spray prime it(cause i only have teal paint for the cheapies).
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  4. #4
    Destroyer of Worlds warlordgarou's Avatar
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    I usually just use cheap craft paint (Apple Barrel or the like) - a big bottle of white or black is only a few dollars, and lasts forever. For most of my terrain, I water it down a bit, and then paint it on with a sponge brush or a fairly large conventional brush.

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    The thing to keep in mind with terrain (especially foam terrain) is that the more tlc and effort you put into it on the front end the longer it is gonna hold up without needing repair or becomeing unusable.

    If you skimp on work initially, you always pay the price down the road when it comes to foam terrain (especially pieces that are gonna be handled alot and used by groups and lots of people who never treat terain with the care they should tbh).

    So yes you can paint onto the foam directly (with non-aerosol) but this is the least desirable way as far as assuring durability. Your terrain will quickly chip and wear away showing unsightly pink spots, etc. Not good.

    When I want foam terrain to last I approach it one of two ways depending on the type of piece:

    If it is a natural formation like a rock, hills, etc. I either coat it with wood glue (cut slightly with water) and then add texture via sand, etc. or I use an appropriate color of latex paint and add sand directly into it (mix well, and control texture by more or less sand).

    If I expect the piece to be used/handled alot I will first coat with wood glue (this hardens and strengthens piece) and then ALSO add the textured latex paint after the wood glue dries for double protection.

    If the terrain piece is a "man-made" item like a stone wall or a pillar, etc. I might not want it to have texture like a hill, so I won't add the sand to the glue or the latex paint, but I ill use one or both as i described above depending on how durable i want the piece to be.

    Both of these steps add a lot of time to terrain building compared to simply painting onto the foam, but cutting corners to save time with terrain always comes back to bite you in the end. The best thing to do is to build terrain pieces in batches so you can put glue/paint on a bunch of pieces and leave them while you go to work, etc. And then when you come back to them later that day or the next they are dry and ready to be handled and painted.

    Now you can spray the pieeces to prime them, and then use regualr paints/washes/etc. to detail, highlight, etc. as desired.
    Cheap craft/acryllic paintes are great for terrain due to variety of colors and affordable prices, etc.

    Also a word to the wise (based upon eperience): nothing angers wives/non-gaming family members more then sandy glue/paint stuck to kitchen/dining room tables or foam shavings scattered about, etc., etc.

    Be sure you have a work area that you can leave pieces out, move around comfortably, and that you aren't worried about accidents (terrain building can be messy).

    Also if you are looking for a great site that has hundreds of tuitorials, pictures, galleries,ideas, and discussions about DIY terrain projects check out www.terragenesis.co.uk.

    It is the granddaddy of quality terrain making sites (and it's memebrship is filled with quality, experienced terrain builders) and is your Bibe when it comes to learning the do's and don'ts of terrain making (and is a great source of inspiration).

    Good luck...
    Last edited by CT GAMER; 02-09-2011 at 05:45 AM.

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    Destroyer of Worlds captainspud's Avatar
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    You can spray uncut factory faces of styrofoam as long as you use light strokes and don't concentrate on any one spot, but any cut or otherwise damaged "interior" surfaces will be rotted away by the propellant. On the other hand, I've heard that you can "armor up" a cut foam surface with watered-down glue or Mod Podge, which makes it more resistant to spraying. Haven't tried it yet myself...

    For any complex objects, I just use cheap bottled acrylics from a craft store. Get yourself a big house painting brush (a 2" and a 4" are usually good for most projects) to apply it.
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  7. #7
    Destroyer of Worlds warlordgarou's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CT GAMER View Post
    The thing to keep in mind with terrain (especially foam terrain) is that the more tlc and effort you put into it on the front end the longer it is gonna hold up without needing repair or becomeing unusable.

    If you skimp on work initially, you always pay the price down the road when it comes to foam terrain (especially pieces that are gonna be handled alot and used by groups and lots of people who never treat terain with the care they should tbh).

    So yes you can paint onto the foam directly (with non-aerosol) but this is the least desirable way as far as assuring durability. Your terrain will quickly chip and wear away showing unsightly pink spots, etc. Not good.
    That is a good point. I used to make a lot of terrain for a certain clicky game, and I purposely made my hills quickly and cheaply (a habit which has stuck, for better or worse). Not because the group was careful with the terrain, but because they were so hard on it that making foam terrain tough enough to endure their rather casual treatment was time and cost prohibitive. My trees were almost indestructible - but they were quick and easy to make. Never found a good way to make foam last, even with a pre-coat of glue - the tougher something was, the more the kids playing viewed destroying it as a challenge. So, mediocre hills that would last a couple of months (but took little time to make) were a better deal than carefully crafted, durable hills that would last a couple months (but took a lot longer to make).

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by warlordgarou View Post
    Never found a good way to make foam last, even with a pre-coat of glue - the tougher something was, the more the kids playing viewed destroying it as a challenge.
    True. You can never make foam terrain that is indestructible, you can only take precautions to extend it's shelf life.

    As for tiny destructors...LOL When I had my store we had some kids that love to do things like stack pieces haphazardly onto each other, put cases and personal belongings ontop of terrain crushing it, sitting on it, stabbing pens/pencils into it, etc. Good times...

    I seem to recall one kid who was forever abusing terrain no matter how many times we addressed it with him. I seem to recall he ended up in the dumpster in back of the store, carried off by the other responsible patrons who had had enough of him breaking "their" terrain...=)

  9. #9
    Destroyer of Worlds snapshot_superhero's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the tips guys. I definitely want these to be durable. Basically I cut out a bunch of "crates" from the foam to make some stacks of them as linear obstacles so they need to hold up.

    I don't think I have any wood glue, but I do own a big tube of pva glue. Can I use that instead to coat the foam?

  10. #10
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    You can get by with PVA glue, but it has a far greater tendency over time to pull away/peel off, while wood glue creates a far more durable bond.

    I have terrain pieces that are 8+ years old done with wood glue that don't show any signs of wear even after heavy use. I have seen PVA peel off of terrain after a few uses. Again it depends on how much use and handling your items get and how careful people are with them...

    Personally I would never use PVA glue if I had the choice not to.
    Last edited by CT GAMER; 02-09-2011 at 06:17 AM.

  11. #11
    Destroyer of Worlds Varagon's Avatar
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    To make your foam terrain last a lot longer, put it on a strong base. Either plastic card or something like 1/4-1/8" mdf or something similar, like paneling.

    I always coat my foam with a layer of watered down glue then paint over it with latex house paint. I then use the cheap craft paint to paint in the details.
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  12. #12
    Conqueror onitora's Avatar
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    I have had great success with 1-3 generous coats of Exterior Latex paint. No gloss allows acrylic paints to stick well. I use black if I'm making a rock, as it gives me shadows to build up from. If I making earthy stuff, I use brown. Snow, white, etc... Latex makes a really solid skin that holds up against chipping, and allows you to use areosol sealent without fear.
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