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Turning Garbage into Terrain: Tree Edition

Miniature Trees made of toilet paper and tinfoil

It is now March 127th; in the meaningless blur of time that 2020 has become, I’ve picked up a new hobby that I will continue to inflict on all of you: making frankly unnecessary amounts of tabletop terrain. Since I’ve started, I’ve noticed a trend: nearly all of the terrain-building advice out there relies on some amount of specialized material (foam, foam cutters, flocking, clump foliage, resin, specialty adhesives, sprays, static grass, fake plants, real plants, artisanal yak saliva, etc.), which is fine, and the results speak for themselves, but if you just want to dive in and get started, the shopping list that even the most basic terrain project seems to require can be daunting.

Practice lowering your expectations is never wasted.

And also kind of unnecessary, at least at first. This article is going to show you how to make a very basic tree diorama for your tabletop, requiring only materials you probably already have on hand. One of my favorite sayings is “there’s cheap, fast, and good. You get two.” This is very true for this basic starter project, which leans heavily on “cheap.” Like nearly everything with tabletop gaming, having anything at all is almost always better than nothing, and you don’t need an ultra-realistic scene that looks like a spread in National Geographic to really kick your game up a notch.

None of these methods are mine, and are liberally stolen from the dozens of crafters I’ve been bingeing over the last several months, all of whom are much, much better at their craft than me. If you find yourself enjoying this process, maybe give them a look. I’ve included a few links at the bottom for further digging.

Things you’ll need:

Step 1: Prepare your sponges.

Step 2: Make your tree trunk frame.

Step 3: The gross part.

Your basic material looks like…well, you know what it looks like.

Step 4: The Taco Bell effect.

You know how Taco Bell has like, five ingredients [5], but still manages to make a whole menu out of that? You’re about to do that with four colors of paint, water, and soap. You’re awesome.

Step 5: Waiting.

Step 6: Painting.

Step 7: Glue. So much glue.

Step 8: Sealing (Optional)

So that’s it. This seems like a lot of steps, but in practice, it all goes very quickly, and once you make one tree, you might find yourself wanting to make more. So what kinds of terrain do you think you want to bring to your table? Would more of these articles be useful? Let me know in the comments!

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