Updated: May 26
Written by Sarah-Anne
Our very first tutorial also focused on how to paint realistic stone, but was designed for when a uniform, man-made look was desired. Today's tutorial is perfect if you're going for an organic, free-form effect such as can be found in the wild.
foam insulation, for the base structure
tree bark, in various styles and shapes (if collecting your own, be sure to bake at a low heat in the oven for several hours to kill any unwanted critters who may still be living in the bark)
hot glue sticks
air dry clay or Milliput
cream, light grey, or other off-white acrylic paint for base coat
light grey and off-white acrylic paint for final drybrushing
pinkish-brown acrylic paint for quartz veins
ink washes in black, olive green, and various brown tones
PVA glue (optional, for adding vines or plant overgrowth)
assorted flocking (optional, for adding vines or plant overgrowth)
assorted sized paint brushes
ball of aluminium foil (for creating rock 'texture')
sewing pins or other long, sharp pins
Unfortunately I forgot to take photos of the first few steps, but to begin I used the hot glue to glue various pieces of bark to my foam structure, moving the pieces around until I was happy with the overall result. It helped to look at photos of real rock formations to get a sense of how true rock is shaped overtime. Next I used Milliput (but air dry clay or Greenstuff would also work) to fill in the cracks between the bark pieces, and used the sculpting tools to make the joins seamless. On any larger areas of the Milliput I rolled over my ball of aluminium foil (after dipping in water first to make sure it wouldn't stick) to mirror the texture of the bark.
Once I was confident the Milliput was dry, I gave everything an even coat of spray primer. Though not necessary from a point of protecting the final cost of paint, the bark will have a tendency to absorb a lot of the paint at first, so the primer helps keeps the first coats of paint on the surface and not absorbed further into the wood. The colour at this stage isn't important, but I would stay away from anything too dark (as it would take too many coats of our base paint to cover) or anything too contrasting such as red, for the same reason. You could experiment with letting your primer colour show a little under the base coat, which would further add to the depth of the finished result. In my case I just stuck to a mid-grey.
After the primer dried, I gave two even coats of watered down acrylic paint in my base paint colour. For this example I chose a warm ivory, but you can change up the overall colour palette simply by making the base coat a cool or warm tone. With that fully dried, I was ready for the transformation to begin!
This technique involves building up the colour subtly, in many thin coats of wash. I started with my own home-brewed sepia-brown wash, and applied in a random manner, allowing the ink to pool in the resources and avoiding any of the higher portions to start.
For each layer of wash I waited for the previous coat to dry before starting the next one. Using a home-brew black wash, I kept to the bottom of the rock face and the recesses only, paying attention to anywhere that I thought water would naturally run and collect.
Next I used three washes from The Army Painter; Military Shader (an olive green), Light Tone (a very light brown) and Flesh Wash (a very reddish medium toned brown). I added those along the rock face randomly to give variations to the base rock colour, starting first by dripping it onto the bark directly from the bottle, and helping it to settle where I wanted with a large brush.
Once all washes were completed dry, I very lightly drybrushed only the edges of the rocks with a light cool grey to balance the warm tones of all the washes. As soon as I was done that coat I went back over with an off-white, this time only touching the edges with brush strokes from the top down. I wanted to enhance the natural lighting from the sun from above, leaving the recesses unshaded. Note: I rarely use pure white or pure black in my terrain building as the same effects can be achieved with dark grey or an off-white, without looking too harsh. Even when applying the black wash, it actually goes on a deep grey once dried.
At this point I thought I was done the rock painting, but it still looked a little too uniform. It was Chris who suggested I add veins of quartz or other minerals along the surface, so I went back in with pinkish-brown colour lightened ever so slightly with the same cool grey I used for the highlighting. I looked at some examples of quartz veins within real rocks, and based my lines on those. The first layer still did not sell the effect (now it just looked like I painted lines along the rocks). So I went back in and touched up where the lines went through a recess with the pure pinkish-brown, and highlighted where it crossed an edge with even even more of the cool grey. Just that subtle change added much more depth an realism to the veins, and made them look like they were a part of the rock, not just on the surface.
No rock terrain piece is complete without some foliage, so I added two different colours of foam flocking to the recesses and flat areas. Using watered down PVA glue, I drenched pieces of the sheet flocking used as tree leaves and after wringing out most of the glue, fixed it in place using my trusty sewing pins. I added some undiluted PVA glue to where the foliage would connect with the bark for added strength and waited for it to dry. To remove the pins I gently twist them as I remove them, which allows them to easily break free from the dried glue.
A couple coats of matte spray sealant, and another project is complete! I am really happy with how this one turned out, and think that it is the most realistic-looking piece of terrain so far! I'd love to know what you would change or do to improve it, or what other colour variations you'd like to try!