Thursday, March 7, 2013

How to make a Westeros Map - Pt.2


Now that there is a map and base to work with it's time to add texture. This isn't necessary if you don't want to do it, but it makes for a much more impressive map and gives it a lot of depth.

I added texture in two ways. First, I built up mountain ranges and forests using high quality two part construction filler. I applied using strips of cardboard and skewers and gave texture to the forests using an old tooth brush. Secondly, I engraved into the map wood using a small rotary tool with a scribing head (like a Dremel) to add rivers, canyons, lakes and other details. I also used the rotary tool to shape the filler that I used for mountains and forests, not only to help the shape but also to give it some roughness. 

Overall, adding texture is a time consuming, smelly, messy, finicky and dusty job. Whatever you do don't do it inside or in an enclosed space. Make sure there is plenty of ventilation and preferably wear a dust mask.

Above: Dorne, ready for an undercoat.

Below: For comparison, the mountains on the left have been roughed up with the rotary tool, the ones of the right haven't.

Above: Major navals ports and strongholds will be represented on the map by some lovely buttons and stamped steel brads that I picked up at the local sewing shop. Each major house will have it's own sigil hand painted on a shield, which I've taken from my Warhammer parts box.

Below: The Wall, sculpted and ready for undercoating. I used some balsa wood for the core, filler to build it up and then the rotary tool to shape it.

Above: The fully textured, completed board. At this step I would have scribed 'Westeros' into the title plaque at the top, but I hadn't yet decided if that was what I was going to do so I left it till later.

Below: Three thin sprayed coats of flat black water based paint later (don't use gloss or oil based paint). Once you've undercoated the board all the texture will show through. This is the final stage that will allow you to adjust the texturing and then recoat easily, so make sure that it's 100% how you want it before you pick up a brush!


This step should by far take the longest. Additionally, it's the easiest to get wrong so practice first on another piece of undercoated wood to ensure you're happy with your technique and the finish you achieve. I primarily used two methods for the map - drybrushing and stippling. For drybrushing I used 8-10 layers, for stippling around 12-14. You can do far less than this but I'm pedantic, so it had to look spot on. For all the painting I used four brushes - a 0 and 2 sized miniature brushes, a 1/2" flat brush and a 1" round.

Above: All the paints that I used on this project.

Mountains, forests - On textured parts of the map drybrushing (find out how to do it by reading the terrain board tutorial on this site) is ideal. I recommend that you do all the drybrushing before stippling as drybrushing can be quite messy and may ruin other parts of the map if they've already been painted.

Grass, dirt, snow, sand - This method is simple but is similarly really easy to mess up. Basically, load up a larger brush (1/2" flat brush was what I used) with a little paint and then, similar to drybrushing, wipe most of the paint off it. With the small amount of paint left on the bristles hold the brush vertical or on a slight angle and dab the surface repeatedly. Each time you do this a few dots of paint will touch the board and over a large surface area using a few layers this effect can look fantastic. Sounds easy, but it takes practice to get a good finish. I recommend practicing and varying your technique to achieve a different look. For example, sand looks better with many layers of dots added with the brush dead vertical. Grass, however, benefits from the brush being on a slight angle so that the dots elongate when the bristles touch the surface, creating what looks like small tufts of grass. 

When painting always ensure that you have some water to rinse brushes out/thin paint and paper towel/tissues to dry them. Make sure that you rinse out brushes immediately after you're finished using them - if you don't they will quickly get destroyed.

As an example of stippling, below is how I got the snow finish in The North.

Stage 1 - A few layers of varying shades of grey sets the base, on top of which a heavy stippled coat of turquoise.

Stage 2 - A few more layers of grey and then some more turquoise on the flat areas.

Stage 3 - Building up in heaviness to a fine light grey stipple.

Stage 4 - Three top layers of near white in varying shades, finely stippled.

Stage 5 - Strongholds, ports, rivers and sigil shields all receive a coat of black undercoat and are then painted to suit.

Stage 6 - Three coats of a mixed black/blue/grey base are applied to the ocean areas, with three layers of detail added relative to the ocean current direction. I could've put a lot more detail in to the ocean areas, but I didn't want it to detract from the map. The ocean is a good background as opposed to a heavily detailed feature. The 50c piece is present for scale comparison only.

Below is the fully painted map (except for the 'Westeros' title). Each area had a palette of around 6-8 colours, with colour blends for bases and highlights mixed to suit. 

All that was left to add was the title. I wanted the map to be consistent with the TV/book series, so with a little research I tracked down a very similar font to the one used on the TV series advertisements - Trajan Pro Bold. The only difference was the vertical lines in the 'O', but these were easy to add. You could use a stencil to provide an outline for the rotary tool but I chose to do it freehand with a printed copy of the text on hand for reference (only do this if you're very comfortable using a rotary tool). Once engraved I gave the now bare wood two coats of black and two coats of metallic gold, with a touch up boat of black to neaten up the text.

Above: The finished title, before a touch up coat.

Now that the board is fully painted you can choose to put a coat of clear lacquer on it or leave it bare. With a clear coat the board will resist stains, ageing and dust. Without it the board will show detail better and look much crisper (in my humble opinion) but will be far more fragile finish as a result. I'm going to leave it as it is with no clear coat, but a gloss coat over the water and a matt coat on the land was considered a great deal. In the end it's entirely up to you.

At this stage your painted map is complete! You could tidy up the edges and hang it on a wall right away, or like me you could add some finishing touches to make it look really special.

Check out part 3 for how to add finishing touches and the final, completed map.

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