Before reading part 2, have you checked out how to ready your base in Part 1?
OK, we have the structure, now we’ll start making this pink stuff look like stone.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
- Acrylic paint. You don’t need high-quality model paints (like Vallejo, for example), craft store paint will do. Get the bigger sizes depending on the size of your project. You’ll need; Medium Grey, Black, White, and a Medium Brown or Burnt Umber.
- Acrylic Primer. There are other ways to ready the foam for paint, but I use a grey-tinted acrylic primer from a hardware store. You may want to get a darker tint than I have here. Some people skip this altogether and just apply the paint, but I feel this is necessary to have good paint adhesion. Make sure you buy ACRYLIC paint – oil-based paints will eat the foam!
- Brushes. Again, here you don’t need high-quality for this project. A pack of craft store brushes including; a fan brush, a flat-topped 1/4″ brush, and a cheap 2″ chip brush.
- Paper towels
STEP 1 – PRIMING
Foam isn’t by nature an absorbent medium, so priming it is necessary for the paint to adhere and not flake off easily later on. I picked up a quart of white acrylic primer and had it tinted grey at the store. Simply enough, coat the entire surface with the primer. Don’t lay it on too thick, but do coat all surfaces that you plan to paint. You may need to use a smaller brush to get into the grooves, cracks, and indents.
Let this dry completely (i leave it overnight) before continuing.
STEP 2 – BASE COAT
This is the first step in giving the foam the deep-layered look of real stone. The essential tool for this step is a “chip” brush. I recommend a 2″ wide china bristle brush. I think these have an advantage over synthetic brushes for this application because the bristles tend to break down and spread out with use, which helps you get that random look, especially when dry brushing.
My formula for the paint here is approximately 1/2 Grey, 1/4 Black, and 1/4 Brown. While you will blend these colors, you don’t want to fully mix them. Ideally, you want to end up with an overall dark-grey with some swirls of muted black and brown.
When you’ve roughly mixed the paint with the brush, start pushing it onto the surface. Don’t brush it on, stab at the piece, pushing the paint on. You want to end up with a mottled appearance – overall shades of dark grey, but spots of brown, black and shades of both throughout.
You want to cover the entire surface and you may need to brush the paint on in a few places. You may also need to use a smaller, thin brush to get into the crevices.
Let this dry thoroughly (6 hours at least or overnight) before moving on.
STEP 3 – TOP COAT
So far, the painting has been pretty straightforward and forgiving. This step is where you’ll need to take a little more care and use some finesse.
We’ll be taking our dark base coat and lightening it up by dry-brushing on a lighter grey. Dry brushing involves taking almost all the paint of a brush and dabbing what is left on the surface. First, let’s mix the paint. This time around you’ll be using grey, brown and white. The ratio is about the same as the last step, but you’ll need a bit more than 1/4 white, so add a little extra. Again, as in the last step, you don’t want to completely blend the colors. You may want to blend them with a smaller brush or at least a different brush than the one you’ll be using which will save you from having to remove a lot of paint from your 2″ chip brush.
Start by pushing the top of the brush down into the paint, not too hard but enough to pick up paint on the whole top of the brush. Then, using a paper towel, brush off the paint until you don’t see much paint coming off it at all on a clean section. Push it straight down a few times on the towel to get a little more paint off and you’re ready to go.
Start in a less prominent area – or a scrap piece of foam, to test the coverage. Lightly stab the brush down on to the surface and up quickly, just getting the bristles to touch the surface. You may not see much happening at first, but keep moving randomly around an area of say four blocks at a time, varying the pressure you use.
When you think you’re out of paint – there is likely more there, apply a little more pressure, but again keep stabbing, no brushing. When there really is no paint left, reload, remove the paint from the brush and start up again. Get a good general coverage (you’ll still see a lot of the dark base showing through) and then go over it again until you’ve got nice varied shades like you see here. When going over the sides you’ll get a little more on the corners and high points – this is good!
STEP 4 – BLACK WASH
Now we’ll add a little depth to the crevices and nooks in the rock by black washing the whole thing.
The black wash is a bit of a misnomer because it actually consists of black and brown. Put a couple of blobs of both colors in a cup or small container, then add a little bit of water at a time, mixing and diluting the colors with the water. Test his mixture on a piece of scrap cardboard to check the consistency and translucence. You don’t want this too opaque/thick and you don’t want it too thin.
Once you think you’ve got a good mix, try it on an inconspicuous area. coat the spot, let it sit for fifteen to thirty seconds and then blot up the excess with a paper towel. you should have a little bit of the black left behind, especially in the dings and cracks. If you want certain places darker or want more depth in the crevices and crack, apply the wash to them directly again with a smaller brush and blot up the excess.
This starts to create some real variation in shades and adds depth to the piece.
STEP 5 – HIGHLIGHTS AND DETAILS
Holy crap, we’re in the final stretch (unless you want to take it further, then see “Step 6”).
Here we’re going to add some highlights especially to the edges and rougher spots on the “stone”. These will simulate fresher wear on the stones – like when you chip off a piece of a rock – and will also help add more depth.
For this step, you’ll use the fan brush. These are very slim, almost 1-2 bristle thick brushes in a fan shape. Here we’ll use a mixture of grey and white (or a linen or other off-white color if you want) at about a 60% white, 40% grey ratio.
Again, we’ll use the dry-brush technique. Get some paint on the brush and take 98% of it off on the paper towel. Then you’re going to take the brush and lightly brush it over the edges of the blocks along the grooves and cracks here and there (doesn’t have to be uniform) and maybe lightly over some of the high points on the surface of the stones – especially where there is a ridge or other fairly sharp feature.
Don’t overdo this step – when you feel like there is enough, stop. You should have something that resembles the photo below.
STEP 6 – FINISHING TOUCHES AND DETAILS
You can stop here and have a very nice platform or do one or two smaller ones to create the dais like I did. But if you really want to take it to another level, you can add moss and growth in the grooves and on surfaces.
To do this Step, you’ll need; white glue (or hot glue if you’re practiced at using it), Green turf/grass material, and some loose moss from a hobby store (both generally used for model railroad sets).
The process is pretty straightforward; you want to get the glue into the groves (this is good to hide some of your rougher cuts, too) and then just pour some of the turf material over the glue. Use a little extra to cover it well and tamp it down a bit with your finger to ensure it adheres. Here and there you can add some of the moss as well. If you want some growth on the surface of the stones, use a brush with just a little glue on it and apply the turf.
You can apply this whole technique to walls, individual rocks or other stone surfaces as well. Have fun and feel free to post your work here!
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Trevor is a New York-based Creative Director and owner of The Brand Counselors. He has a growing collection of 150ish 1:6th scale stock and custom figures (and more and more Lego sets). Toy photography melds his childhood dreams of comic book illustration and film directing with his design talents and – in his mind – justifies the ridiculous money he spends on these things. When he’s not shooting, he enjoys kayaking, catching up on good TV and building seemingly endless custom figures.
Last modified: June 4, 2019