Wargaming Tradecraft: Creating Snow and Ice

Creating Snow and Ice


It's about time I highlight how I created the snow and ice from the Postapocalyptibuggy project in its own tutorial. Also, we're well into Winter now, so it's appropriate.

I used a whole mixture of supplies to create this snow and ice, which is normally a tricky thing. Maybe living in Canada just gives me a unique perspective on this stuff. Snow it's matte or glossy, it's kind of a mix.

Anyways, lets look at the different ways I created it here.


Basic Fake Snow

Snow-Tex was a product I found at Michaels / Hobby Lobby and it's not a bad snow base. It's kind of like a spackle, but clumpy instead of solid.

You spread it on a surface, then wait for it to dry. Once it does, it has a matte (non-shiny) surface and while rough / bumpy, is also kind of smooth.



I'm building this project on a wooden base and to begin, I use a trowel to spread the fake snow across it.

If you were doing a model's base, a little bit of this would look snowy, but less so over a large area.

It's also worth noticing - right now the tire is just sitting on top of the snow. You should take care when interacting with some ground that heavy objects don't sit on top. You should build soft ground like snow and dirt up and around the objects like this tire. (But I'm not done yet.)


Basic Fake Ice

For the ice patch, I start by lighting a candle and tilting it, allow the wax to drip over the area I want to fill. (top-left)

Next, I use my pen-torch over all the wax to melt it on the base. This thins and levels it out, also spreads it out some. (top-right)

You can also just chip wax from a candle on the base and go over it with the torch.

Smaller Scale Step by Step

 Use a small tea light and drip wax on to your base. Tea lights are great since you can usually get a huge pack of them for cheap, they're small enough you can control the wax flow, the metal rim helps protect you from hot wax and once you're done, the metal rim can be used as a water / paint mixing pot.

Once you have a blob of wax that's big enough, apply a little bit of heat (I used the pen torch on low) to "dab" gently at the wax to melt a little, let it cool, melt a little more, etc.

If you need more wax, drip some more on and heat it.
If you added too much wax, cut some off, then heat to smooth.


Or, if you want to add some depth to your ice, what's underneath should be black.
Same deal as above. Drip wax on, melt until smooth.

If you use too much heat, the wax can get sooty and blacken normally. That's how I got the dark areas on the Postapocalyptibuggy since it was such a large area.


To attach a model to this base, you'd want to either glue the feet directly on once the base is created, rather that dripping wax and using a torch around a painted / plastic / metal model already on the base. Even better, drill small holes in the base and pin the feet through the snow and ice.


Layering Ice

If you use darker or sooty wax on the bottom of the ice followed by white wax, there will appear to be depth in the ice, like the water is deep but you can't see through.

Impressions

While the wax is drying, you can leave impressions in it. For this project, I roll the tire over the wax because the car would be heavy enough to leave them behind.
Better Fake Snow

To make the snow look better and blend in the ice, I create a mixture of two more hobby snows. (Pictured right)

The type on the left is just plain fake snow, while the one on the right is made of shiny flakes. To really nail it, mix these two together. Doesn't matter what brands you use, just try to find two that look like these. (plain & shiny)

Thin some white glue with water so it's liquidy, not thick and spread it around the base. Then, sprinkle the snow mixture all around. Be sure to cover the edges of the ice as blowing snow would cover these areas.
This really is your ideal snowscape.
The Snow-Tex creates a nice matte layer, then the rolling snow is "fluffy" with sparkly snow to reflect the light intermixed.
The snow drifts into the ice, which has depth from the layering and burning of the wax.

Pile Snow Fall

You should also glue some of this snow mixture on some of your objects too. Anything that wouldn't have moved too much or would have collected it.

Beware the Yellow Snow

Some white glues will turn yellow after drying. I strongly recommend testing your white glue before using it for this kind of stuff because it can discolour your final product.
Better Ice

To bridge the gap between the following groups of pictures, I've made some final touches to improve the realism of the ice.

Objects like the chain can interact with ice. In the next steps, cover the bottom of the chain too as if the ice has covered it.

First, I melted a little ice over some of the fake snow to increase the layering.

Then, I covered all the ice in a thick layer of gloss varnish. I spread some of the varnish over a little of the fake snow, again, layering.

While the varnish is drying, I sprinkle a little of the fake snow on as well as some tiny clear beads, which end up looking like bubbles.

Slush

When the varnish was nearly dry, I started piling the fake snow up around the tires. The snow absorbed some of the varnish and ended up looking slushy.

The tires also finally look pressed into the snow.

You could use this effect just to create a slushy looking base around a troop's feet.


Bonus - Ice Covered Trees, Bushes and other objects

Ever seen "Freezing Rain"?

Sometimes in the great white north we get rain storms instead of snow storms even in below freezing weather. This causes everything to end up covered in a thick layer of ice.

Think wiping snow off your car every morning would be bad? Imagine having to chisel your way in.



This is pretty easy actually.

Take some thin wire, bend it in to your bush shape and paint it brown.

Dip the whole thing in to gel and let it dry.

Repeat as often as you want it thick.

Nailed it.

4 comments:

  1. I had recently begun digging around for some snow techniques to use on my Chaos Marines. My method is far simpler, as one might expect when you have a ton of models to do, but one thing I found to help avoid the yellowing is to mix in some white paint with the glue for the snow. Ultimately it depends on the look you're after though as it gives it more of a fresh fallen bright look since it has little transparency with paint mixed in.

    One thing I learned in experimenting is that realistic snow is tricky. I live in Maine, a very snowy state, and I figured snow would be easy; I have a lot of reference to pull from. It is far from easy to pull off with any sort of realism but once you nail it, it's awesome. To that end, yours looks great. It's a good mix of effects we see with real snow: fresh fallen, frozen and dirty all together. As always, it looks awesome and the tutorial is well done.

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    1. I can definitely see melting wax being tricky over an army-sized amount of bases. The basic snow mix, not so much. I intend on doing another tutorial in the future to demonstrate painting & basing a model in a snow scene and the wax method would probably require gluing or pinning feet to the base.

      I definitely agree getting it to look "real" is tough. The part that nailed it for me on this project was mixing the dull and shiny snow effects together.

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  2. I found this tutorial from thor's relink to it. Fantastic work! I'm hoping to do a future army with a snow based theme. This article will help make it suitably epic!

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    Replies
    1. Excellent, glad you think you'll be able to apply some of this!

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