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Monday, March 11, 2013

BAO Display Board

So it has become almost an annual tradition, where the Tactical Terrain segment spends some time on how to make effective display boards.  This year is no exception.  Tactical Terrain Eric here, and I am sharing with you the behind the scenes of my latest project. Many of you saw it at BAO, but today I show you the steps involved in the creation of this new display board.

Coming into a new tournament season, I wanted to make some improvements. What I learned last year was:
Using the Dry Erase board was great until I tried to pick it up. I needed a way to get my fingers underneath the board to pick it up safely

I wanted to use magnetic bases to minimize sliding around as we shuffle back & forth from table to table

Cookie Sheet, slightly used
It still has to fit in my carry-on bag for air travel.

Like many stories, this project has humble beginnings. I used an ordinary, slightly used, 11”x 17” cookie sheet. This gives me the handles I need to pick up the board easily from a flat table, and the steel material allows the magnets to stick to the board wherever I put the models.
Next step was an experiment that paid off in spades. I wanted to add a texture to the board, but I wanted to avoid flock or scale ballast. I used this on my last board and found little bits in my socks after every tournament I traveled to. I also needed a material that was thin enough so the magnets would still connect to the cookie sheet. The solution was textured wallpaper. It provided a textured look but still had a flat upper surface so I didn’t have to worry about wobbly model syndrome.
Textured & Primed

A quick shot of Crystal Blue Primer (to match the army) and a dry brush of a Behr Sorcerer (yeah, I use Home Depot paints for terrain). Things were well on their way to getting completed.

Dry Brushing in progress
That was until I changed my list. I cannot recommend enough try placing your army on your display board early and often as it can affect the design. As you can see, I was running out of room quick.

Not much space left for the army
My solution was (again) to build an upper deck. This year I wanted to build something that I could take apart and collapse to fit in my bag.  Here was the original idea, just using the foam to get enough space to make this work. I realized quickly there were too many walls blocking the models from view, and this really did not convey a 40k feel. For some reason “Nativity in Black” came to mind, so I got out my Gothic arch templates and drew a pattern onto the foam.

Using my table saw hot wire cutter, the arches were cut out in no time. A quick check of sight lines and assembly, we are on to the next phase: adding detail. First, I used a hand held wire cutter to add weathered look to all the corners. In retrospect, I made the archways a little too thin and I was worried they may not withstand travel turbulence, but so far I was proven wrong. If I were to do it again, I would have kept some foam along the bottom of the arch to add stability.

Templates are essential part of terrain building

Always cut foam in a well ventilated area

Yeah! It fits!

After a few hours of cutting out tiny rectangles, I attached each of these stones around the archways. I wanted something with a little thickness so dry brushing would be easy in the later steps.

I gave the whole thing a coat of the previously mentioned Sorcerer grey color, followed by several dry brushed layers of a light grey.

Now it was time for a backdrop. My original plan was to use a sci fi background with forced perspective to give the illusion of a vast planet scape when you pear out the window. In practice it was too dark and top heavy. Maybe next time I will be able to pull it off. As a substitute, I went with old favorite, stained glass.

The effect is simple to pull off and turns heads.
Find a piece of art you like

Adjust the size of the image to fit within your arch

Print onto ordinary paper and inspect. You may need to adjust the brightness & contrast. Photoshop does have a “Stained Glass” filter that comes in handy for this

Once you have a printout you like, photocopy the image onto a clear transparency

I cut out random sections in the shape of jagged triangles to give it the broken glass look

That is it. Hope you enjoyed and that this inspires you to try something of your own.


  1. nice going dude. not only does it look great, but it's given me some terrain making ideas also :)

  2. I saw this at the BAO and it did look amazing! Great work!

  3. Excellent work. I hope to make a cool tray like that sometime soon.

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