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When I first started to make terrain I wanted it to me as realistic as possible but not create specific terrain boards as I didn't have them room to store all the boards needed to recreate Middle-earth. One of the problems with making separate pieces of terrain is that realism falls short. Take a hill for instance, unless you have a full contour molded board you will probably use small mounds and stepped hills. These do a fine job of representing hills on your table top and in the case of stepped hills are designed with tactical gaming in mind, but they don't look very realistic.
This article is about getting out in to natural and taking pictures and notes on what you see so you can tranfser this knowledge to your natural terrain projects to improve the final out come of them.
The first thing that is needed is something to inspire and study. Luckily for us we live on an amazing planet full of natural terrain. If you are unlucky not to be able to get in to the country side there is always movies and the Internet to use.
Just recently I spent a week in the Scottish Highlands and there is some truly stunning and breath taking scenery there. So much so that I took over 600 pictures while I was there, bad for my wallet when I took the compact flash cards to the photo shop but good for my terrain building needs. The following is a selection of some of the photos I took showing different types of terrain.
This picture shows multiple terrain types such as hills, trees, water, grasses etc.
Hills, earth and grasses
Rolling lands showing different types of grass texture.
An old well trodden path.
A Lake with rocky formations.
Small water fall.
Hills with rock formations and various grass textures.
Different types of grass textures and rocks.
Large rock formations in which you can really see the surface texture and details.
If you are lucky on your travels, getting outside can also help you with your man made constructions as the following pictures of ruins I came across show:
Basically by going out and getting some fresh air and exercise you can build up a library of inspiration and reference pictures like I have done that can be used to refer to in your future terrain projects. The above pictures are just a small number of the pictures I shall use now in the future. Whilst I was taken them I was already forming how I would transfer what I saw to the table top which beings us on to the next stage...
From previous experience in the past I have learnt never to just jump in feet first in a terrain project of any size, the result will never be all the can be. A bit of forward thinking, even if its just a few minutes planning can work wonders. For larger projects you may need to sketch ideas and jot notes down. I know for almost two years now I have been thinking about getting realistic hill's onto the table top and still haven't come up with the ideal solution. one of my problems was not having any reference photos to work with. I was trying to picture a hill in my head and then just build it. Most results were not up to standard. Now I have begun my picture reference library I can use those to help me plan.