Saturday, January 4, 2014

Citadel Fantasy Terrain Enhancement with Balsa Foam

Citadel Terrain is cool…but with some quick enhancements it can be way cooler. 

Balsa Foam is amazing, if you are unfamiliar with the stuff; it’s dense carving foam that holds complex shapes and patterns extremely well. 

Unlike the blue foam commonly used for war-game terrain, balsa foam can retain an extremely higher amount of detail and sculpt way easier. Once sealed it's way more durable and will last longer than blue foam. You can even used sealed Balsa foam pieces as masters for mold making.

It’s really expensive comparatively speaking and does not come in large chunks like blue foam or styrafoam/floral foam. So it’s better used for more focused smaller dioramas and terrain pieces.

However, for the purposes of this article, let’s focus on some simple scenic enhancements.

The Garden of Morr kit is ripe with awesome terrain pieces. Statues, Masoleums, awesome wrought iron fences, etc. My goal is to take this kit and expand each piece into a larger more elaborate terrain piece. 

Step 1

Let’s look at the raw pieces and tools. Various tools, glue, foam, a small saw, my trusty busted up xacto blade, some plastic Garden of Morr bits and a tray to catch the foam dust in.

Step 2

I like to attach an ovoid styrene shape to the bottom of the foam so it has a smooth flat bottom. Super glue holds it in just fine. Then I trimmed the foam around the shape of the styrene piece to get the base shape.

Step 3

I started cutting the main shape of the stone work that the Statue will rest in. This is very easy as balsa foam cuts like butter and can be easily shaped. 

Step 4

I continued adding more detail and creating a worn stone texture with a rock. Just press the rock into the foam and it will retain the texture. It’s amazing! I trimmed the excess stone from around the sides of the statue base and tested it.

Step 5

This is where the piece really starts to take shape. I added in the fencing, glued the statue in and kept detailing. Once I was done sculpting the foam areas; I sealed the foam with a mix of 75% water / 25% Elmers glue. This soaks into the pores of the foam and create a thin semi-rigid “skin” on the foam. I would wait an entire day to paint this piece to make sure this coat really dries fully.

Step 6

After all the pieces are glued in place, I realized I cut the foam back on the corners a bit too hard. Totally my bad, but nothing that can’t be fixed with a little bit of Apoxie Sculpt I had on hand. This areas will be covered with Flock when finished, so I’m not worried about blending the details too much.

Step 7
Some final gravel and dirt around the edges and this terrain piece is ready to paint!

Well there you go, quick and dirty terrain enhancement. Until Next time!

- BTW, first nerd that makes fun of my Macbook Pro box gets a virtual bitch slap. The Mac hate is so passé people :) -


  1. I was actually just watching a video on youtube (Terran Studios) where the guy was talking about Balsa Foam, I'm definitely interested in the stuff for making some scratch built castles and Chaotic terrain features for my home table. Look forward to seeing what you come up with.

  2. I wonder if the Green floral foam would be a common item replacement for the Balsa foam.....

    1. I have never used balsa foam, but i know i wouldn't use green floral foam for miniatures. The stuff compresses insanely easy, like light pressure from fingers, and the "bubbles" mean that you could never get a smooth finish on it without sealing it pretty heavily.

    2. Green garden foam is a totally different substance all together. It would not retain the detail balsa foam can, could not be used in casting and is no where near as durable.

    3. When I first got into the hobby I made terrain out of the green foam. It didn't last a game, Eye of Error is absolutely right it won't work.

  3. That is very cool - never heard of the stuff, but I'm gonna have to see if I can track some down. Neat!

  4. Great advice and a timely tut, I was about to throw in the towel on making a good display board with foam but this is right up my alley! Thank you!