Terrain Spotlight: Hot Glue & Christmas Bauble Alien Trees!
Posted on Monday Nov 02, 2020 at 05:00PM in Tutorials
I've been having a lot of fun lately coming up with different ways to make trees that look like they belong on alien worlds. You might have seen my previous articles with silicon aquarium plant trees, or my boab-inspired expanding foam trees. This week, I drew some inspiration from the Titan AE animated movie, working up some forest bases made from Christmas baubles and coloured hot glue!
The basic idea with these is a plant that has a ball-shaped sac, filled with lighter-than-air gas of some kind (the cartoon plants they're based on are highly explosive!). To make these, I sourced a bunch of clear, plastic Christmas bauble shells in a range of sizes from Ali Express. These didn't go down as small as I wanted, so for the smallest size I wound up with some 8mm solid plastic balls.
To create the gaseous effect, I wanted the sacs to be mostly opaque, with swirling colour and just a hint of translucency. So, after trimming off the hanging tabs, I painted the insides of the baubles with Citadel Gryph-Hound Orange Contrast, and then dabbed in some blobs of Mig Blood Red, letting this run wherever it liked through the orange. For the solid balls, I just painted on a coat of the orange Contrast.
Once the baubles were dry, I fitted the halves together, and then used some superglue to stock different length stems onto them, making sure the joint lines on the baubles were running more or less horizontally. For the most part, the larger the bauble, the longer the stem it got, although I did mix this up a little here and there to keep things a little chaotic and organic.
For adding the trunks, I used some green hot glue, also from Ali Express, although as with the baubles you might be able to find this in local craft stores, depending on where you are in the world.
A note on safety: If you plan on having a go at this, I feel compelled to point out the obvious: Hot glue is hot! Be careful to keep fingers away from the melty end of the glue gun, and avoid getting drips of glue onto your skin, as it can burn. Also, use in a well-ventilated area!
After gluing the stem to a hardwood base, I ran a line of glue from about two-thirds of the way up the bauble, all the way down, and then outwards to form a root shape along the top of the base.
From there, I added successive strips down the length of the tree, keeping some space between each new strip and the immediately preceding one, to give them time to cool and set. The aim was to coat all of the outside of the stem, and most of the lower two-thirds of the bauble. Some parts of the lower half of the bauble show through the glue for effect, and to help light shine through the finished tree top, but the glue completely covers the joint line to hide it.
Here's a video of the gluing in process!
With the first tree done, I glued the next stem to the base, and repeated the process, continuing until I had a good number of trees on the base. There's a balance between having enough on there to be convincing as a 'forest' base, while still leaving enough room to position models. When in doubt, always err on the side of playability, as this is supposed to be gaming terrain, after all!
The small balls were used to create new growth without much height to it. For these, I glued the ball directly to the base, and then added blobs of glue around the circumference.
I decided on a boggy base to go with these trees, so started out by gluing some fine sand on with PVA glue, leaving the tree roots exposed. I also left some patches of the hardwood exposed, to make a few open puddles.
With the PVA dry, I painted over the sand with a mix of Army Painter Mid Brown and Green Tone Quickshades. You could paint the tree trunks to cover over the glue if you want, but I decided I liked the shiny green on them, so left them as is.
Finally, I added a light drybrush of Coat D'Arms Putrid Green over the sand, and painted some gloss varnish onto the 'puddle' areas. The end result looked something like this:
And a shot out in the sun, to show the light shining through the gas sacs!
Feel like giving some alien trees a go? Be sure to share what you come up with on the Comm Guild Facebook group!
Pop on over to the Maelstrom's Edge webstore here to find our plastic and resin model range, including the ever-popular Maelstrom's Edge terrain sprues.
And for other building ideas, modeling tutorials, army spotlights and conversion walkthroughs, check out the Hobby section of the Maelstrom's Edge website here!