This is a version of the basic info sheet I provide for teaching sessions focusing on ‘surfacing’ materials for model-making. It represents a small selection chosen for their availability, versatility and ease of use.
Prices shown are from April 2017 and adjusted to include VAT. Full addresses can be found in the ‘Suppliers’ section.
Soft polyurethane foam (Kapa-line foamboard) Available 3, 5 and 10mm thicknesses. Paper layer can easily be stripped off to use foam for creating surfaces by carving, inscribing or embossing patterns. Obtainable 4D; greatart.co.uk; London Graphic Centre Price 700x1000mm 5mm £10.30, 10mm £12.70, 3mm £9.10 (4D)
Polycell ‘Fine Surface’ filler This particular brand is recommended because it sticks well to any surface even when applied very thin (ideal for fine stippling). It is very fine and smooth, will not crumble, dries with minimal shrinking, retains slight flexibility, stays workable longer than others. It is more expensive than more standard ‘polyfillas’ such as Polycell ‘Multi purpose’ or B&Q ‘Value’ filler but worth it for its versatility (i.e. can also be thinned as a relief paint or even thinner as a gesso!). Ready-mixed in tubs Obtainable B&Q, Leyland, other d.i.y or home decoration stores Price e.g. £5.99 for 500g pot (Wickes)
Drying time is indicated as 30-60mins dependant on thickness, which means that if applied very thinly it could be paintable within this time, but it’s unlikely to be totally hard. It dries from the outside inwards .. underneath will take much longer i.e. a few hours at least!
Vinyl wallpaper A useful source of ‘ready-made’ textures. Large B&Q warehouses usually have a varied choice and open rolls for taking free samples. The surface will accept any kind of paint or stain but with different degrees of coverage i.e. vinyl pattern will partially resist very thin washes, but this makes for an interesting effect. Soft paper backing. Most vinyl wallpapers are white, but there are some colours. Rolls to buy cost between £3-£8 dependent on type.
Stencil card Also known as ‘oiled manilla’, impregnated with linseed oil. Very thin, cuts cleanly, doesn’t fur, stays rigid, can be directly painted even with acrylics without too much warping. Strong PVA will suffice to glue it .. though either double-sided tape or spraymount should be used if laminating flat areas. Of particular relevance here .. partly due to its natural ochre-brown colour it works very well as small-scale wood panelling, and can be scraped with coarse sandpaper to give a convincing woodgrain effect. It also accepts stains well, especially spirit-based. Obtainable 4D; Atlantis; Cass Arts; Flints and most good art shops. Price e.g 76x50cm sheet £3-4.50 (cheapest at A.S.Handover, Flints or UAL college shops)
Reticulated foam The special name for the ‘open cell’ foam sheet used for filters, but common in model shops for scenics, useful here as a base for grass/plant effects. Usually black, but green or natural (beige) available i.e. from 4D Obtainable 4D, Pentonville Rubber Co. Price varies
Useful ‘scatter’ materials or additives to paint/polyfilla Granulated cork (4D), sawdust (4D, pet shops), dyed sawdust (4D, model shops), dyed chopped foam or flocking (4D, model shops), aquarium sand/gravel (pet shops), cat litter (different types, supermarkets), used tea-bag tea or coffee grounds, vermiculite (4D, garden centres), crushed eggshell, poppy seeds (supermarkets), water filter granules (from spent water filter cartridges), modeller’s ballast (4D, model shops), coarse black pepper (supermarkets), etc. …
If these are scattered onto a coating of glue i.e. Pva wood glue slightly thinned, it is important to paint the underlying surface first in a corresponding colour so that the gaps don’t show up so much. Alternatively some paint can be mixed in with the glue before it’s coated. Work has to be fast and usually in small sections, before any of the glue has had a chance to dry.
If these are added directly to paint or filler as texture and then spread over a surface, many of these materials will absorb some water to them as the mixture dries which can cause some interesting cracking patterns .. especially useful for creating the appearance of parched earth.
Paverpol The brand name for a tough-drying (PVA-like) paint formulation manufactured in the US mainly for the hobby market which is suitable for painting on fabrics or foams to give them a much tougher surface. Fabric will become rigid and almost ‘resin-hard’ if soaked with it and the manufacturer recommends it for outdoor sculpture. It can be used to toughen the surface of textures or forms created with styrofoam or polyurethane foam. There is a colourless version of Paverpol which will accept other water-based paints or dry pigment to colour it. Obtainable can be found at some art shops but go to http://www.paverpol-uk.co.uk for more information
Using digital images
Surface/texture photos can be printed to scale on matt-coated printing paper and then modified either by roughening with a wire brush or texturing in part with paint or fillers. For further info .. relevant posts include ‘Model-making Basics – creating surfaces’ from October 2012; ; ‘Using digital images on realspace models – Part 1’ January 2013. Also look in the ‘Methods’ section where there is an article about brickwork patterns, and at the post ‘Making relief patterning tools using Sculpey’ January 2013.
www.cgtextures.com extensive, free visual database of natural and man-made surfaces including building facades, doorways and architectural decoration. Registration required, 15MB download limit per day.
www.wallpaperdirect.co.uk good source of repeatable patterns. Right click on pattern image and click ‘Save background as.’
Recommended printing paper is PhotoPaperDirect.com ‘Inkjet Matt Coated Paper’ 120g (a matt printing paper) price c. £9 for 50 sheets.