Thursday, November 27, 2014

Tutorial: making paved floors


I compiled a quick tutorial about a method for making paved floors. On one hand, scribing lines in a plastic or in a crude/cured clay plate has never seemed really convincing to me and does not allow to create defects and or irregular elements. On the other hand, cutting/sculpting slabs one by one is quite tedious, long and gives uncertain results, especially if one wants a regular pattern. So I tried to find a method that would be quick and effective for both regular and irregular paved floors, taking inspiration from both said methods.

I start from drawing the paved floor on a piece of paper, at the correct size. The lines go beyond the contour of the area on purpose (see below).

I take some clay: for this application, a kind of clay that is more prone to brittle (*) breaking after curing, to ease the steps after baking. For this, Super Sculpey Firm is just fine.

(*) Brittle should not be understood as in its common use of "easy to break", but rather as a material that is in general quite stiff and hard and that breaks without deforming, producing a clean cut (so that you could actually reassemble the pieces together, as opposed to materials that deform significantly before breaking, which are said to exhibit plasticity). For example, cured green stuff is plastic while cured milliput or SS Firm is fragile.

I flatten the clay using the handle of a knife as a roller, down to the required thickness. If you're in for an irregular floor, then you can do it just like that. If you want a regular floor, you may consider putting 2 guides with the correct thickness on each side of the clay, to act as a stop, to better control the result.

I set the clay foil on the drawing. Now the reason for making the lines too long is obvious, as it will allow you to cut at the right place by overcoming the clay to cover all the visual guides.

Then I start cutting. I start by removing the clay in excess first, and then by drawing the slabs. At this stage, I don't dice the clay slab by slab, I only scribe them. The reason is that in my experience it is difficult to dice them all without damaging some of them and/or having unwanted irregular results.

The part goes in the oven to be cured. In this case, I overcooked it a little bit by mistake. But this is rather positive in fact, as it makes the part more brittle. Notice that the broken surfaces are not all regular. This is not a problem as you can rectify them with paper sand/a file, and that they will be mostly hidden by their neighbours.

Notice that you could also have scribed the pattern in the clay after curing, to break it the same way. I find it much easier to scribe fresh clay, personally...

At this step, if your floor is to be regular, you don't have much more to do apart from cleaning a couple of broken surfaces quickly, for making the reassembly easier. if, on the contrary, you want a damaged or irregular floor, it's time to mistreat the parts one by one. See below for more comments.

If the floor is the main element of my base, I then take a piece of plasticard that will be use to glue the tiles together. If the floor is to be integrated in a larger base, then I directly glue them where they belong.

Here's the result. I didn't try to have a perfectly regular result, but rather something that looks realistic, with the little defects you could always find almost anywhere. The reason why I break and then glue the parts back together after scribing, instead of scribing only, is that (unless you have a good tool dedicated to this) my experience tells me that one always sees when the floor has been just scribed. Either the depth is too small, or when it is large, it is not straight, because of the shape of the blade.

With a basecoat... the grainy aspect comes from the pre-shading with black paint coupled to a non-homogeneous layer of white spray. But you can easily create texture in the floor by stamping an object with the appropriate texture on the clay before baking it.

The base in situation...


Let's have a look at damaged yet regular paved floors.

I used the same technique for both the pavement and the slabs on its edge, with a couple of variations:

  • textures have been added as explained above, by stamping an object on the clay before curing. They can also be created afterwards with milliput, paint, loaded paint, ... depending on what you want to achieve.
  • full cracks (broken parts) are scribed before the baking, so that the part can actually be broken after curing. Other cracks (less deep ones) can either be done in the fresh clay or after curing, depending on the aspect that you want.
  • the vertical irregularities of the floor are achieved in two ways: you can glue elements of different sizes and shapes underneath the parts to change their vertical position with respect to its neighbors.  I tipically use small parts of plasticard of the correct thickness. If i want the part to be straight, I glue the plasticard in the middle of the slab. If I want it inclined, I glue it near an edge of the slab. You can also sand/file the bottom of the slab to make it less thick, so that it is lower than its neighbors. It's a bit longer than elevating everything when the slabs are large. But it can be useful, because it is not always possible to hide from the side the little space between the base and the slabs if you elevate them with an element in between.

Some more words about irregular floors, now (the pictures suck, sorry).

Again, the basis of the technique is the same. In this case, I wanted a somewhat medieval aspect, with parts of different sizes, different tyipes of visible damages and a general worn out aspect. The irregular pattern has been done during the scribing step. If you look closely, you can guess where the main lines were, and how they have been interrupted by changing the pattern here and there.

The worn out effect has been obtained by filing the edges and corners of each slab. It's a bit long, but the result is worth the effort.

The tiles have various heights and inclinations, obtained in the same fashion as above, but in a softer fashion. The irregularity has been increased by creating spaces between the parts (by sanding one of their edges or by moving them). Also, as you have initially broken the parts, the simple fact of rotating them around the vertical axis prevents them from fitting in their initial position; this is another trick I use.

I haven't found a miracle solution. All in all, achieving a complex result is still time-consuming. But I find the outcome worth the effort. Also, it may be long, but it is an easy process that you can do even when you are brain dead. And complexity always requires time, whatever the method. On the opposite, making regular floors can be very quick (less than an hour for the mime, baking included).

One last thing: if you make an irregular, tormented floor, make sure to arrange it in such a way that the feet of your mini fit on it, before it's too late...


  1. Tu n'avais pas déjà fait un tuto du socle de ton joueur d'épée? J'attendais que tu postes le mime sur Minicréa pour commenter... c'est classe et très personnel :)

    1. Merci. :)

      C'est possible que je l'ai déjà fait, mais je ne m'en souviens plus alors. ^^

      Je fouillerai mes archives photos. Parce que c'est dommage de ne pas illustrer la partie sur les socles irréguliers. A l'occasion, je complèterai le tuto.