Monday, 18 August 2014

Fungus among us - mushroom tutorial.

Time for a little tutorial again. The last couple of months I've been messing around with a lot more fantasy-oriented miniatures. Recently Antimatter Games's ShadowSea (link) and Tor Gaming's Relics (link) have really become the focus of my more intensive conversion projects with lots of basing work going into every mini and their base.
In particular I've been trying to add a little bit of extra atmosphere to the minis, trying to theme bases in an underground, fungal forest (part of the ShadowSea setting) and an late summer/autumn forest for my Relics Orcnar forces. As a result I've been adding a lot of mushrooms to my bases. Bit fiddly to work with, also adding quite a bit of extra painting time, but the end results are quite lovely.

At first I started out using the few mushrooms I had available from such kits as GW's Night Goblins range. Quickly ran out though and it would get rather expensive to pick up loose bits given the amount of mushrooms I'd be using. The same goes for the various resin variants out there, so I figured I might as well give it a go myself.

- Modelling putty, preferably Green Stuff.
- Superglue.
- Little bit of water.
- Piece of plastic to shape the mushrooms on.
- Optional: shaping tool.
- A bit of patience.

I'll go through how to make the simple, pointy mushrooms first, with some other suggestions for variants after that. Two important things to note though, first off this can be pretty fiddly work. We're handling rather small blobs of green stuff, applying them in tight corners and small fingers are quite beneficial. So for the larger-handed hobbyists among us some extra tools may be helpful.

Worst case scenario, there's always a more petite spouse or child you can strong arm into lending a hand, or at least three fingers ;-) So having a few, thin tools around just in case can be quite handy. Personally I rather like using clay shaper for a little bit of extra help when needed, though the good, old cocktail stick works just as well.
Secondly remember to keep your tools and finger moist while handling the green stuff. Makes it much easier to smoothen the putty, prevents it from sticking too much to your fingers and makes it easier to manipulate those small putty pieces once they need to go into the tight corners on the base. The individual parts are generally light enough that they stick to a wet cocktail stick just fine, makes it much easier to move them around in tight places. Right onto the mushrooms!

1. Start by mixing some putty, preferably green stuff as it doesn't harden as rapidly as brown/gray stuff, and make as many little blobs as the number of mushrooms you want to make. A little bit of size variation only benefits the end result, so don't worry too much about all blobs being the same size.

2. Take a blob and roll it in into a little ball, next take the ball between your fingers and gentle press it down unto a piece of spare plastic. Not a lot of pressure is needed here, the ball simple needs to be lightly attached to the temporary plastic base in a cone-shape.

3. Next, making certain your fingers are still slightly moist, move your thumb and index finger together in an upward motion. Doing this several times will emphasize and smoothen the cone-shape of the putty, while remove any fingerprints or cracks in the putty.

Personally I have fairly small hands and fingers, so a normal square piece of plastic to temporarily mount the mushrooms heads on work well enough. If you have bigger fingers, or want smaller/thinner mushrooms, using a narrow piece of plastic, or even your fingernail, does wonders. It can be a bit more challenging to get the mushroom head off your fingernail without damaging it, so a bit of trail-and-error may be required. I can't imagine this combining all to well with nail polish either.
4.  Once you have enough mushroom heads leave them to dry for 2-3 hours till the putty has hardened. The heads can now safely be removed from the surface you let them dry on, usually by just pushing them off by applying some pressure with a finger or nail.

For the mushroom stalks simply mix a bit more green stuff and roll small tubes. Add a little drop of super glue to the surface the mushroom will be added to and hold the tube to it. Green stuff reacts rather rapidly with super glue so in a matter if seconds the tube should be stuck to the base. The rest of the tube remains flexible till it cures though, so you can easily use a tool such as a cocktail stick to correct the angle of the stalk if needed.

Leave the stalks to dry for a little bit, about 20 minutes works well for me. Now add another tiny drop of super glue to the top of the stalk and attach the mushroom head. You have a couple of seconds to correct angle etc., but the two parts will get a strong connection quite fast. Rinse and repeat till you have enough mushroom on there to your liking. Leave everything to dry for a bit and get those brushes and paint out!

I. Toadstool:
Instead of making the mushroom head first and attaching it to the stalk, you can also reverse the process to get a more classic-toadstool shape. In this case you can simply apply a drop of super glue to the top of the stalk and attach a blob of green stuff. Let the blob harden a bit and then use your wet fingers in a downward, spreading movement. This will slightly broaden the mushroom head, while the tip will be more subtle than the variant above.

II. Flat-shaped mushrooms / tree fungi:
A completely different approach is to simply take little balls of green stuff and using your wet finger to flatten them into little disks. Once dry you can once again gentle push them off the plastic and attach them to mushroom stalks. Or, my personal favorite, attach them directly, horizontally to a tree to make a nice patch of tree fungus.

One of the rather cool things is that there are a ton of different types of mushrooms in real life. So as long as you avoid getting fingerprints on there by keeping your tools and/or fingers slightly moist, a lot of basic shapes will work fantastically after a bit of paint gets slapped on there. Little mistakes and diverging shapes actually add a lot of extra character, so don't feel like each mushrooms should be perfect or even the same shape. Just have fun with it, nothing wrong with a bit of mushroom experimentation right!


  1. This is a very nice tutorial, very useful for numerous games. Thank you for posting this up!

    1. My pleasure, had a lot of fun experimenting with different shapes.

  2. I would like to discuss commissioning you to make me a lot of mushrooms and maybe other terrain as well? How would I contact you to discuss details?

    1. Hi Monkplayer. Apologies for my slow response, I've only recently managed to get some time set aside again for my blog and my mail apparently decided to dump comment notifications in mu junk folder.

      I'm afraid my hobby time is rather limited these days, so commission isn't really an option right now. I still wouldn't have the time to do any commission pieces justice, which would be a shame. On the plus side, a lot of these little terrain pieces are fairly simple and cheap to make. Making for great hobby and learning projects, really worth giving a shot yourself! It's a lot of fun to see things come together you've managed to build yourself!

  3. I might be interested in dungeon dressing terrain as well?