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Monday, May 4, 2015

Star Wars - Making Space Mats for Star Wars Armada and X-Wing!

I like space mats. I've come to like felt over other options for two main reasons. It's "non-slip," so bumping the table doesn't result in units sliding, and dice don't go skidding into oblivion. The biggest reason for me, however, is that felt isn't reflective. I have a well lit game room so I can produce battle reports, and the glare on vinyl mats is just horrendous, which will totally negate their beauty!

For some reason, I felt the urge to learn how to make space mats! I watched tutorials on painting stars and nebulae with an airbrush and went to town. I ordered 10 yards of black felt, and a number of airbrush colors I did not own (you never need purple when you do historicals!). Here is my rough attempt at a guide--very rough. I've gotten my technique down pretty well now, and hope to sell a few handmade mats in the future. If you're interested in having one custom made, shoot me an email at Steven [at] wwpd [dot] net.

First, measure out the mat. This roll is 10 yards by 2 yards, so cutting 3' off the end is pretty simple. I am, however, hilariously bad at using scissors so I asked my wife to help get clean cuts.

We weighted down the fabric and used a guide to ensure we stayed true to the measurement.

Next, I use white to add as many stars as I can handle. I try to vary the size and spacing, but this stage is the most difficult for sure!

Next, I add gas clouds. These are much more faint in person, which adds some nice depth. I am using very bright lights here which really bring them out. I am still deciding whether I want to do the clouds first or the stars first. Having them very faintly go over the stars is kinda neat since it colors them some.

Once I've done the main white stars, I randomly pick some out and lightly spray color over them to give them some depth.

The most basic mat--just gas clouds and stars.

Wider view.

Finally, I decided it needed more texture, so I tried various methods to get small/distant stars. In the end, I used a Sonicare toothbrush with an old head to do it! Dip it in white paint, wipe off the excess, and flick that bad boy on!

That additional texture doesn't print well, but looks awesome in person.

In the wider shot it looks a lot better!

Another mat from beginning to end.
Here's a mat with nebulae from beginning to end. I start with gas clouds.

Next, I add a white base where the nebula is going.

Then, I do my nebulae with alternating colors. Please note it is nowhere near this bright in person--the camera is adjusting for white balance and so the colors look hilariously bright! In person, it's much more subdued.

Now it's time for the small/distant stars!

I really like the effect the Sonicare provides!

Now I take the white and add stars with the airbrush.

Finally, I color in some of the stars. Again, the colors are way brighter in this picture than they are in person!

The nebula looks much more like this in person.

Thanks for reading! I look forward to making more!

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