Making Isengard – Mountain Backdrop

The mountains behind Isengard provide a magnificent backdrop to the great Tower of Orthanc and the battles that occur there when the Ents march to their great battle with Saruman the Wizard.

The mountain backdrop to Isengard was made out of a chunk of polystyrene foam. I used a hot wire cutter to create the general shape of the mountain. Then I used the hot wire cutter to put corrugations in the surface for that mountain look.

To provide a tougher surface I painted PVA glue onto the surface and sprinkled a light dusting of sand on top.

The mountain was painted in acrylic paints after the coating had dried. The black was a 4 litre tin of liquid acrylic matt black (whatever brand was cheapest) bought from a hardware store. The paints used for touching up of black and any other colours were the range of Chromacryl Student Acrylic paints bought from an art & craft store. They are cheap but good quality and come in a good range of colours. They are the consistency of soft toothpaste so I find them easier to mix and a perfect consistency for dry brushing than compared to more liquid paints.

Rather than pay extra for textured paint, I made my own. Because of using a large tin of liquid black paint for the base coat, I did not want to make it all textured paint. But rather than mixing the sand and paint in a container, I painted the black on thickly first to an area of the terrain, then sprinkled the sand on, then with a brush wet with black paint I went back over the area to mix the sand in and make sure it was covered with black paint. I did this for two reasons. I was worried that the sand would all drop to the bottom if I mixed it with a lot of paint in a container. I also was able to control how much sand I wanted in each area (by sprinkling on more or less sand). The key to realistic terrain is having lots of subtle variations of colour and texture.

Once the black was dry, it was on to the dry brushing. At each stage the paths were gone over in the same colour several times to ensure they came up lighter than the surrounding terrain. If you look at the Lord of the Rings films, the paths are very light coloured. Dry brushing of Burnt Sienna was followed by Raw Sienna, then a 50:50 mix of Yellow Oxide and Neutral Grey, followed by just Neutral Grey and then a very light dry brush of White on just the high points to give the impression of reflected sunlight. You can see the difference each stage makes in the photos below.

Mountain 1b. Black.

Burnt Sienna.

Raw Sienna.

Yellow Oxide / Neutral Grey.

Neutral Grey.


Static grass.

Black medium cinders around base.

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