Craig Hardt plays in a casual tennis league in the spring and summer, and each year accumulates a lot of old tennis balls. He knew there had to be an application in terrain building and after staring at them long enough came up with this project. In this case Craig has used them in an ash wastes style but the project could easily be adapted for Tyranid "eggs" or many other spherical objects.
Over to Craig for the instructions. Beautiful photographs by the way, Craig.
I wanted the finished product to look like the "pods" had been partially uncovered and not just some tennis balls stuck onto a base. I cut two of the tennis balls apart with my hobby knife to get 4 rough halves and cut a simple rough opening into one side of the third ball.
These were then hot glued to the masonite base with some scraps of foam to provide extra support and to give miniatures some higher ground to stand on. In retrospect I would have based two or three of the ball halves individually to provide flexibility when placing them on the gaming table.
One major task when using tennis balls is to hide the ugly seam that runs around it. The fuzzy, absorbent surface of a tennis ball looked like an excellent recipient for filler and I set about using filler to try to cover the seams. First I mixed the filler with PVA glue to get about a 10:1 filler to PVA ratio. The end result is a nice smooth, sticky mixture. This was applied to all the tennis balls and the inside of the open "pod" as a base coat and left to dry.
With layer one dry all of the "fuzziness" of the tennis balls was now a prickly, hard surface and the seam was still showing. Time for layer two. I mixed up a batch of the filler/PVA and literally slopped on a thick layer of the mix with a plastic spoon. Don't mix too much PVA glue into the filler or it will be too thin.
After rough shaping the wet filler with the spoon I dipped a soft bristled brush into some water and gently began smoothing the surface of the wet filler. Depending on how wet your filler is more/less water will be needed in the brush. As you lightly move the brush over the surface clean the brush with water as filler accumulates on it. Lumps of filler on the brush will make smoothing the surface very difficult.
The goal is not to get a perfectly smooth finish, just a mostly smooth "organic" looking effect without any big peaks/valleys. Depending on your brush technique different textures can be achieved. Have fun with it and experiment (if you make a mistake just add more filler!) Once this second layer was dry I lightly sanded the filler for an even smoother finish.
That's it for the tennis ball portion of the project. The only thing left to do was to apply a layer of sand to the base and move on to the painting.
After brushing on a black base coat I began dry brushing on the final colours. Silver for the "pods" and then shades of grey for the ground and rocks.
I also used some brown, orange and yellow wash to created some rusted areas. A final touch of flocking was added for moss/weeds and after a spray of matte sealant the project was done.
After finishing this project I thought of a few other ideas for tennis balls such as adding spikes for alien plants, giant eggs, bio-drop pods or even as small bunkers. Individually based they could be arranged on the table into strange boulder fields or massed together on a large base for a unique hill or cliff face. Have fun!