I've started working on my own expedition into EVA Foam making. I'm trying to make dungeon tiles to use with D&D.
Here's the prototype I made in Inkscape showing all the different types of tiles:
The tiles will be "low wall" style, with the dungeon walls only about a 1/2" above the floor, which makes it easier to move minis and tokens around. Unlike "high wall" style tiles, like those of Dwarven Forge.
I purchased a pack of 6, 2'x2' EVA floor mats, as well as a heat gun. My original plan was to heat the foam up, then press stones into the foam to create stone-like textures. I found that while I could heat up the foam until it was pliable enough to press stones into it, I couldn't keep the foam hot enough, long enough to press the entire piece. And if I heated up the foam again, I would lose all the details from the last pressing.
So I moved on to my alternative plan, though it was not as ideal. Heating up the rocks. Of course, heating up rocks in general is not wise, since rocks are often made of differing rock types, and each type will expand at different rates, causing the rock to crack. If there is water trapped inside the rock, it could boil, and cause the rock to explode. But by golly, if Bill Doran can use a break-away box cutter fully extended (shudder), then I can heat up some rocks with my heat gun a little.
The method I found to work best was to heat up the rock, then sandwich the rock with the foam piece between layers of plywood, then just sit on it. Sit on it for about 15-20 seconds, shifting your weight occasionally if the rock isn't perfectly flat. Then get up, and shift and rotate the foam before sitting on it again. I tried this with several rocks, and some of my test pieces of foam. Here are the results:
The biggest potential issue is that the impressions are very shallow. It remains to be seen if they will survive the sealing and painting process. I'm hoping that their deep enough that a wash will make them pop.
You can see some of the rocks off to the side that I used. My long-term plan is to score a 1" grid onto large pieces of foam, hit it with the heat gun to expand the lines, then press them on rocks. Then I'll seal them, and paint them as large pieces. Then I'll cut them into 1x1, 2x2, and 1x2 tiles, before gluing on the walls.
Here's how far I got today. I painted on 3 layers of Elmer's Glue. It's looking like the texture may stick around. I'll have to get some flat gray primer before I can move on.
As far as painting, I have some AcrylaGouache from college color theory classes. I'll see if that works with painting EVA, if not, I'll pick up some acrylics.
More updates to follow.
Primed. Ended up doing 2 layers, since there are some spots that are sort of speckled. I'll probably need to do more than 3 coats of sealant to prevent that next time. I also put the various rocks I'm using in the photo. So far I've only used the 2 on the left. The first one was used for the piece I've primed. The second one is sort of a mix of slate and granite. It's got these cool tiny striations that make for great details on the foam.
I'll start applying the Acryla Gouache tomorrow. I don't have any burnt sienna, but I have enough primary and secondary colors (and black, white, and gray) to make my own.
Sweet zigerat. Those are some awesome looking tiles! thanks for sharing!
Did some painting on Saturday. I started with a couple washes of dark browns and blacks. Then I moved to dry brushing other browns, and light grays. I also tried some reds and oranges, trying to emulate some of the sedimentary rock that you can see on the right.
Here's a close-up:
After posting an update on a Facebook group, I got a suggestion of trying the pressing in a vice. We have a decent sized vice bolted to our workbench, so I tried that last night. (no pictures yet of the results) Preliminary results are good, I was able to get much deeper impressions. However wrangling the plywood-foam-rock-plywood sandwich into the vice each time is a bit of a hassle. Also, I broke a couple of the sedimentary rocks in the process (I was expecting that to happen). So now I have some nice jagged pieces of rock, which I've found I can press into the foam by hand to add some additional detail.
I may have to try pressing some smaller rocks, perhaps gravel, though I will need to heat the gravel up. Pressing without heat tends to leave shallow impressions, or impressions that flatten out over time. I'm also going to need to do the heat sealing process before pressing, because any heat after the pressing will erase all the impressions. So far, it's looking like this will be the process: