Building Table Top Gaming Items With Foam

Whether you enjoy TTRPGs (Table Top Role Playing Games) or Texas hold ’em with friends on the weekend—when you gather in person to play a game, one of the most valuable tools isn’t always the chips or the theater of the mind that makes a game memorable. It’s a combination of friends you play with, the table you play on, and the props, as well as minis depending on the game you’re playing.

When it comes to building the tabletop itself, without a proper playing surface, it’s rather challenging to host a game in person—chips bounce, cards won’t stack, area maps or board surfaces become difficult to adjust or pick up, and more. In the case of tabletop minis and terrain, they aren’t 100% necessary but can and do add so much to a game.

But what does that have to do with foam, you ask? Have you ever wanted to know about building tabletop gaming items with foam? Is it possible? Is it worth it, and is it affordable? What if we told you the answer to all of this was yes? Let’s dive in!

Try Adding Neoprene to Wooden Table Tops

What makes a Neoprene high-quality skin perfect for a gaming table? What advantages can you enjoy when adding neoprene skin to your table?

Soft Playing Surface -Neoprenes can help small objects, such as chips, minis, and dice, from bouncing wildly across the table while providing a firm and smooth surface on which paper, cardboard, or cards can be easily stacked upon. Additionally, neoprene adds a protective layer that prevents game pieces from damaging your table’s surface.

Waterproof and Durable – Neoprene is a closed-cell foam and is also the same material used to create wetsuits. This means it can wick away moisture, protect your table, and be extremely easy to maintain and clean. Compared to other material options, neoprene recovers from imprints and is resistant to compression, making it durable for gaming and use over time.

Affordable Table Top Terrain

While our imaginations can be fantastic for filling in a scene, there’s something about a painted mini charging across a table of custom-built terrain that can get a player into the scene. Tabletop role-playing games or miniature wargames are full of sweeping vistas, interesting non-player characters, foes, villains, monsters, towns, cities, and exciting terrain to visit as well as explore. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but even a well-crafted backdrop can elevate the experience for players and yourself as a dungeon or game master.

However, the negative side of having cool terrain, minis, props, and buildings can be the cost for pre-made. And while we fully believe in supporting artists and their creations, for many people just beginning in tabletop or wargames, lack of funds is often the issue, especially after rule books and player manuals have been purchased.

Fortunately for beginners and experts alike, it doesn’t have to be overly expensive. For a few dollars and some painting supplies, you could send your party or warriors into battle or mysterious ruins surrounded by hills and mountains quickly.

How? Let’s show you how to make a simple hill using foam, craft supplies, and paint.

Making Tabletop Hills From Foam

There are several types of foam you can choose to experiment, carve and build with, such as:

•             Polystyrene foam

•             Black Gym rubber / Polyvinyl Chloride

•             Upholstery foam / HD3f

•             Cross-Linked Polyethylene

•             Pink insulation foam


•             PVA glue

•             Craft knife or X-acto

•             120 grit sandpaper

•             Sand or dirt

•             Acrylic paints

•             Optional: small pebbles or slate, static grass or tufts, mini trees, filler, and so on.

All of the above foam types are easily affordable and available in sheets or custom cut. When choosing which one to go with, note that the solvents in spray paints can dissolve the material. It’s always best to hand paint or spray paint polystyrene foam with acrylics.

Gather your supplies. The base of the hills will be the foam of your choice. You’ll also need PVA glue—don’t worry, that’s not a special kind. PVA is one of the most common types, like school glue or wood glue. You’ll need a sharp knife like a craft or X-acto knife, some sand, and acrylic paint. The sand or dirt could come from anywhere like your backyard, playground, or beach. If you can afford it, you can even purchase basing supplies for fake grass and trees to add.

Trace irregular shapes onto your foam with a pencil, then cut them with your knife. Think of anything you like, such as long narrow crests, big, round hills, or just an irregular shape. You can even stack pieces. Make sure your bases are significant and that the forms you draw and cut out will fit on the more extensive base, making sure there’s room enough for either a miniature to stand or any decoration you’ll add to it.

Begin to create edges and ridges. Turn your knife and use the back edge to drag along the sides and edges of your hills. You might wish to use a regular kitchen knife or even a butter knife here. Push and dig with the knife while dragging the tool across the foam. This causes the foam to break and gives you natural-looking cliffs or edges.

Brush your PVA glue all over the surface and cover it with dirt, sand or tiny pebbles. Let the glue dry completely.

Paint or prime your hills with black. Make sure the paint gets into every deep crevice and ridge. Make sure to dry for at least 24 hours.

Once your primer has dried, it’s time to drybrush. This is a super simple technique to lighten up edges, and there are tons of fantastic tutorials online that can teach you how to do so.

Once the dry brushing is finished, you can begin to dry brush the sand and stones of your foam terrain and pile on the details as you see fit, finishing it with a coat of matte spray to keep your landscape for a long time.

At Foam Factory, we love everything about foam—from how it can protect, create, and be used in almost every situation. We hope you enjoyed learning about building tabletop items with foam!

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