Scenery supplies 101

Yesterday I put up a post about a large scale scenery project I am working on. You can read all about it here.

Today I thought I’d kick my coverage off by going through some basics and what better place to start than the raw materials that will go in to scratch building scenery pieces.


Blue foam

If you’re serious about scratch building some scenery your number one friend will be this stuff.Foam1

It’s not always blue, another place near me sells it in yellow, but short story you’re after extruded polystyrene (XPS) foam.

It’s more expensive than white polystyrene foam but I find it produces a much better end result. It takes cutting and sanding much better and has the added bonus of being more rigid.


MDF board

I use MDF board as bases for scenery pieces. You can pick up large sheets of it from just about any hardware store fairly cheaply.

PLEASE NOTE: There are legitimate concerns around long term exposure to MDF sawdust. I implore you to use appropriate safety equipment when cutting it.

When you’re gluing or painting it, be cautious. If you coat one side of a piece of MDF in something wet, like paint or a large amount of PVA glue, it may warp. You can easily avoid this by painting the opposite side while the first side is still wet. I’ll try and remember to show this when I’m working on a piece in the future.



There’s probably a hundred different brands of this stuff. It’s the same product you use for patching holes in plasterboard walls either way.


I’ve used this one in the past because it’s a conveniently sized container and dries quickly. For this project however I’ll go through a container like this in no time at all so I’ll probably grab a more industrial sized container shortly.



There’s a few different ones you’ll need here:

  1. PVA glue / white glue / wood working glue – whatever you want to call it, it’s the same thing really. I happen to also try my hand at wood work every now and then so I have a 4L bottle of the stuff that I ration out into a smaller squeeze bottle whenever needed.
  2. Something a little stronger – PVA glue will stick a lot of things, but it does have a couple of down sides. It dries relatively slowly when used in bulk and if you’re sticking something to MDF board then it can warp the board. I use Liquid Nails at times. It’s a construction adhesive that will glue pretty much anything to anything.
  3. Hot Glue – On occasion I use a Hot Glue Gun at times. Benefits are that it sets almost instantly so is great for quick bonding.
  4. Super glue and glue for plastic – self explanatory, used for GW kits or otherwise.



There is a number of options here.

You can buy it specifically from hobby stores but I tend to find it’s quite pricey when you do this. You can buy it in bulk from a garden supply store or hardware, but I find that it’s not very ‘clean’.

The best option I’ve found for sand that balances quality, quantity and price is actually from a pet store.


This stuff is $20 for a 5kg bag, easily enough for most projects. It’s relatively ‘clean’ as in it doesn’t contain a lot of dust or junk like bags of regular sand and the particle size is about right.


Rocks and Gravel

For this I hit up my local hardware and garden supply store. For the Aussies reading this, go to Bunnings. Anywhere else I’m afraid I don’t really know the stores, but I imagine there will be options everywhere.

Above there are 4 different options providing a range of sizes.

The top two are Bonsai materials and a 1kg bag will set you back about $6. Screenings are another step up in size. It’s a bit hard to tell in the photo but in terms of scale it would be a medium sized boulder compared to a 28mm scale human I’d say.

the last container is a mixture of pieces I’ve collected. The larger grey pieces are from a bag of decorative garden path rocks and the smaller ones I picked out of a pile of concrete mix that I had delivered for another reason.

You can always go hunting in nature for rocks to use but I will caution you that some areas and places have rules about not removing stuff etc. I don’t care what you do personally but just be mindful.


Something a little more exotic

Next up I went hunting for something a bit more interesting. I found these in a section dedicated to ‘decorative potting supplies’.

Sea Glass is exactly what the name suggests, glass that has come from the ocean, it gets worn down so it looses it sharp edges but would do great as large crystals. The other bag is filled with clear pieces probably about 1.5cm across. They’re irregularly shaped and again would look great for crystals of some sort.

I have specific plans for these, but more on that later.



I really like the Citadel Wood kit from GW – nice trees! But if you’re after a little variety, which I am, then you need to ‘branch out’…

The top two are fake aquarium plants I found in a pet store. You can find hundreds of listings for this type of stuff on eBay.

Bottom right is aquarium plants yet again. These I actually bought myself from eBay a couple of weeks ago. They’re listed as ‘aquarium ground cover’. They’re basically a sheet of small plants in a grid. You could easily cut each one off to make individual small plants.

Jungle table anyone!?

Finally a selection of artificial cacti. Again these were spotted at a pet store you can find them on eBay and the like easily enough. If you’re considering a desert table, why not use something like this in place of regular trees?


Other odds and ends

Finally on my shopping trip today I had a look at aquarium ornaments.

The grey piece on the left I can picture as an interesting rock formation. The piece on the right, the remains of a giant dead tree perhaps?


Keep your eyes open!

I guess what I’m saying is, look around, see what you can find and re-purpose. Everything I’ve listed here I found at only two different stores and a quick look at the basics I already had in mind.

Nothing here is overly expensive except the ornaments at the end. They roll in at around $20 each retail, but I’m confident I’ll find them cheaper online.

I have a few more raw materials that I am working with which I’ll detail in the near future, but for now, this is the basics.

As usual, thanks for reading!

3 thoughts on “Scenery supplies 101

    1. I’ve used cork bark tubes before, but I rarely use the sheets of cork. Just a personal preference I suppose. If you want something to look like a rock, why not use an actual rock? 🙂

      Bark is an option for sure, I just haven’t found a reliable local supplier where I am. Seem to only be able to get really small pieces. It’s something I’m on the hunt for though.


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