Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Monday, July 9, 2012

How to make a quick and nasty hex mat for miniatures

A visitor to the blog, Sean, recently asked how I'd made my hex mat for the Commands and Colors:Ancients games I occasionally play, so I promised to put up a few pictures.

First, the materials.  I got the largest cork bulletin board you could find at the hardware store.  This one is 1200 x 800mm.  If you have a table of the correct size you can just use that instead.

Get some cheap, thin, non-patterned carpet.  Make sure it has a matted rather than ridged texture.  You can use any beige, green or brown colour that takes your fancy, but as you're going to spray paint it the closer it is to the colour you want the more economical it will be.  You can get loads of this type of carpet in Japan.

Cut it to the size of your bulletin board (or tabletop).

Pick up some spray paint in suitable colours to create a patchy effect.  I used about seven different sprays on a very light coloured carpet.

Note: these are not the exact colours I used.  There were about two more shades of brown...

Finally, get a dark green stain (I used wood stain) to use for the border.  This step is optional.

Next, the process.

1) Make up a hex template.  I did this by printing out hexes to the specifications I wanted (87mm from flat to flat) on paper, taping these to a piece of scrap plywood, and then drilling out the hex intersections to create the template.

2) Use a brown marker to dot the hex corners on the carpet itself and use a straight rule to mark in the hex sides.

3) Spraypaint the carpet to create whichever mottled colour effect pleases you.  I quite like the 'start out light and build up to dark' method but it uses a lot of paint - so much in fact that it would probably have been just as economical to buy a mat from Hotz.  If I were doing it again I'd use a light green base carpet and just add browns, yellows, and darker green.  It's possibly cheaper in paint to start out darker and lighten it with yellows and lighter greens.  However you do it, once you are happy with the look, you may have to redraw some hexsides that got lost under the paint.

4) [Optional] Paint in the border areas using stain.  This takes a few coats as the carpet doesn't like taking the stain very much and - depending on how picky you are - you may find yourself wanting to touch it up again after a few plays as well.

For storage, clip it to your bulletin board to prevent creases forming and simply stand it up against a wall somewhere.  If you use your bulletin board during play like I do, be aware that the frame will not support the cork very well under the weight of the lead so put some magazines between the cork and the table top during play to ward off disaster.  Slingshot journals are perfect...

So there it is.  It's not the cheapest way to do it, but I found it to be enjoyable to make, and I'm reasonably satisfied with the results.  It makes for a tough, hard-wearing surface that looks OK and unlike more sophisticatedly modelled boards which use sand, small stones, flock and so on it won't scratch the backs of your C&C:A cards (which is a very important consideration for C&C players!).

All told, I'd say it took about five or six hours to make and - give or take a spray can or two - about $100 US at the current exchange rate.  As I said earlier, if you compare that to the price of a Hotz mat you might find them to be a better option.  That said, you won't get your hotz mat next day, and spray paint may be cheaper where you are than it is in Japanese hobby shops. 


  1. First off, thanks for the excellent tutorial. I have a subconscious desire to build one myself but may just go ahead and purchase one. I think shipping to the States makes it even more economical. I might also use DIY spray paint to reduce costs if so inclined. One thing I've been trying for is a roughly 3' x 4' gaming area (~91cm x 122cm). I'm also considering a zuzzy mat and possibly foam tiles. But as usual I'm in the theoretical stage. Your tutorial will help get me past that. Thanks again.

  2. Thanks very much for this! Very inspiring. Im bookmarking this for future reference!

  3. Spray paint is guaranteed to be cheaper basically anywhere than here in Japan. Those little spray cans Aaron's showing above are just 10 cm high and go for 700 yen a pop at the local ToysRus. There are cheaper ones around here in hardware shops, but they are often not the sort of colours that work out very well, since they tend to be automotive sprays...

    I just priced out my expenses for buying some (yet more) 1:300th gear.

    Initial cost of purchasing a small order of infantry packs and some vehicles: 30 pounds, so 3700 yen plus nearly 15 pounds postage on top of that - another 1800 yen. Cost of glue, etc. to assemble various bits and bobs like turrets, plus to base them up: 200 yen. Cost of green spray for base colour: 2 cans, so 1400 yen. Fractional cost of brushes and paints to finish them off: 500 yen. Cardboard to base them: 600 yen. 8200 yen total, of which the actual lead was only 3700, so less than half. No wonder my lead purchase don't feel so bad!

  4. Thanks for your comments, gents.

    Luke: I feel your pain. We do however have the exchange rates in our favour at the moment. This though - as you rightly imply - can be a double-edged sword!


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