I’ve had several inquiries as to how I made the smoke columns seen in the pictures from my games marking everything from burning tanks to exploding aircraft. The last time I added to the collection I took a bunch of pictures, so the following is a photoessay of how I produced these game aids. It is really pretty easy and quick to churn out a couple of dozen.
Grey Foam – I scavenged mine from computer component boxes.
Paints – Black, Grey, Red, Orange, Yellow. Cheap craft paints are perfect.
Beer – optional but highly recommended.
Scissors, needle nose pliers, disposable cup, paint brush.
1. Open the beer, consume when required. Repeat as needed.
2. Cut the foam into rectangular columns about twice as wide as the desired finished width of the smoke columns
3. Cut the corners off the rectangles to make roughly octagonal columns
4. Use the needle nose pliers to grab a small bit of the foam. The exact size can (and should) vary and will depend on the size of your smoke columns.
5. Continue to pull out small bits of foam in a row, moving in a spiral around the foam column
6. Example of a row of removed foam in progress.
7. Continue spiraling the row of removed foam around the column from one end to the other
8. Rotate the column 90 degrees and start another row. Repeat the process to create another row of removed foam roughly parallel to the first.
9. Continue to rotate the column and start new rows. Eventually you will begin removing foam from between previous rows and the column will become rounded.
10. A rounded column at the end of the foam-plucking stage. As you complete the column, taper or round over one end while keeping the other more or less flat
11. Be prepared to generare a significant volume of waste foam. Having a trashcan nearby is handy.
12. Flip the column over to it's flat end.
13. Glue a washer to the bottom of the smoke column to provide some weight and allow it to sit upright.
14. Dilute some cheap black craft paint in water in a disposable cup. Once the glue is dry on the washer, dip the foam column in the dilute paint. Squeeze the foam to get the paint into the spaces.
15. Set the columns aside for the paint to dry. The dilute paint will run out, so be sure to place these on something dispoable or that you are willing to get black paint all over.
16. If you want some extra heft on the bottom, fill the space of the washer with lead shot, BBs, or some other suitable heavy objects,
17. Place a self-adhesive felt disc over the washer. This will allow you to set the smoke columns on your vehicles without screwing up the paint. It also serves to hold in whatever heavy stuff you added.
18. Paint the bottom of the smoke column with a little red, orange, and yellow to get a burning look. More subtle is better here as it will look like flames as seen through a pall of smoke.
19. Drybrush the rest of the smoke column with grey
Most of my smoke columns are 1/2″ to 1″ in diamter and 2″ to 3″ tall, but I think the technique would work equally well for larger smoke columns suitable for 28mm and if you were willing to use tweezers, probably even for making smaller microarmor size .