The Best YouTube Channels for Hobby Terrain
When I was getting into the hobby, most of the tips that I got came from White Dwarf magazine and that was about it. For a very brief while I bought copies of Wargames Illustrated at my FLGS, but that was hit and miss, plus it was expensive to get it in from Britain.
But now, first with the advent of painting blogs, then YouTube, then Instagram, we have an abundance of riches. There is literally so much good modeling and hobby tutorial content that I kept remembering new people to add to this list, and then cutting other from the list because I knew I couldn't just cover all of them. There is so much good stuff here.
What I'm aiming to do is to talk about the best wargaming terrain Youtube channels, knowing that I'm going to overlook some, and knowing that I can't possibly know all the many details of each. But these are the ones that inspire me and, hopefully, you.
What Are the Best Wargaming Terrain Tutorial Videos on YouTube?
Mel the Terrain Tutor
For me, hobby terrain on YouTube begins and ends with Mel Bose, The Terrain Tutor. Though his videos have dropped off in the past several months, going through his back catalog of videos is a delight, with immaculate hobby terrain boards that are specially designed for gaming. I bought his book, Terrain Essentials (which I reviewed here) and he makes this important diagram: there is a triangle with durability, realism, and functionality.
Mel Bose's terrain mostly falls in-between functionality and durability, as he is a professional game board designer. His board are purchased by game stores for tournaments and they have to last. But of all the people on this list, he does the best job of centering his work in the middle of that triangle: getting durability, realism, and functionality. Yes, he sacrifices some realism, but his stuff is really tremendously good. His book deserves a spot in any wargamer's library.
Real Terrain Hobbies
I don't know what Real Terrain Hobbies background is, whether he came from architectural modeling or railroad modeling, but he is the ultimate blend of wargame terrain with a high degree level of realism. In Mel Bose's triangle, Real Terrain Hobbies is more skewing toward realism and functionality and less, I feel, toward durability. That's not a criticism. This full castle board that he put together (that took a year and $2500 worth of Tabletop World buildings (in my opinion the best-looking wargaming scenery that money can buy) looks as good as any model railroad board, but is designed (ostensibly) for wargaming. Whether the delicate details can stand up to the rigors of continual gameplay is anyone's guess, but it looks gorgeous.
Black Magic Crafts
Black Magic Crafts is a terrain tutorial channel that was spawned not from wargaming, but from tabletop RPGs, and as such, the terrain tends to be much smaller in scope and more modular. But it is one of the most accessible channels of the bunch, and even though he is creating smaller projects than the others (instead of entire terrain boards, he'll do a half dozen pieces of scatter terrain for a game of Frostgrave or Dungeons and Dragons. He uses materials and processes that are very easy to understand and follow along with, and if you join his Patreon to become a member of the Black Magic Fellowship there's a very active community of terrain builders doing amazing things. Definitely worth putting in your YouTube rotation.
Terrainosaur is a channel that is extremely personal to me. The painter (I don't recall his name) but he has Parkinson's disease and he does all of his working with his disability, raising money for Parkinson's charity. This means a lot for me because I also suffer from a disability. But he is not great because he just happens to have a disability--he's great because he makes amazing terrain. His channel is much smaller than the others that I've mentioned so far, but he often engages in challenges with other YouTube terrain builders. His stuff is really great, admittedly on a small scale, but terrific.
Geek Gaming Scenics
Luke from Geek Gaming Scenics (formerly known as Luke's APS) is also a professional terrain maker for stores and tournaments, and he even branched out and started his own company selling hobby terrain materials. On Mel Bose's triangle, Geek Gaming Scenics comes the closest (aside from Mel) at getting to the center of that Durability, Functionality, Realism triad. Some of his best video are making incredible new full tables, but some of his are just how to turn an armature into a beautiful tree. And though he is always trying to sell you his products, his products are legitimately good and produce good results--and his instructions are easy to follow if you're still a beginner.
I'm including this one for two reasons: first, because they make great stuff, and second, because it's a very small channel that deserves a wider audience. One thing I love about MSTerrain Lab is that they take their time to build a project. They don't feel like they have to churn out an entire project in one week, or even one long video. They'll take a single project and spread it out into bite-size chunks, turning one terrain build into eight videos or more. But the stuff they turn out is terrific.
On Mel Bose's triangle, Luke Towan is to the extreme corner of realism. His stuff is incredibly realistic, to the point where you can't tell if you're looking at a photo of a real street or a diorama. Now granted, he doesn't do wargame terrain, but you can't talk about terrain builds on YouTube without a nod to Luke Towan. Just pick any one of his videos and you will immediately learn--and be astounded by--dozens of new techniques. None of his stuff are easy tricks; he gets there the perfect, exact way, which is part of what makes him so good, but also part of what makes him so hard to emulate. But for pure inspiration, Luke Towan is at the top.
Kathy Milatt is a mix between Luke Towan and a wargamer. She herself doesn't appear to have any interest in wargaming, but the things that she teaches and the terrain builds that she does expand beyond railroad scenery into military and science fiction (she did an incredible scale model of a scene from The Mandalorian). Her videos range from the incredible diorama build to the simple instructional video.
Eric's Hobby Workshop
Eric's Hobby Workshop is fun for two reasons: first, because his style is a very Necromunda Hive World, industrial terrain type of thing, and second, because he makes extensive use of found materials and items found at the dollar store. His builds tend to include large tanks, exposed girder beams, mesh catwalks, pipes, pipes and more pipes. And although he uses found objects, he also builds an amazing number of detailed pieces out of chipboard.
There are a huge number of hobby and wargaming terrain YouTube channels that I'm missing here. Leave your favorites in the comments below!