Creating Textures – Mud

The second instalment of our creating textures blog series will be taking another behind-the-scenes look at how we develop props and spaces using textures to create immersive experiences. In this post we’ll be telling you about how we created mud to be used on the floor and in plant plants for two different experiences. It’s an easy method that can be used by anyone wanting to know how to create a mud floor. The mud floor covers an “outdoor” space in the game ‘Pudding Lane’ at TimeTrap Escape Rooms and the plant pots were created for a stand-alone puzzle in The Botanist in Reading for the ‘12 Pubs of Christmas’ event in December 2019.

As described in the previous blog post about creating a cobbled floor, much of the ‘Pudding Lane’ game is set outdoors but is built inside. When creating a second “outdoor” space we wanted to contrast what players had already seen. We aimed to create an immersive environment that saw the players move from a street scene to a garden scene, we did this by using contrasting textures and focusing on outdoor elements that would differentiate the spaces from each other. A large part of this contrast was the different floors, the hard-wearing cobbled floor on the street is vastly different to the mud floor of the garden courtyard.

The first step in creating the mud floor was to think about how we could create a texture that looked like mud but was dry and could stand heavy traffic without being tracked through the rest of the experience. The texture we were aiming for was not smooth, we wanted to create realistic bumps and grooves on a floor that was uneven but had a natural give. For this we used a combination of brown paint, PVA glue and two sizes of broken up pieces of cork all mixed together. The cork gave the desired texture, the paint created the main mud colour and the PVA held the mixture together. The courtyard is a raised space we have built in the existing room to create a new floor, ceiling and walls. By using glue as one element of the floor we were able to apply it directly to the wooden floor as the mixture would stick, it also provided a degree of protection to the floor as it prevents too much chipping over time. We mixed the ingredients in a large flexi-tub and then applied to the floor by hand, packing each handful into the next, like you would with real mud. Over the course of us finishing the the build of the experience the tops of the cork wore down and created a natural variation of colour in the mud.

This technique proved very successful, so much so that we repeated it for a second time. The ’12 Pubs of Christmas’ event saw 12 stand-alone puzzles in pubs throughout Reading town centre. Each puzzle was themed to its venue, one of which being The Botanist. This puzzle involved plant samples in a number of small plant pots. Whilst we could not use real mud for the same reasons as before (too messy and not hard-wearing) we still wanted the pots to look and feel realistic. This puzzle involved some tech in the form of a maglock, an electro-magnetic lock which will be released when a read switch is triggered. To release the maglock we needed some plant pots to contain hidden magnets which is where the mud came in useful. We added a thin layer of the same mud mixture to the bottom on the plant pots, covering the holes which were sealed with a small amount of hot glue, and then inserted the magnet so it wouldn’t be visible from underneath. Once this was dry we were able to fill the plant pots to the desired level which disguised the magnets. The PVA element of the mixture meant we once again had a flexible end result that also staying in place inside the pots. We decided to fill the plant pots completely instead of creating a shelf at the top with a layer of mud on as this gave the pots a realistic weight.