3D Printing Blog

Painting Terrain – So Easy Even I Can Do It!

Very picture-heavy post this week. I’ve once again been ignoring the design work in front of me while I focus on something with more immediate benefits – painting my Fat Dragon dungeon tiles. Fat Dragon Games has been around for a while, creating printable scenery files. Initially as good old paper-based gear, and more recently (but still for a few years) as 3D-printable designs.

I’ve been printing these Dungeon tiles ever since I got my printer. Indeed, it was the primary reason for the purchase. So I thought it was about time that I got on with it and turned the boring, bare plastic into something that looks a bit more fit-for-purpose. Over the last week I’ve had some time to have a go, so I present to you…

A Talentless Tight-Arse Guide to Painting Terrain – in pictures!

Throughout the post, remember to click/tap on the images for their full-size glory. This is not a full tutorial, as such. That’s much better done on video. Plus, there’s so many tutorials out there that I’m not even going to do you the favour of providing links. Go forth, seek, and ye shall find. Rather, this is just a brief outline to show you the kind of detail you can get for only a little bit of effort – definitely within the realms of an amateur painter (after all, that’s all I am myself!).

First, the finished product. Forgive the nonsensical dungeon layout – I had to make do with the pieces I had finished for the shot. Painting terrain is definitely quicker than painting miniatures, but it still takes a little patience. It’s pretty straightforward though –  structures and scenery are a lot more forgiving detail-wise.

I’ve done a few terrain pieces in the past, and found that I was using up my precious Vallejo paints way too quickly. Those things are expensive! So off I trotted to the kid’s craft supplies cupboard and found these few paints. They’re all roughly $2.50 at whatever form of cheap dollar store you have around your area. And they ended up working surprisingly well. A little thicker than the Vallejo paints, but that actually works in our favour when dealing with terrain. We’ll be applying thicker layers here than we would on miniatures, and a thicker consistency of paint lends itself to this.

Firstly, you should probably prime your pieces with a basic primer spray. I did that for these pieces (Rustoleum 2X Grey Primer), but neglected to get a shot of them at the time. Once they’re primed, slap a coat of plain black acrylic all over them. Starting with a black coat allows the deep crevices to look nice and shadowy before we start adding our colours.


Same pieces, different angle. You can see here that there are several different filaments I’ve used (the orange is PETG, the two different greys and the green are all PLA). Compare the colours with the shot above, and you can see that you can very easily hide your base plastic colour with a primer and a base coat.


Once I’d done the base coat, I added a basic grey to all the brickwork – both the walls and the floor. I used a 2:1 white:black mix to get the grey colour I wanted. I used a fairly wet brush for this, but applied it with a traditional dry-brush stroke technique. Do NOT mistake this for actual dry-brushing, though. My brush had waaaaay more paint on it. You want to leave behind a good dab of paint, without actually dropping globs behind you. Each tile only takes about 30-40 seconds. Just a quick lick on each.


Different, slightly closer shot of the same step. The benefit of our dark base coat shows through now. You can already tell the edges of bricks vs shadows in the deep spots.


Oops. Remember how I said not to leave globs of paint behind? If you do, you’ll end up looking like the piece on the right. You can see that I’ve used waaay too much paint here. Never mind – we can hide some of this with additional steps, and what we can’t hide doesn’t really matter. This is all about bang for buck and getting pieces to the table, not winning awards.


Now we want to add some character – pick a few bricks on each piece and paint them in another shade. I used the “burnt umber” from the earlier picture. For the most part, I did 3-4 bricks per wall segment, with curves or corners getting extra.


Next step is more of the same, but with a different colour. You don’t want to make it garish with wildly different tones, so I used a 2:1 white:burnt umber mix to create some lighter bricks. I applied this in about the same proportion – 3 to 4 bricks per piece.

I actually missed taking a photo of the previous step, so the following shot actually has another step included. The highlighted bricks stood out rather well and looked a little out of place, so I applied a very thin layer of white over the walls. This time, it’s much much closer to a dry-brush technique. This top layer helps tie the different colours together and make them belong a bit. The white is obviously going to be a lot brighter than the grey, so you want to be very careful here that you don’t overdo it.


This is where I moved away from the craft paints, and busted out one of my Vallejo pots (72.155 Dark Charcoal) for a quick layer slapped over the floor. This helps separate the floors from the walls, making them a bit darker in comparison. After all, the floors are going to be covered in grime from countless centuries of settling dust and creature’s footprints. They’re not going to be as clean and bright as the walls.


Another shot closer up. You can most definitely see the layers from the printer, but again – this is for table play, not for winning awards. The layer lines on the walls are fine – they kind of fit with the worked-stone construction method of the dungeon bricks. I’m not especially impressed with the floor surface though – it’s very stringy and not especially smooth, but I’ve since observed that this tends to appear on the PETG tiles I’ve printed. It’s still there to some extent on the PLA material, but not nearly so noticeable. Guess I know which material I’ll be using for my tiles going forward.


And there we go! All done! Ten tiles did take me a while (probably 4 hours or so), but I was also learning as I went and taking notes for this article. I’m sure that I’ll be able to reproduce the result with the next 60 tiles I have waiting already, and the roughly 300 more that I need to hurry up and print….

With any luck this will add another layer of immersion to the game when I finally get enough painted and finished. Really can’t wait to get my players through this.

Remember, click the photos for a much larger zoom to check out the details. They’re a very long way from perfect, but I’m really happy with the time/effort/money combination that has gone into it.




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