Here's How to Build Your Own Realistic D&D Ruins
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Are you into tabletop wargames like Warhammer, Warhammer 40K, or Dungeons and Dragons? Then why not consider making your very own amazing terrain?
Read on to find out how.
Like any project of this nature, you are going to need a few bits and bobs. For this build, you will need:
- Foam boards (e.g. polystyrene)
- Hot glue gun
- PVA glue (any will do)
- Matt black spray primer
- Acrylic paints (any brand will do, but this build used a combination of Citadel and The Army Painter)
- Various modeling tools (knife, paintbrushes, etc)
- Kitchen knife (chef-type is best)
- Some pebbles
- Metal tin or similar
- Scrap cardboard boxes
The first step is to grab the foam board and begin to cut it, using a knife, into small blocks. These will form the main "stone" blocks of the scenery piece.
You can use a variety of tools for this, but a standard kitchen chopping knife is more than sufficient. You can, if desired, consider using a polystyrene hot knife cutter, but this really is over the top.
Cut in a smooth action to get a nice cut edge.
You don't need to be too accurate with this stage, but try to make them roughly the same dimensions. In fact, the more variety you have with the bricks, the more "realistic" the final piece will look.
This will take some time, so brace yourself.
Once complete, collect the pieces, place them in a metal box with some stones, and shake vigorously to give them a "battered" and weathered texture and appearance, and to smooth off the sharp edges.
Next, it is time to build the main scaffolding and base for the terrain piece. Grab your pile of scrap cardboard -- you can use anything really, but old cereal boxes are great.
Using your kitchen knife again, cut the boxes to make various shapes of walls. Let your imagination run riot here. Include doorways, windows, ruined sections, etc, as you see fit.
Thinner cardboard is easier to handle and hide with your foam bricks, but regular cardboard boxes can also be used.
A handy tip is to paint the cardboard black before the next step. This will save you a ton of time when you come to priming or base coating the model terrain later.
Next, make some bases for your lovingly crafted buildings and affix them using your hot glue gun. Try to make the building's overall layout look somewhat plausible -- but it is completely up to you.
Try to also keep the bases fairly small to allow you to assemble them into complexes on the tabletop. Again, this is completely up to you.
By making the bases only big enough to allow the buildings to stand, you will also save on paint, flock, etc, later down the line.
Next, it is time to clad the cardboard walls with your cache of foam blocks. "paint" each surface using PVA and individually stick each block to it.
This will be a time-consuming task, but it is very rewarding in the end. Take your time and enjoy the process. Cover all edges, except the base, and ensure you hide the cardboard skeleton underneath.
The next step is to add some ground texture to the buildings. You can do this with a variety of materials including sand, small pebbles, bark, moss, etc, that can you gather for free from a place called the "outdoors".
Use this as an excuse to get close to nature for a few hours. Pine bark works very well, for example.
You can chop this up using your kitchen knife.
If you opt for materials like bark, you can separate out the different grain sizes uses a basic sieve. Once you've gathered the flooring texture you want, stick to the base as shown in the video and to your own design.
Like the walls, this will take some time so enjoy making your own fantasy world. It is usually a good idea to place larger debris first, and then finish off with smaller bits like flock or sand.
But the way you do this part is completely up to you.
Let's get ready for the next phase -- painting!
Once the PVA has cured, it is time to make your buildings look realistic. Grab your acrylic paints, including primer, and get ready to make some magic happen.
The first step is to prime, or base, all of your model terrains. You can either paint by hand or use a spray primer to save a little time.
Painting by hand is preferable as you get into all the nooks and crannies with ease. Be sure to think down your paints with some water so the paint runs nice and even. You can add some PVA glue to the black undercoat too.
Next, mix up some dark brown paint (thin with water) and apply liberally to the base. You may also want to consider painting a few random bricks on the walls too to simulate different stone types -- but you don't have to.
This will act as a sort of wash on the base and give it some lovely visual texture when dry.
Next, mix up some grey, and light blue, and paint the blocks and any stones on the base. The less monotone the walls, and floors, the better the final look.
Don't obsess too much on this stage, you will be applying washes and dry brushing lighter shades later if you make some mistakes.
Next, take a larger brush and dip into some grey paint. Wipe off the excess and "overbrush" all the bricks on the walls.
Try to let some of the black undercoats seep through. You can practice this step on a textured surface like some toilet paper, or even your hand if you don't want to "ruin" your ruins.
But, again, you can use thinned black, or dark grey, paint to "wash" the surfaces later on to restore some tonal depth.
If you like to paint miniatures, then enjoy this step -- it is very cathartic. Also, take the time to over brush some parts of the base too.
As always, when it comes to painting miniatures, make sure the previous layer of paint is dry before applying the next unless you want paints to mix and run, of course.
Next, on to the main event -- dry brushing!!!
Mix a tan color using white, brown, and green. Remove most of the paint from the brush, and begin to firmly dry brush all surfaces of the walls and applicable base sections.
Dry brushing, as a technique, can take a little practice if you are a novice, but the investment of time learning it is very worthwhile.
Pro-tip here, older brushes with splayed hairs make excellent brushes for this technique -- just make sure the paint is basically dry before applying (you can remove excess water by dry brushing toilet paper or kitchen towel).
You may need to go over surfaces a few times for a nice even coverage. Depending on the look you are after, you can keep toning the tan color up with white and dry brushing all areas over, and over.
Next, it is time to make the wooden parts of the terrain.
Popsicle sticks are a great material for this, but you can also replicate them with strips of cardboard. The former, however, has natural wood grain for you to take advantage of. Cut or snap into shape, and affix to the ruined buildings using PVA glue.
For this build, the floors are intentionally "shabby" and makeshift, but you can design as you see fit. Once you are happy, coat them with a brown wash or commercial wood stain.
While the paint is drying, you can now apply some flock (if desired) to the bases. Apply watered-down PVA glue to the areas you want the flock to be applied, and evenly spread the flock over the area.
You can use old cooking spice jars for this.
You can either use commercially-available flocks or make your own. Try to use several different shades of the flock to give added depth to the model.
For added realism, add some flock to certain spots on the wall too. You can also add other materials like moss.
Leave to dry.
Now it is time to make the wooden sections look awesome. Use some dark brown washes to stain the wooden sections using either a sponge or a brush.
Again, you can use commercially-made ones, or make your own by thinning paints down with water.
If you want to add some other details, you can make mushroom-like pieces using beads of hot glue. Simply make small blobs on some greaseproof paper, let dry, and then paint as desired.
Make some stems using small pieces of matchstick, stick the mushroom caps to them, and then the entire mushroom to strategically selected places on the bases.
Of course, you can skip this step if you want to.
The next, and final step, is to add some washes to the walls and bases. Dilute some brown paint with water, and apply to the walls and bases -- try to focus on the lower sections of the wall.
You can also add a darker brown wash to the wooden planks too.
With that done, your new terrain is effectively finished. You can go further and use weathering powders, etc, to the model but that is completely your decision.
Now, you just need to set up a wargame to show off your hard work! Well done you.