3D Catan. Designed, 3D Printed and Painted.




Introduction: 3D Catan. Designed, 3D Printed and Painted.

The Settlers of Catan designed by Klaus Teuber is an award-winning strategy game where players collect resources and use them to build roads, settlements and cities on their way to victory. The board itself is variable, making each game a little different from the next.

We are a couple who often host game nights with our flat. We have seen custom Catan sets made frequently and decided we wanted to make our own custom designed, 3D printed and Painted set to make the game more immersive.

This instructable will show you how we turned the original Catan into 3D Catan.

Note: You must still purchase a copy of the game in order to have access to the resource and development cards.



  • PLA plastic
  • Paint (Red, Blue, Yellow, Black, White)
  • PVA glue


  • 3D printer (we used our Anycubic i3 Mega)
  • Snips
  • Hobby knife
  • Files
  • Sandpaper
  • Paintbrushes
  • Plastic lids (to mix paint)
  • Tissue paper

Step 1: Design the Models

We designed custom 3D game pieces in Blender version 2.79, an open source free CAD program. If you haven't heard of it, we highly recommend you check it out! However that is beyond the scope of this Instructable. Download Blender here: https://www.blender.org

All the hex tiles we designed are completely unique from one-another to make the game board even more immersive and detailed.

One of the files we have included for you is a blank hex tile. You don't need to print it but if you decide to learn Blender or already know a CAD program, you can use it it build your own custom tiles on top of.

We have attached all files we have created for you to use.

Step 2: 3D Print the Models

We 3D printed all our models on our Anycubic i3 Mega. The total time taken to print all the models was around ~80 hours. The amount of 1.75mm PLA filament used was roughly 700 grams.

Print settings

  • Infill: 5% (these are not structurally critical parts).
  • Layer height for hex tiles: 0.2mm (you can go lower to get a more detailed print but the time will increase)
  • Layer height for dragon/cities/settlements/roads: 0.1mm
  • Support: Only for the dragon.

Print color

You can use any colored filament. In fact all your tiles can be the same color! However if the filament color is close to the final color of the tile then bad paint-jobs are less noticeable.

There are 122 game pieces to print

  • 1x desert tile
  • 1x each of the hill/brick tiles (3 total)
  • 1x each of the mountain/ore tiles (3 total)
  • 1x each of the pasture/wool titles (4 total)
  • 1x each of the forest/lumber tiles (4 total)
  • 1x each of the field/grain resource (4 total)
  • 6x water borders (https://www.dropbox.com/sh/zmwxln4ezmj8jxc/AADnuYvWSwlxNjyWKAV_1k9La?dl=0)
  • 16x citys (4 for each player)
  • 20x settlements (5 for each player)
  • 60x roads (15 for each player)
  • 1x dragon (we thought a ferocious dragon terrorising the lands was much cooler than a robber)

We did not design or print sea tiles, harbour pieces, number discs, dice, or any of the resource/development cards because we felt these were good enough as they were.

Step 3: Print Touch-ups

When a 3D print is finished printing there are often some small issues with the part that need to be addressed including stringing and a flared base. The severity of these issues depend on how well tuned your printer is.

Here's how we processed the prints:

Remove corner discs

The reason we added small circular discs to the tiles was to prevent the corners from lifting and warping.

  • Use snips to cut off the corner discs.


Stringing occurs when the hot nozzle moves to another point within a print-layer and draws out a thin fiber of plastic.

  • Use a sharp hobby knife to remove the bulk of any stringing
  • File and sand the ends of the strings flat.

Flared base

A flared base is when the bottom few layers of the print flare outwards and are larger than they should be. This occurs when the bed is high and/or the bottom layer flow rate is too high. Bed/nozzle temperature also has an effect. We deliberately use settings like this to increase the print's adhesion to the print-surface. We would rather have a few minutes of post processing to do on the parts than have a multi-hour print fall of the bed and fail!

  • File and sand the edges of the tiles to remove the flared base.

Step 4: Test Assembly

Make sure to check that the clean-up of the tiles was done well enough that all the tiles fit together without gaps.

We were so excited to see our designs come to life and look like a complete board after so many hours of printing!

Step 5: Colour Palettes

Here are the colors we ended up using for our pieces.

Don't feel confined to what we did! Make a fluro-pink dragon or a winter themed forest!

We mixed all our colours from the primaries red, blue and yellow and used black and white to shade/tint.

Step 6: Painting: Base Coat

The base coat essentially consists of all the colours you want the tiles to have. For example, in the wool tile we wanted, white sheep, a red barn, blue water and a brown fence.

To paint the basecoat we mixed acrylic paints to make the colours needed and painted several coats as required to cover the colour of the plastic.

Use the colour palette from the previous step to see what colours we used.

Step 7: Painting: Mixing the Wash

Washes are a technique used in model painting that when applied to selective parts of a model with a small brush and allowed to flow along lines and gaps create a look of depth and shadow where the detail is too small to have its own shadow.

You can buy premade washes for painting models available here. However, since we were not too worried about attention to detail we mixed acrylic paint with tap water and used that instead. We used a 2:1 ratio of water:paint e.g. 1 of teaspoon paint to 2 teaspoons of water. However, feel free to add more or less water as desired, we printed some extras of models and tiles so we could test things like this.

Step 8: Painting: Applying the Wash

Using a soft brush dip the paintbrush into the wash and cover the parts of your model/tile you want to have shadow detail. For the cities the whole model was painted with a black wash, but for the settlement, only the ground area was painted to avoid the houses showing up too dark. After application use a tissue or paper towel to wipe off the excess. You should be left with shadows and dark areas around crevices.

Step 9: Painting: Removing the Wash

The second step for washing the parts is to wipe off the excess wash. Wipe the model with tissue paper, therefore removing the wash from the high areas of the model and leaves the dark shaded crevices.

Step 10: Painting: Dry Brushing

Dry brushing is a highlighting technique commonly used in model painting.

  • Use a wide paintbrush. Put a small amount of paint on the brush then wipe off the majority of the paint onto a piece of paper. You hardly want any paint on the brush! Dabbing the brush on the paper can help spread out the bristles too.
  • Quickly and lightly brush the model. The bristles will catch on the high-points of the model and the small amount of paint on the brush will be deposited to highlight all the edges and high-points.

You can use different coloured dry brushing on the same model to make it even more detailed.

Step 11: Painting: Details

Some details need to be applied after the wash and dry brush in order to stay bright. We have documented all the models we added a detail coat too in the colour pallet.

Step 12: Painting: PVA Water

Using PVA glue, paint a layer on all water surfaces. The PVA will dry clear and give a glossy coat to the water.

Step 13: Painting: Player Colors

To paint the player colours we decided to only paint the roof of the cities and settlements so that the detail from the wash and dry brushing was maintained. The player colours were based on the colours used in the original Catan. We used two coats of acrylic paint for each city, settlement and road.

Step 14: Final Pieces

Step 15: Board Assembly

Once everything was complete we assembled the whole board to see how it looked as a fully formed game. We think the 3D pieces and the range of colours brings a lot more depth to the game and makes it a lot more visually appealing. We are excited to try it out for the next game night!

Step 16: Review and Mistakes

Overall we think we brought more character to the game but of course, with any project, there are things that go wrong and many things that could be improved.

What went wrong:


  • Brick tiles - The orange dry brush was too light and didn't really highlight anything on the piece. Instead, we tried a white dry brush which didn't really match the tile. Finally, we went over the white with another orange so the combination of both colours seemed to capture the highlights.
  • Dragon - We used a dark purple base coat and a black wash. However, the purple basecoat absorbed all of the blacks from the wash and the dragon appeared black. To fix this we had to do a light purple dry brush to try and make it purple again.
  • Wheat tiles - The wheat tiles were originally printed yellow, however after painting the wheat fields yellow there was too much yellow in the tile. We added brown shading to the ground but it looked messy instead we decided to paint the whole ground brown and have yellow/gold wheat.


  • Trees - We originally had the trees all separate from each other. However, after printing the first tile we found the top of the tree kept falling off the trunk. To fix this we changed the model so that all the tops of the trees were connected.
  • Token size - Occasionally, we measured the diameter of the tokens wrong and printed tiles with too little area for the token to fit.

Tips and Tricks:

- If modelling your own tiles double-check all your measurements for the tiles

- Print extras of everything to test your paint colours and techniques on

- Print one tile at a time after it is modelled to ensure it prints correctly

Step 17: Finally Made the Water Tiles!

Hi everyone! its been a long time but we've finally made the water tiles for the set.
Using the same techniques described above, the base coat for the water was a dark blue, rocky edge was a mixture of light and dark grey, and the docks were a medium brown. I used two layers of paint for everything. I used a black wash, and white paint highlights for everything. Here are some pictures of the process! :)

Games Contest

First Prize in the
Games Contest

8 People Made This Project!


  • Tinkercad Student Design Contest

    Tinkercad Student Design Contest
  • Organization Contest

    Organization Contest
  • Made with Math Contest

    Made with Math Contest



6 weeks ago

Please help!!! the settlement file isn't working it says the file is not complete and wont print? please help!!!! I have printed the whole board and am just now getting to the smaller pieces, cities and roads are fine. please please help

Bees Knees
Bees Knees

Reply 5 weeks ago

Hi, That's a strange problem as I don't think anyone else has had that problem. I had never seen that error until a few days ago when someone from my local maker space showed it to me when working on a different project. It could possibly be a bug in the newest version of Cura? I just sliced the file on Cura 3.6 and it worked fine so try that?


Question 6 weeks ago

the settlement file isn't working it says the file is not complete and wont print? please help!!!! I have printed the whole board and am just now getting to the smaller pieces, cities and roads are fine. please please help


Question 4 months ago

I have started printing the tiles using raise3d pro2, I face some errors on 4 tiles that appear to be hollow. Any idea why this happens? I think that there must be an error in the .stl file

Bees Knees
Bees Knees

Answer 4 months ago

Hmm interesting. I'll admit I'm not the best modeler so there may be some non-manifold mesh issues with some of the models. You could try using the free software Meshmixer to solidify them and make them manifold. Lots of online tutorials.


5 months ago

One last question. It looks like you started out doing the various groups of tiles with a colored PLA (black for mountains, red for brick mines, etc.). Could I ask what brand of filament and the color you started with for the base to paint on? (assuming my assumption is correct and I'm not mistaken)

Bees Knees
Bees Knees

Reply 5 months ago

Yes I did used different coloured bases. The brand was sunlu. I can't quite remember the names but it doesn't really matter too much. I just used different colours because I would need less paint and I had the colours available. You could just as easily print the entire thing in white and just paint everything (maybe with an initial spray paint primer).


2 years ago

Yes! This is great, even playable without painting. Could you include the 3-D printer files for the borders as well? That would make the set perfect!!!

Bees Knees
Bees Knees

Reply 2 years ago

We haven't designed any borders yet but we will design some within the week and update the Instructable with the files.
So glad you like it!


Reply 1 year ago

Any update on the borders at all? Would be awesome to finish off the project.


Question 5 months ago on Introduction

This is a beautiful design. I’m thinking of buying a 3D printer just to do this board. A few questions:
1. Would this plan have the magnet inserts in it like you see on other plans to keep the pieces sticking together. I’m assuming not as it’s not mentioned, but I wanted to ask.
2. I agree, if you decide to make plans for the outside water pieces that would be perfect.

Bees Knees
Bees Knees

Answer 5 months ago

Hi, thanks so much for the comment! I hope you really enjoy your 3D printing journey if you decide to get into it :)

No plans to add any magnets but I've finally gotten around to creating the water pieces! https://www.dropbox.com/sh/zmwxln4ezmj8jxc/AADnuYv...
The water pieces hold together all the inside pieces nice and snug so no magnets needed!


Reply 5 months ago

NICE!!!!!!! I prefer this over magnets just to keep the complexity lower. Magnets have a "cool" factor, but if the border holds it together, then they aren't needed, and now the project is cleaner and easier IMO. Tip of the hat, nice work!!!!! Final question, any chance you'd send some pics of your finished border to see paint colors etc. (and to show it off of course!!!! :D)


5 months ago

This is really nice!!! Did you ever make the metropolis (expansion set)?

Bees Knees
Bees Knees

Reply 5 months ago

Thank you so much!
No I never made any of the expansions and probably won't due to the amount of time it takes to model the pieces. Hope that's not too saddening :(


6 months ago

@Bees Knees, I would love you forever if you made the outside water pieces. I am terrible at modeling . I found some on thingiverse which look really good but the height is not the same (4.75 mm as opposed to 4mm) and the circles where the cities go are also smaller. It would also be awesome if the outside pieces were interlocking or magnetized. (So many demands, I know)



1 year ago

Any update on the borders at all? Really keen to finish off this project nicely with some translucent blue borders.