Introduction: 3D-Printed Wargaming Terrain

3D-printing is an awesome, relatively quick and extremely cheap way to produce miniatures and terrain for all your wargaming needs! Although the relative lack of detail means that 3D-printing is not yet ideal for producing your own miniatures, it is perfect for rapidly producing interesting and awesome-looking terrain pieces that can be used for a variety of purposes!

For this Instructable, we will be producing a section of trench which can be linked to more sections of trench in order to create cover for your infantry units, along with a small, creepy-looking tree that will serve perfectly as an objective marker!

Note that these designs are all designed and built to be used with 28mm (~1/56) scale figures; this is the most popular miniature wargaming scale, used perhaps most notably by Warhammer 40,000 and Warhammer Age of Sigmar.

Let's get started!

Step 1: Step 1: Gather Your Materials, Tools, and Supplies.


1. 3D-Printer & Compatible Software.

This can be almost any type of 3D-printer, as long as it is capable of printing the most common types of 3D files (.OBJ, .STL, etc.)

2. Electric Skillet.

This will really come in handy when we need to perform Acetone Vapor Deposition to get our terrain pieces to be reasonably smooth. Note that you CANNOT use any kind of heat source that involves an open flame of ANY kind.

3. Old Pot/Pan.

This will hold the acetone while we heat it.

4. Various Paintbrushes.

You want an assortment of various brushes for this project, including small, fine-tipped brushes for small details and larger, broader brushes for applying base coats. A stiff, old brush you don't much care about is also very helpful for applying texture paints.

5. Small Plastic Spatulas.

These aren't exactly required, but they are extremely helpful for applying the thicker mud texture paints that really get smeared rather than painted on. A plastic knife or fork will also work perfectly well!

6. Pliers. These will come in handy when you're performing acetone vapor deposition.

7. Latex Gloves. When performing acetone vapor deposition, you don't want to risk burning your skin, either through contact with the acetone or its boiling vapors.

Materials & Supplies

1. 3D-Printing Filament.

This is the actual material from which your terrain will be constructed. For this tutorial, make sure that you use ABS filament--this is one of the more common types of filament, and is a type of plastic which can be actually melted by the acetone.

2. "The Masters" Brush Cleaner & Preserver.

While not really a "must-have," it will do a great job of cleaning your brushes and helping to keep them in good condition.

3. The Files.

While you are perfectly free to make and print your own 3D models, there are plenty of people out there who have put in the time and work needed to create some really cool models. Here are the links to the two models used in this Instructable:

Vampire Tree:


4. Paint.

This is where you really have the most freedom to improvise in this Instructable; I had a particular look in mind for when I decided to paint these, but your vision for your project may be entirely different. In case you want to copy certain aspects of my color scheme, however, I'll go ahead and list the paints below. All of these are acrylic.

Citadel Paints:
Ushabti Bone

Seraphim Sepia

Agrax Earthshade

Nuln Oil

Ryza Rust

Nurgle's Rot

Caliban Green

Underhive Ash

Blood for the Blood God

Typhus Corrosion


Reaper Paints:

Field Grey

Concrete Grey

Vallejo Weathering Effects Paints:

Brown Thick Mud

Light Brown Mud

5. Tamiya Extra-Thin Cement. This is a clear, thin, acetone-based glue that can be used for repairs if parts of the ABS plastic pieces break off at any time. Note that it will remove any paint with which it comes into contact, so make sure you perform your gluing before you complete your beautiful paint job!

6. Hobby Knife and Sandpaper. These will be exceptionally useful for removing excess bits of plastic which often result from the 3d-Printing process.

7. Acetone. You won't need a whole lot for this process, but this does depend on the amount of terrain which you will be producing.

Step 2: Step 2: Print Your Terrain!

This part of the process will either be the easiest or the most frustrating, depending on how much your printer and computer are willing to cooperate. 3D-printing technology has come a long way, but the printers themselves are still temperamental, finicky machines that require constant supervision.

If you try to print your terrain and fail, oftentimes all you need to do is just do the same thing again and let the printer sort itself out. Otherwise, you'll just have to learn to work with your printer and figure out how to troubleshoot it through a process of trial-and-error.

Once you've got your terrain printed and looking satisfactory, though, you can move on to the next step!

Note that although the trench section seen in these pictures will end up being slightly warped, this is due to the uneven cooling of the print bed, rather than any flaw in the actual file, and can be fixed by simply switching to a different printer than the one that I used.

Step 3: Step 3: Conduct Repairs

Use your Tamiya Extra Thin Cement to repair any pieces that may have broken off; the Vampire Tree is especially prone to this, as it has a lot of very thin, long pieces that stick out from the main trunk of the tree. You also may find it necessary to sand or cut bits of plastic off the model--as I said earlier, 3D-printers are still far from perfect, and can sometimes leave small lumps of plastic sticking off of the model.

Remember to only use Tamiya Cement in a well-ventilated area, and that its fumes are extremely flammable!
Hobby knives are also extremely sharp, and can cause some serious damage if you're not very careful.

Step 4: Step 4: Acetone Vapor Deposition

This is the step in which we actually smooth out the terrain and make it look more like a quality gaming piece!

Note that you should ONLY conduct this process in a VERY well-ventilated area, and that you should under NO circumstances do this in the presence of an open flame. Acetone vapors are EXTREMELY flammable.

To begin, plug in your electric skillet and set the dial to read ~250 degrees Fahrenheit. Fill your pan with ~1/4" of acetone, set it on top of the skillet and wait until it begins to boil--unlike water, acetone boils with constant, small bubbles, as opposed to the large, roiling bubbles that you get when you boil water.

Once you reach this point, don your gloves, and, using pliers, pick up the terrain in a spot that you won't mind looking rougher than the rest of the piece--the plastic will melt and will likely be slightly damaged in this spot by the pliers grasping it.

Slowly waft the piece back and forth through the vapors, rotating it so that the acetone vapors cover the piece somewhat evenly. You really want to avoid the plastic becoming too fluid; this will create drips and runs in the plastic that will destroy the illusion.

Remember, we're just trying to melt the outer layer of the plastic so that those ugly ridges from the 3D-printing process get smoothed out!

Once your piece looks satisfactorily smooth, set down the piece and allow it to cool. Once it's smooth and hard again rather than tacky, you can move on to the next step!

Step 5: Step 5: Painting the Tree!

Now for the fun part! You get to make your terrain look however you like! If you want, you can stop reading here and go for your own color scheme. If you want to see how I got my terrain looking the way I did, though, by all means keep reading!

The first step in our process is basecoating. For this, I used Citadel Base paints. If you do decide to use Citadel paints, however, you must (almost) ALWAYS thin your paints with a bit of water. For a more in-depth tutorial on the how (and why!) of thinning your paints, check out the included video from WarhammerTV.

For the tree, I originally used two thin coats of Zandri Dust, covered with a generous layer of Agrax Earthshade wash. However, this looked more like old wood than the creepy, bleached-bone look that I wanted, so instead I painted over this with two thin coats of Ushabti Bone.

This looked much better than the previous color, so I then proceeded to use Seraphim Sepia to fill in the recessed, naturally-darker parts of the miniature--this does a great job of bringing out the details of your miniature, and making it look even more three-dimensional than it already is.

For an excellent demonstration of how to use your shade paints, check out the included video.

Once I did that, I returned to my Ushabti Bone, using this to re-paint the areas which I wanted to better stand out from the shaded parts, and with that the tree itself was complete!

Following this, I used a stiff brush and a plastic fork to apply Vallejo's Thick Brown Mud to the base--this creates a churned-up, muddy look that would look right at home in the World War I battlefields of the Somme and Verdun. Don't bother thinning this paint down--we want it to be as thick as possible!

Once your Thick Brown Mud has dried (which will take much longer than your other paints!) take a wide, dry brush, dip just the tips of its bristles, and dip them in the thick, jellylike substance that is Underhive Ash paint. Brush the bristles on a paper towel until ALMOST all the paint is off the brush, and then swipe the brush gently over the mud. This drybrushing technique will catch the raised details in the mud, and serve to give it more definition.

If you want to go the extra mile and make this thing look like it's growing from a toxic swamp, while it's still wet, hollow out a little divot or two in the mud with your application tool, let it dry, and drybrush as before. Then, paint some Caliban Green in the bottoms of the divots. Follow this up with several thin layers of Nurgle's Rot, a thin, soupy paint that will look more or less like wet snot, even when it's dry.

As a final touch, I decided to add just a little bit of Citadel's Blood For The Blood God paint in some of the interior recesses of the tree--it is called a "vampire tree" after all! I went with the idea that this thing is kind of a "bloody sponge," soaking up blood from the battlefield. As such, I put just a little of it in the round recesses in the interior of the tree, to make it look like just a little blood was seeping out. The paint, when dry, still looks like fresh, wet blood, and is by far one of my favorite paints that I own. The key is to use it SPARINGLY--if you get carried away, it will start to look fake and the effect will be lost!

And, finally, there's the finished product, with a few of my Death Korps of Krieg guardsmen standing next to it for scale!

Step 6: Step 6: Painting the Trench!

The first paint that I used for the trench was Leadbelcher, which I thinned down and then applied in two thin coats (see the previous step for the video instructions on how to do this). I used this to paint all the parts of this trench which I wanted to be metal (i.e. floors, walls).

Following this, I used some of Vallejo's Light Brown Mud, mixing it with Reaper's Field Grey and Ash Grey paints, then dabbing this all over the parts of the model which I wanted to look like dirt piled up in a berm against the side of the trench. I also went back over this with another layer of mud, also mixed with yellow and grey to give it an industrial-sludge look.

Once I was happy with how the mud looked, I covered it in Agrax Earthshade, and as that dried painted the metal with Nuln Oil. These two washes did a great job of bringing out all the details in this miniature, as well as making it look old and filthy and battered.

Because I wanted to give the mud a slightly more reddish tint, I drybrushed a bit of Ryza Rust over the dried mud, in the same way that I did with the Underhive Ash on the base of the tree. Then, as a finishing touch (because I decided that the trench STILL looked too "clean") I painted much of the inside of the trench with Typhus Corrosion, which gives a visibly grainy, filthy texture that fits in nicely with a war-torn landscape.

Finally, here is the trench, packed full of Death Korps guardsmen awaiting the signal to go "over the top" and commence their assault on the Vraks Citadel.