Introduction: Turning a Cardboard City Into a Warhammer 40K Terrain

About: I studied electronics at school and in the last years I have become passionate about: mechanical design, Arduino IDE, Raspberry Pi, Stepper motors, LED lights, cybersecurity, web development, Adroid App develo…

Hello artists!

I have a great story to tell you today!

A maker friend of mine invented a series of super cool articulated cardboard robots called "Kurt.1", which you can admire in their greatness in the pictures. However, this is not an Instructable about building a robot but about building their cardboard city, which was afterward converted into a post-apocalyptic Warhammer 40K terrain. If you would like to build the Kurt.1 cardboard robots you may find the guide in this Instructable.

Initially, the reason for building the city was that we needed a display for the cardboard robots to show them at a local fair. After a lot of cutter work and a couple of sleepless nights we had it: a real cardboard city ready to be the battlefield for the most epic cardboard robot fight of our times.

After the fair we decided to give the city a new usage and look converting it into a Warhammer 40k terrain, which we could use for our Spacemarine never-ending wars.

Unfortunately, I do not have many pictures of the development of the project but I will explain the techniques used in great details for each step.

Let's jump straight into the steps of this modelling art project!!

1) Raw materials: lots of cardboard!

2) List of Cardboard City buildings

3) Building the factory

4) Building the highway

5) Building the One Canada Square skyscraper

6) Building the water tank

7) Central cardboard city: now complete!

If you would you like to keep the cardboard city this way, stop here! If you would like to convert it in a Warhammer 40K fallout city, go ahead with the following steps.

8) Materials needed for converting the city

9) Masking and plastering

10) Adding craters and debris

11) Coloring

12) The end

ATTENTION: cutting so much cardboard implies using the cutter a lot, be careful when you use it!!

Step 1: Raw Materials: a Lot of Cardboard!

- cardboard in different sizes and thicknesses

- cardboard tubes of different diameters

- honeycomb flexible cardboard

- corrugated cardboard for packaging

- thick and firm honeycomb cardboard in different thicknesses

- toothpicks

- glue gun (extensively used to join all the pieces)

Step 2: List of Cardboard City Buildings

  • The half-collapsed skyscraper
  • The tall "cake slice" skyscraper
  • The metal sheet shed
  • One Canada Square
  • The factory
  • The wooden shed
  • The highway
  • The water tank

Step 3: Building the Factory

The Chimney

The main structure of the factory was obtained from a cardboard tube with a diameter of 10cm cut in half lengthwise and the chimney was made out of a tube 5cm in diameter. The roof and the banisters were made of corrugated cardboard. To make the smoke coming out from the chimney we made a support structure with thick cardboard, a sort of big cardboard bracket, then we wound around it brown paper and we fixed it with sellotape and glue.

Emergency stairs

Each flight of stairs was made separated and the final metal emergency staircase was assembled gluing together the flight of stairs and small rectangular cardboard used as landings. To simulate the stair steps we glued corrugated cardboard there.

The railing

The railing running around the factory is of honeycomb flexible cardboard and there is a cardboard street lamp on the corner.

On the top of the factory, grabbed to the chimney, there is Steampunk Kurt.1 with a cardboard airplane in his hands mimicking King Kong.

Step 4: Building the Cardboard Highway

The highway lays on a base of 10cm cardboard tubes to simulate massive pillars of cement and has some thick honeycomb cardboard pieces as side reinforcement structures.

The highway twists with a sharp turn around the contemporary sculpture. The base and the sides of the highway are made out different types of cardboard: the road is made of slim cardboard and the sides of thick ones.

On the highway overpass there is ED-209, the villain, which is terrorizing the whole city and destroying everything at its reach. Do you recognize it? This robot is inspired from the enemy robot in RoboCop.

The sculpture - which ended badly as it was eventually destroyed and welded as a bat by Steampunk Kurt1 during the epic robot battle - had been made of corrugated cardboard.

Step 5: Building the One Canada Square Skyscraper

In the city I included a cardboard building inspired from the iconic One Canada Square building in London Canary Wharf.

For comparison there is a pictures of the looming skyscraper I took in the London financial district and an aerial view of its cardboard replica with its distinctive pyramidal roof.

The building was made starting from a rectangular box where a few windows were opened. A triangular roof and cardboard strips were added to aesthetically emphasize the windows and to give a more austere look to the whole facade.

Corrugated cardboard was used to simulate the blinds at the windows. It is a very versatile cardboard type as it was also used to replicate the metal canopy and the roller shutter of the shop located at street-level.

Step 6: Building the Water Tank

The water tank was the last addition to the city and ended up replacing the old contemporary sculpture, which had been destroyed and used as a bat by Steampunk Kurt.1 during the Armageddon.

We wanted to give the water tank the far-west look.

Building the tank is simpler than what it looks: you just have to cut several cardboard strips and glue them together to form the steel beam structure. The tank itself comes from a cardboard pipe 10cm in diameter and the roof is cut from corrugated cardboard. Also the ladder comes from small and thin strips of corrugated cardboard. The railing at the base is made with the usual honeycomb flexible cardboard which gives it a nice realistic look.

Unfortunately, being a water tank, this one lacks its main purpose: it really cannot be filled with water :)

On the background of the picture you can see two cardboard masterminds, my friends Emi (the inventor of cardboard robots) and Manu, in action assembling a robot!

Step 7: Central Cardboard City: Made!!

The cardboard city is now ready to display a spectacular robot fight.

In the first picture you can see all the people that gave all their heart, their mind and their sweat for this project: Emi, Manu and me.

If you feel bad about turning this brown city into a desolated Warhammer 40K fallout city you can stop here, on the other hand, if you are a Warhammer fan and are yearning for playing with your miniatures on such a cool terrain carry on with the next step.

Step 8: Materials Needed for Converting the City

- wooden filler

- paper tape

- black acrylic spray

- grey acrylic color (a good quantity)

- Citadel colors for Warhammer miniatures:

  • Boltgun Metal
  • Mithril Silver
  • Catachan Green
  • Goblin Green
  • Camo Green
  • Red Gore
  • Bestial Brown
  • Scorched Brown

- XPS panels 2cm thick

- PVA glue

- gauze

- sand and gravel

- static grass for miniatures and models

- a couple of horse bristle brush

- thin brushes for miniatures

Step 9: Masking and Plastering

1) The first step is to stop all the cardboard openings with paper tape. For example, the sides of the highway are made of vertical cardboard strips and we have to use paper tape to stop the wavy openings. In a few words all cardboard sides that are exposed have to be masked with paper tape.

2) The second step is to convert the model in something more realistic. For doing this we have to cover everything with wooden fill. Help yourself with a spatula and use your hands to spread it over every surface. If you feel that the wooden filling is too dense feel free to dilute it with some water.

At the end of the plastering process the cardboard city should look as if it was made of cement.

Step 10: Adding Craters and And Debris

In this step we will be adding many details to our Warhammer terrain.

I have posted a great video from Ordnance WarGaming that clearly explain how to make a crater. As you can see we can use irregular pieces of XPS to create rocks.

A very smart technique consists in soaking gauze in a mix of diluted PVA glue and diluted wood filling and then to apply it on the terrain to give continuity to surfaces and to make them rocky and irregular. Joining together elements with soaked gauze made the city as thought an atomic bomb had recently exploded nearby.

You can see that the corrugated metal sheet shed has gauze still visible on top, which was used to cover a cement pillar. Do you recognize the cement pillar? It was actually the piece of the contemporary art sculpture that Steampunk Kurt.1 was using as a bat!

On the factory a lot of gravel was attached with PVA glue to give its exterior a stony, encrusted and corroded look. Gravel, sand and real small rocks were used all over the place to make debris.

Step 11: Coloring

Black background and grey drybrush

Black acrylic was used as the background color. Spray it all over the model in an airy area; I really recommend you to do this outdoor or on the threshold of your garage.

To paint the cement of the city in grey I have extensively used a very common technique in coloring miniatures and models: the drybrush technique. There are many tutorials that explain it. Basically you have to dip the brush in the acrylic gray color and then rub the brush bristles on paper towel; in this way you will end up with a brush with "dry but dirty" bristles. Softly rub it over the surface and you will be able to bring out the thickness of it and create realistic darker areas that would lay in the shadows in real life.

I did the same on the soil areas, but this time with a base of Scorched Brown and then Bestial Brown to give those surfaces the earth look. On some occasions, for example for painting the crater, I applied a base of Scorched Brown and used the drybrush techniques to paint grey on top to simulate dust and debris.

Mold, soil, moss and grass

With the main colors painted the city already looks very nice but we have to add details on cement to make it look real:

  • you can mix Camo Green and Goblin Green to create a slimy green color which is perfect for painting mold on the the sides of the buildings using the washing techniques. You can clearly see an example of this on the side of the half-collapsed skyscraper and on the side of the highway. The washing techniques consists in diluting a color with a lot of water and let the colored water drops enter the cavities on the surfaces, once the water evaporates the small quantity of color that was in it will have dried to create nice shaded textures. Slimy green washed over grey really makes the cement as though it was dirtied with mold.
  • I have applied Bestial Brown on wooden surfaces and washed it a bit with Scorched Brown to give them the rotten wood texture
  • to make moss just spread patches of PVA glue where you like it most and drop static grass over it. Near the sniper, on top of the half-collapsed skyscraper, you can see an example of moss it in great details. On the other hand if you would like to make grass I suggest you also paint the surface that will be underneath the static grass with Goblin Green color.

Metal elements

Boltgun Metal was used in abundance as a base for all the visible steel beams of the half-collapsed skyscraper, for the metal structure supporting the water tank and for the factory emergency staircase. You can use the highlight techniques with Mithril Silver to make the borders of the beams stand out and simulate the sun rays reflecting over the beams' edges. To give the beams a rusty effect you can use the washing techniques with bestial Brown. The result is that the metal of the beams is shaded with a brownish color and this texture simulate rusted metal very well. I have finally used Gore Red to paint other metal details such as the metal sheet shed in the middle of the square and the canopy of the shop at street-level at One Canada Square.

Step 12: The End!

This is really the end, our newly made terrain is now ready for many Warhammer 40K battles to come.

In the pictures you can see how a military unit of Crimson Fists Spacemarines and tanks is dealing with Thyphus, the Herald of Nurgle, and his Chaos Spacemarine followers.

A very nice feature of this terrain is that it has modular elements, you can move around the buildings as you like and the city will have a different skyline and morphology every time.

I hope you thoroughly enjoyed this tutorial in its many facets and that it may inspire you in making your customized cardboard city or your Warhammer 40K fallout city terrain.

Bye for now,


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