We're far from 3D printing or Miniature Painting experts --- but that has never stopped us! In this tutorial, learn how easy it is to 3D print your own dungeon tiles for your DnD and tabletop gaming! With even a simple 3D printer, you can download free files, print your own dungeon tiles, and easily paint them using these simple techniques.
We use three colors and a very repeatable technique so that you can 3D print and paint hundreds of terrain pieces very rapidly and with repeatable results. We've been making these for years and they are intensely fun for Dungeon Masters and players alike.
We recommend watching the video above and following along with the written steps!
Here are some useful links:
More on 3D Printing
Thingiverse (For Free 3D Models to Print)
OpenForge 2.0 - Cut Stone Wall (The Thing We Made)
Ultimaker CURA (Free Slicer Software)
3D Printing Nerd (Learn WAY more about 3D Printing!)
- Gray PLA (3D Printing Material) - https://amzn.to/2MSYWik
- Dark Gray Spray Paint - https://amzn.to/2UuINk3
- Super Glue - https://amzn.to/2ZQlgvf
- Acrylic Paint (3 Colors: Light Gray, Brown, White)
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Step 1: 3D Printing!
If you're new to 3D printing, the basic steps are as follows: create or download a 3D model, set up your printing options in a special program called a 'slicer', and then print the object using a 3D printer. (Obviously there's more to it than that but we're not going to cover the full scope of "How to 3D Print" in this tutorial. Check the links in the Step One for more info!)
3D Models from Thingiverse
Luckily, two of the three steps you can do completely free, even if you don't own a printer. There's an amazing website called 'Thingiverse' where you can download free 3D models (.STL files) that other talented 3D artists have created and made available.
In our case, we're using a model from the 'OpenForge' series on Thingiverse. In this tutorial specifically, we're going to print and paint the 'Cut Stone Wall'. If you search those terms, you'll notice there are hundreds of other models in a similar style so that you can print lots of different types of walls, flooring, windows, doors, etc.
Slicing in Cura
In step one, there's a link to download a free program from Ultimaker called 'Cura'. In this software, you'll import your 3D model (.STL) and set it up for printing. This is the part where you'll decide what level of print quality you want, how big it is, rotate it, scale it, etc. When it's done it will create a set of instructions for your 3D printer.
We're using a Creality CR-10 printer, but these types of dungeon tiles can be easily printed on virtually any 3D printer. This set comes in three pieces: the base, the floor, and the wall.
Step 2: Gluing the Pieces Together
Since our model comes in three pieces, we need to use some super glue to glue them together. This part is very easy and only requires that you carefully align the pieces together.
The reason these come in different pieces is that a lot of the parts are interchangeable. For example, this same 2"x2" base is used on dozens of other tiles. This way you can print many bases at once and use them for all sorts of different pieces.
Step 3: Priming and Getting Ready to Paint
In order to effectively paint a 3D print, you almost always want to prime it first. In our case, we're using a basic dark gray spray primer and we spray on one coat. Any primer will work fine but we recommend a dark color so you can get it into the cracks on the bricks, which adds a nice detail.
We're using three colors: a medium gray, an off white, and a light brown. We're specifically choosing not to mix the colors or use any complex options because we want to be able to easily repeat this process when we paint many, many different pieces.
Simply using the colors straight from the bottle offers a repeatable and easy process.
We're also going to use three different brushes: a small detail brush, a medium brush with a "bushier" end, and a flat brush with stiff bristles for dry brushing.
Step 4: Painting: the Brown Bricks
Once the primer is completely dry, the next step is to paint some individual bricks in a light brown color. We'll select the bricks randomly, but make sure that at least one brick on the top and each side gets painted, as well as at least one interior brick. This way if that tile ends up the end, you'll see at least one colored brick on any given side. We typically do two coats of brown, per brick.
The purpose off the brown is to give each tile some randomness and uniqueness amongst the group. You could use any color here but the brown works well.
Step 5: Painting: the Gray Stone
When the brown bricks are dry, the next step is to use the gray to add some variation to the stone. Using the bushy medium-sized brush, we'll put a small dab of paint on the end and then tap it on a paper towel to wipe off most of it, then randomly apply the gray all over the piece. (This can be more easily seen in the video.)
The trick here is not to think about it too much. We're going for randomness and just a free form blotchy pattern of gray, which gives the stone a unique and realistic quality.
The result should be fairly subtle. We'll see it pop out more in the next step with dry brushing.
Step 6: Painting: Dry Brushing the Highlights
The last step of the painting is to use a technique known as dry brushing to lightly apply some highlights and bring out a lot of detail. We'll do this with the stiff brush and use the light white color.
The idea with dry brushing is to apply a very small amount of paint to the brush and then wipe off almost all of it on a dry paper towel or some other surface so that almost no paint is left on the brush itself. (It's important that the surface and the brush remain completely dry.) We then lightly drag the side of the brush across the surface and only the high points pick up any paint. For added detail, you can try to brush in the direction of a light source so the highlights all form in one direction.
All it takes is the lightest touch to add some incredible detail to the corners of the stone, the highlights on the floor, the edges of the individual bricks.
Again, we're far from miniature painting experts and if you want to delve deeper into this amazing art, a quick search on Instructables or YouTube for 'miniature painting' will yield some excellent tutorials!
Step 7: Rinse and Repeat!
We've been doing this for a while so we've managed to make quite a few of these tiles in all different styles. We always use the same exact techniques so even though some of them were created years apart, they all look identical.
Our priorities are speed and repeatability so we don't spend more than 5 minutes on a single tile.
All in, we estimate it costs about 20 cents per tile to create them using this method.
Step 8: The Results!
As a couple who play a lot of tabletop RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons, we LOVE having these types of things around. You can imagine how much fun it is to hang out together and create maps. If you have some creativity and the drive to learn some new things, you'll be surprised how easily you can create this too!
Thanks for reading! We also made a video (linked in step one) that shows some more visual detail. We'd love to hear your feedback on both the video and our write up here!
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