TableTop Terrain Buildings




About: I am currently an Industrial design student. i like to create things and experiment with materials as this will also allow me gain a better understanding making things and improving from them.

Here i am going to teach you how to make cheap and easy to make miniature tabletop terrain buildings


Step 1: Materials and Tools


MDF or Foam-board
Polystyrene white/blue 
Acrylic Paint
Plaster of Paris (optional)
Saw dust
Food colouring
PVA Glue


Craft Knife set
Paint Brush

Step 2: Building

Grab some polystyrene and cut it up to roughly what shape you want.
If your building is a ruin, break off some of the styrene for a damaged look.
If you going for an undamaged structure make the edges and cuts clean and straight.

Look at reference images of real / fictional buildings and begin to slice of pieces of styrene to add more details to the structure

Make sure your craft knife / Scalpel is sharp to make cutting easier and to prevent the little balls of styrene from breaking apart while cutting.

Once you are happy with your pieces, glue them to the MDF base / Foam board base.

Step 3: Painting

For the first coat of paint apply a black paint over the entire structure.DO NOT LEAVE A SINGLE WHITE SPOT UNCOVERED
After the black paint is dried.Use a dark grey paint and dry brush it onto the building until the building is mostly grey,with the cracks and grooves showing black.

Dry brushing- touch a small amount of paint on the brush and wipe off the excess on another surface until the brush is nearly dry,now brush this small amount of  paint left on the building.

Allow the grey coat to dry.

Now dry brush a small amount of light grey onto the corners or edges,this is to make the highlights pop up the stone edges,giving a more 3D look.

Allow to dry Again.

Above are image examples of the 3 stages of painting. Base Coat, Dry Brushing and High Lights.

Step 4: Making Grass

The miniature grass is made from saw dust and green food dye

If you have some saw dust from the shed you can use it or you can get it from timber suppliers or bunnings

Make sure you filter out your saw dust with a sifter or net with holes that aren't too fine (just large enough for half a grain of rice to fall through)
you need the saw dust to be fine enough for it to look like mini grass. if there are random large pieces it breaks the illusion.

With you filtered dust add it to a container and add 1 drop of green food dye and mix well until all particles are coloured,add a few drops of water if needed.
it can be any colour you want even blue if its alien grass :D

Dark green dye = jungle grass
Light green dye = grass plains grass
yellow dye = dry grass

Once it is mixed well allow the dust to dry for at least a week. IT NEEDS TO BE AS DRY AS POSSIBLE !!!!
After that is ready for use.

Step 5: Adding Grass

Mix 1 part PVA to 2 parts water

Apply the diluted PVA sparingly to the area that grass/moss will most like grow on in nature.
Think corners,edges and crevices. these are some of the spots that vegetation most like will grow on.

Look at reference images of where they grow.

Right after the diluted PVA is applied dip the spot into your container of grass or sprinkle it over the spot
tap the structure gently until all the extra grass falls off.
Allow it the grass to dry on the building

With the extra grass that fell off you can put these back in to the container use reuse.

Step 6: Make More

You can make many more buildings so that you have a whole set and arrange it in any way you want.
Below are the set that i have made.As you can see they can be re-arrange to create different building layouts.

Now go and make your own set of buildings each with a different style or look.

Step 7: Stone Floor

This stage is optional if you want the base to show stone tiles on it

Mix some plaster of paris with water  making the consistency of thick batter. apply it on the base and allow to dry to touch but not too dry as this will make carving it difficult.

Grab a scalpel with a pointed blade and start to make a groove for the tiles adding extra grooves for chipping and cracking of weathered stone.

Now allow the plaster to fully dry then paint it with the same method as painting the building.
e.g. base coat, dry brush, high-lighting

Hope you enjoy this instructable and don't forget to vote  :)

Now go forth and create your own world



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    19 Discussions


    3 years ago

    i usually have foam lying around now that someone posts something cool to do with foam i don't have any. c'est la vie. I have a crap load of acrylic paint.


    3 years ago

    Styrofoam is brutal for me. Can't stand the sound of pieces of styrofoam rubbing together. Cutting into it would probably drive me crazy.

    2 replies

    Reply 3 years ago

    You can solve the nasty sound with headphones and your favorite tunes or use a hot wire knife.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    I noticed one thing about making the grass. ONE drop of food coloring is not nearly enough, even for a small batch. My method was to add the food coloring to 6 ounces of water. I used green and a bit of blue to counteract the natural "yellow" of the wood. I got a nice green color out of it. After I added the colored water to the sawdust, I mixed it until it was a uniform color over all. I actually made several batches of differing colors and depths of green. Once dry, you can lightly mix these colors to create a more natural grass texture with varying degrees of green in the mix.


    5 years ago

    I cant thank you enough i wouldve been happy with the grass making trick, i dont know if thats somethin model makers just know but its so effective!

    1 reply

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    your welcome :)

    I actually learn the grass trick from youtube. but the original recipe needed 1 tube of green paint.I didn't have any green paint.So i used food dye,which was so much more stronger :D


    5 years ago

    i would suggest ground foam rubber for ground cover. Model railroads have used it for years ( after walking away from saw dust) Any good hobby shop will have it.

    1 reply

    Yes, the foam rubber thing does give a better texture. but cost wise, i guess saw dust would be free (that is if you already have some at home from sawing). :P


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Thats's fanTAStic!

    I want to make similiar structures in the future!

    What I still don't get right is, how you apply the base coat, dry brush and high-lightings. What is the difference between applying the base coat and "dry" brush - is it only the color? Or is it another technique you were using?

    Thanks in advance for your help :)

    keep it up!

    2 replies

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    The base coat is just normal painting,make sure you cover all the styrene in black (This is to give the illusion of depth after its complete).

    The Dry brushing is were you wipe off most of the paint from the brush and roughly apply it on the base coat (This is to give the stone its main colour-grey).

    High lights are applied on edges where the light will hit it (It is applied very gently and very lightly using the "dry brush" technique ).

    Hope this helps. you can also look up dry brushing on youtube :)


    5 years ago on Step 7

    superb work (y)


    5 years ago on Introduction

    this looks so easy to make. I'm sure I could pull it off. THANKS for the share!


    5 years ago

    I'm blown away by how great this looks! Nice ible!