I posted images of some dungeon tiles I created for a Necromancer’s Cavern a couple days ago and a surprising number of people have asked me to write a guide on how I did it as well as requesting I make a set for them. I’ve gone ahead and created this to describe my 3 day adventure creating the tiles.
I recently discovered an incredible site that sells silicon molds for creating miniature structures (http://www.hirstarts.com/index.html). Having no experience creating these sorts of things, I was curious how difficult it would be. I’ve had some experience painting my miniatures but have only painted about two dozen over the course of a few years. The result was far superior to anything I thought was possible. Here is the final dungeon I put together for my PCs. Although very time consuming, the overall cost of doing this was relatively cheap (right around $100 plus I have left over supplies) and I was very happy with the outcome.
Hirst Arts Mold #281 (http://www.hirstarts.com/molds/molds4.html)
Merlin’s Magic Plaster (http://merlinsmagicplaster.com/)
Acrylic Paint – Black (http://www.amazon.com/DecoArt-2-Ounce-Black-Crafters-Acrylic/dp/B009CG108E/)
Acrylic Paint – Grey(http://www.amazon.com/DecoArt-Americana-Acrylic-Paint-2-Ounce/dp/B000XZVOUC/)
Alena’s Tacky Glue (http://www.amazon.com/ALEENES-15599-Purpose-Glue-8-Ounce/dp/B00178KLEY/)
Self Healing Cutting Mat (http://www.amazon.com/Crafty-World-Quality-Cutting-Today/dp/B00UCIHGLG/)
A long weekend
Day 1 – Casting the Tiles
Each time you complete a casting of mold #281, it produces 1 – 2×2 tiles, 2 – 1×2 tiles, 4 – 1×1 tiles, and 2 – ½ x 1 tiles. To keep the number of castings I was going to need to produce to a minimum, I started by drawing out my dungeon on a piece of graph paper and then drawing in the tiles that a single cast would produce. This isn’t the most efficient way to do this but it felt like a pretty good approximation. In the end, if I wanted to be able to have the entire dungeon laid out at the same time, I was going to need to do 19 casts (I went ahead and did 20 just in case I somehow messed up).
For my casting, I used Merlin’s Magic Plaster which is supposed to be really strong compared to cheaper plasters like Hydrocaul or Plaster of Paris. I should also state that in my experience it is very strong! I can drop my pieces to the ground and they are just fine. I didn’t want them to be chipping during transport and screwing up the paint.
The plaster I bought came with mixing instructions that produces *WAY* too much plaster for a single mold. Using a food scale, I was able to determine that my #281 mold required 30 grams of water to 95 grams of the powder. Obviously, this will be different depending on the mold and type of plaster you’re using.
The Hirst Arts site has great instructions on how to get bubbles out of your castings. I highly recommend watching their videos (or at least reading their instructions).
After casting your tiles, you’ll want to spend a full day letting them dry before you paint and mount them. If you have a food dehydrator, you can speed this process up substantially.
Day 2 – Painting
I started out by painting a nice base coat all around the edges of the pieces.
Then, after the edges dried, I painted the faces black as well.
Although it probably wasn’t necessary, I went ahead and did a second coat of black on my tiles making sure to get in all of the cracks. If you’re having trouble getting a spot, you can add a little bit of water to your paint so it will run into the details more easily. Don’t water it down too much otherwise the color will look washed out and blotchy.
Once the base coat dried, I did a dry brush using the grey paint. A dry brush is a technique where you dip your brush into the paint and then do several strokes on another surface until there is almost no paint left on the brush. You brush over your surface leaving a mostly dry paint which will get all of the raised features. This process takes a long time as you will need to repeatedly get the brush to a consistent dry level for each of the tiles.
After letting the tiles dry for a few hours, you may want to use a finish on them to keep the paint from wearing off. I recommend going with a clear or mat finish. However, a glossy finish might be cool. I did two coats on mine but one coat is probably fine. I’ve also heard that acrylic paint holds up really well and unless you’re touching these all the time you probably don’t even need a finish.
Again, you’ll want to let the finish sit for two hours before you start to mount them on the cork board.
Day 3 – Mounting
Once you’ve let your tiles dry and you’re happy with their finish, it is time to mount them on cork. I really like cork because it has a bit of grip so my tiles don’t slide around. I’ve also seen people say that mat board and balsa wood are nice but have no personal experience with it.
Carefully measure out the size of the tiles you want and mark it on the cork. I tried using pen and pencil but it didn’t take too well on the cork so I ended up using a fat tipped sharpie which was a bit inaccurate.
When cutting through the cork, I recommend using a self healing cutting mat which will protect whatever surface you’re cutting on and give you a bit of a guide. Additionally, I was using a heavy metal ruler as a straight edge. The X-Acto knife cut through the cork pretty easily.
After cutting the cork, I laid out the pieces I intended to glue to it on top and pushed it tightly into an L I created with legos to see if there was too much cork. If there was, I simply cut a little bit more off the edge and checked again.
I found that I couldn’t just put a dab of glue on each of the plaster tiles and then stick them to the cork. They just wouldn’t stay put and the whole piece felt flimsy. Instead, I would use a relatively thick layer of glue across the entire face of the cork I was using (this stuff really likes to drink the glue). After that, I would place the tiles on top, using my lego L to ensure they were straight, and press firmly down for 5 seconds. After a couple of minutes, these dried really well and feel very sturdy.
Overall, the process wasn’t too hard, was fairly inexpensive, and was a great way to spend my Thursday through Sunday.
Since initially creating these, I’ve had several requests to make these for people. I’ve gone ahead and created an Etsy shop in case you don’t have the time to do this yourself and you’d like me to make a set for you. The whole process takes me a few days but I really enjoy doing this so I can typically get them to you within the week.