This article discusses how I made two Warhammer 40k buildings out of paper packaging materials. I used a pair of this material to make Imperial Guard Command Posts. These 40k terrain pieces came out awesome and are perfect Warhammer scenery for Planetstrike. My plan is to use these 40k buildings for Planetstrike games as a command centre stratagem or bastions. The command centre stratagem gives counter-counter attack to friendly units within 6″. I may also use it as a small bastion. And I don’t see any reason you couldn’t use it as both, of course. However, I’m not sure these work as Warhammer terrain for Cities of Death. They just don’t have the right look to be part of a ruined cityscape. But, I guess they could work as pre-fabbed bunkers hastily constructed in a long contested ruined hive amongst trenches and piles of rubble.
The two command posts were fun to build and really inexpensive (probably less than $10 combined). They are a great 40k terrain project. While this article is focused on my success with this project, the general approach can be used to create a myriad of wonderful Warhammer scenery pieces.
40k Scenery Design
There are a few ways to go about making 40k scenery. You can buy readymade Wargames terrain. You can make kits as shown in their directions – Games Workshop has got several great ones. Or you can bash the kits, modifying them from within the parts of the kits, combining kits, or fabricating some of your own additions. Another option is to go to your bits box and make something up. Just going through the box and laying out stuff can be very inspiring.
My favorite items in my bits box are molded paper or Styrofoam packing forms – the kind that come in the various household appliances and electronics we buy. Some of these look great just the way they come and you can see right away what you can do with them; others are a bit more challenging and lend themselves to even greater creativity. I don’t even remember what items most of these things packaged anymore.
Once you’ve chosen something, you might consider doing some concept drawings to get an idea of what you want to make. Many people are intimidated by this step – don’t be. The sketch is for you, and you never need to show it to anybody (unless you are a budding web publisher like me). When doing the sketch, you’re really trying to achieve a few specific things. First, you’re trying to get an idea of modifications you want to make or bits you’re going to need to add to your form. You may find you’ll need to fabricate a few things from scratch. Second, you’re trying to figure out the materials you’re going to need. Finally, the sketch can help you formulate in your head your plan – it can give you ideas on how you’re going to create you Warhammer scenery project.
I knew right away when I saw these two items when going through my bin that they’d be perfect for the Imperial Guard. I’d been working on my army and reading lots of Black Library fluff on the Guard, so that’s what I wanted to do. I got out a pencil and a pen and tried some things out. This drawing told me I would need to make doors, windows, add some bits to make it authentic (Imperial architecture is fairly stylized and you need some Acquila’s and technical bits). I knew I’d need to add some Warhammer terrain elements on the base, as well.
Tools and Materials
You’re going to need a few things. Tools I used:
- Exacto knife with long blades
- Jigsaw with 20 teeth per inch (TPI) blades (a cordless jigsaw is best)
- Paint bucket
- Large and medium paint buckets
- Fine grain sand paper
- Drop cloth and news paper
- Large scale terrain brushes
- Metal ruler
- Putty knife
For materials, I used:
- Black, tan, or earth tone primer
- Paper towels
- White wood glue (PVA glue)
- Hot glue (first time on a Warhammer scenery project)
- Super glue
- Flat or matte acrylic house paint (three shades)
- Woodland Scenics talus (large and fine grain packages) or similar gravel
- Filler putty, Hydrocal, or something similar
- Misc bits from my terrain bits box and my 40k miniatures bitz
- Matte varnish or clear spray paint
- Hobby foliage
- Static grass, flocking, or ground foam (a variety is best)
Preparation – MDF, Trimming, Sealing
Mounting your 40k terrain pieces on some very flat, fairly resilient surface is a good idea and MDF is just the thing. You can alternatively try masonite or plywood. Either way, trace out the shape you want on the MDF with a permanent marker or pencil. If you’re cutting anything more than 1/8″ thick, you probably should cut it at a 45° angle – it should slope down from the center of what you’re cutting (write some arrows on the board if you’re prone to lapses as I am). If you’re cutting out multiple beveled bases, remembe that you’ll need a good ½” between your outlines or your bevels will overlap.
Cutting MDF should be done using a cordless jigsaw with at least 20 teeth per inch blades. Wear a dust mask and goggles, and make sure your cutting surface is stable and be mindful not to cut anything under your board. Sand the cut out shapes with finishing paper (you should still be wearing a dust mask) and it’s a good idea to put sanding sealer on it to preserve and make it hold paint better (I didn’t, but it’s still a good idea).
The molded paper shapes had a ridge of paper around the base that needed to be removed. I tried using the Dremel for that, which worked, but was dusty and hard to control. So, I just used the craft knife with a fresh, long blade. I traced the level I wanted to put windows onto the form (to put the slit for the windows at a height of 25mm) and trimmed the entrance for the door.
I choose not to mount the paper on the MDF at this time because I thought it would be easier to mount the windows and the door assembly without the MDF. In retrospect, this wouldn’t have mattered and this increased the chance of damaging my project. Moreover, I also did not seal the paper. I think sanding sealer or clear varnish would have been ideal – but, as I didn’t, I can’t be sure. In any case, this would have helped when I painted (the paper was VERY absorbent) and may have also made the 40k buildings a bit more resilient.
40k Building Windows
I wanted my windows at eye level and suitable for firing weapons from – so, I decided to do basic rectangles to look like a reinforced firing slit. About 25mm long, 10mm high, with a 3mm firing slit, mounted on the building with the window vertical center about about 25mm high. I traced that height onto the buildings and then made the windows out of matt board. Card stock would have been easier, but not as thick. Plastic board would have been a bit more expensive, but I would have had cleaner cuts.
I drew the windows onto the matt board and then used a fresh, sharp blade to cut them out. I used a metal ruler as a straight edge for the first cut and then gently passed the blade through the cut several times till I was through. This is critical – if you try to cut thick matt board all in one got, you’ll significantly increase your chance of tearing the paper AND when your knife blade pulls through at the end of the cut, it’s hard to control.
40k Building Doors
The doors were a bit harder to construct. First, I removed a 1″ square tab of paper from the molded paper. Then I had to make a template so I knew what shape I’d make out of the matt board. I wanted to have a sloping frame around the door, so measured out a trial template and then kept making modifications till it fit. This was definitely a process of trial and error — patience and persistence will be rewarded.
Once I had it right, I traced out the door frame on matt board and cut it out. I used hot glue to mount the piece to the building. This was the first time I’ve used hot glue on a Warhammer scenery project. However, I wanted something that would dry to firm hold faster than white PVC glue, wanted it to have some filling qualities, and was worried about how much glue the paper would absorb. This turned out the perfect choice for this project – even though I did get a bit of hot glue on my fingers a couple of times. SO – safety warning: the tip of the glue gun is VERY hot, don’t touch it. Safety warning 2: Melted glue is HOT – so DON’T touch it. As it’s glue, you’ll have burning hot sticky stuff on your skin and you’re not going to like the result.
This next bit of instructions gets a bit complicated without pictures. You can view my website where I’ve provided a similar tutorial that is fully illustrated.
I needed to finish the door by making a couple of triangles and a roof, and then putting the door inside of all that. Again, I cut templates out and fitted it all iteratively until it fit and then cut the pieces out of foam board. I glued these onto the door frame using the glue gun again. I did have a few mistakes, but you can just cut out more foam board or card stock and fill gaps.
I traced markers on the buildings where I wanted the windows positioned. Then I mounted them with the glue gun. Then I finally glued the buildings to the MDF, again using the glue gun. There will be significant gaps between the building and the MDF when you do this – it’ll have to be filled with putty or filler.
I wasn’t happy with the finish on the door. I wanted a cleaner look at the end of the foam board. So I traced out a frame on cartridge paper (any thick paper will work), cut them out with scissors, and glued those on with PVC glue.
Adding Warhammer 40k Details
Now comes the fun part. Pulling lots of detail pieces out of the bits box. I decided I wanted some barbed wire around the door mounted to posts. I made the posts out of sprue bits. (I documented how to make your own barbed wire in a previous EzineArticle.) I glued the posts onto the MDF with the glue gun. I also had some rocks I had made from Woodland Scenic rock molds and Hydocal years ago, and mounted them to the base. I used what I had and added other little miniatures bits – antennas, some form of electronics panel on the side of the door, a couple of lasguns. Use whatever you have available.
I used filler applied with a putty knife to blend the building onto the base. It’s OK to have some seams and gaps here – I mean, the building was placed there, so it doesn’t have to be perfect. An old forgotten fact surfaced as I did this – filler doesn’t stick well to anything that is really dry (relative humidity this time of year is 30% here). I should have sprayed a bit of water. And, I should have sealed the paper and MDF. I didn’t. Oh, well. It worked out fine, but would have been easier if I did those two simple steps.
To break up the smooth texture of the filler, I sprinkled sand on it while still wet. This was a bit of laziness and didn’t work so well. You should let the filler dry overnight, then glue sand and gravel. The filler isn’t that good at holding the sand on its own.
Once you’ve got all your stuff securely glued, it’s time to prime. For this project, I didn’t want to use black – it wouldn’t blend well with the game boards (battlescapes or whatever you want to call them) I am currently using. So, I used desert tan. I would have been better off with a darker color, but this worked fine.
Painting Warhammer Scenery
Painting 40k terrain is pretty similar to doing Warhammer miniatures – it’s just a matter of scale. You should use three colors – a base, a mid-tone, and a highlight. It will be best if these match the paint scheme you’re using on your game board. Also, I prefer to use house hold matte (flat) acrylic paints for large projects. They are durable and relatively inexpensive. You may need to thin them SLIGHTLY to make them a bit easier to use, particularly for dry brushing. But, don’t thin too much because they tend to act weird if you add too much water (I think excessive water interferes with the binder and the paint won’t stay mixed in your bucket).
Paint on your base coat with a large brush; depending on the effect you want, you may want to let some of the primer to show through. Then overcoat the mid-tone again making sure to let much of the primer and base coat show through. Finally, use a finer brush to dry brush your highlights.
Try not to paint too much of this heavy household paint on your detail areas. If desired, you can wait to glue these till later, painting them separately. This will allow you to paint Aquilas and lasguns and whatever to a much greater level of detail.
If you want, you can wash a dark tone before you do the highlight. For this project, I used Liquitex acrylics to make a brownish grey (burnt sienna and ultramarine blue) VERY thinned with water. I added just a tad of liquid soap to the water before I thinned to make the wash run better. This worked great.
I painted the doors and windows in a different color to help them stand out. Since these are Imperial Guard 40k buildings, I went for a basic concrete color using Deneb stone, a couple shades of gray, another wash of Liquitex (I’m going to have to try that on miniatures). I may redo these at some point so that they are just a Bubonic brown highlighed with Bleached bone. I used glue and paint to put on several kinds of ground cover – Games Workshop static grass and a few different colors and textures from Woodland Scenics. I attached barbed wire with super glue. And then used plastic foliage from Michael’s to add a few exoctic shrubs and bushes. Then I finished off with a liberal coating of Purity Seal from Games Workshop. I’ve found this to not only protect my paint, but it also helps to keep all the flocking and ground foam in place.
I am ecstatic about how well the two 40k Terrain Imperial Guard Command Posts came out. These are superb 40k buildings, and I’ll be using them on my next 40k game. Probably Dark Angels vs Tyranids again. We’ll see. And I’ll use them again and again.