Pixelastic's Painting Log
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Bhaal Display Diorama

August 29, 2020

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I'm starting to have a fair amount of painted minis for my games. I store them in plastic drawers but even if this storing method is practical, it is not very enjoyable. I like seeing my miniatures. I wanted to have a way to see them often, while still being able to quickly pick some for an upcoming game.

So I started working on a piece of terrain whose main purpose was to display miniatures. I intended to store this in one of the cubes of my IKEA Kallax, so I needed something that would take advantage of the 33cm x 33cm x 33cm of the cube. I had never worked with insulation foam before (but watched a lot of BlackMagicCraft videos).

Temple of Bhaal

I also wanted to build something that was reminiscent of the Temple of Bhaal, the room where you fight Sarevok, the final boss of Baldur's Gate. But because I needed to use as much vertical space as possible in my Kallax, I also needed some lower and upper levels. For the lower level I imagined some classic catacombs, and some elevated stairs for the upper level.

Turned out I completely miscalculated the space all of that would occupy and ended up with a construction much smaller in height that I imagined.

Timelapse

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This is the final shape of the structure. The lower floor will be some stone tombs, and the upper one will be the Temple of Bhaal. Now I need to start carving this.

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After some carving and minis for scale.

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With the first bricks of the wall and the upper floor carved.

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Everything is now coated, and painting will soon began.

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Painting has started, but no wash has been applied yet.

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This time it's finished, including the wash and the varnish.

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The Dungeon

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I started by cutting the foam in the desired dimensions. The main floor structure is 31cm x 31cm. I decided to keep 1cm on each side to better slide the piece in and out of the Kallax.

I also decided to have half the depth of the lower level "filled" and the other open. My idea that because I would add a first floor, it would be hard for me to access miniatures situated at the far end of the bottom floor, so I decided that actually didn't need the second half of the floor and decided to put a wall there. In hindsight I should have used the whole depth as the first floor is removable, it wouldn't have been too hard to access the minis at the far end.

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On the background is the lower floor, with its side walls. Foreground is 4 boards of foam glued together to "fill" the second half. Again, in hindsight this is a waste of foam and next time I will use the whole depth.

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I started with the lower floor. Simple 3cm x 3cm square pattern. I use 3cm because it leave enough room for any 2.5 cm base to fit even when they have arms outstretched or weird poses. I then added some damage through holes or chunks of stone remove. I draw some cracks to went through them with an x-acto knife later.

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I cut some bricks from foam to put on the walls of the lower floor. This was a long process because I sanded the edges and corners of each brick individually. In hindsight I should have sanded them before cutting them in small pieces. While I was nearing the end of the bricks I found a few ways to optimize my workflow, but it still took 2 to 3 hours to do enough bricks to cover my walls. I usually craft while listening to D&D live play podcasts, so I don't mind spending hours on it, though.

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The brick wall a long process but I like the final look of it. In hindsight, I should have painted the wall black before gluing the bricks as it it now very hard to reach the wall between the bricks.

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This is pretty clear in this picture. The wall behind the bricks shows too much.

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I used very diluted black paint and a small brush to try to cover as much of the back wall as possible. The end result looks ok, but it was a long process and next time I'll definitely paint the wall before attaching the bricks.

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Base coat of grey. I was a bit too heavy on the central squares.

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I painted a few bricks in various shades of gray.

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With the second dry brush of lighter gray and the wash on top.

The Temple of Bhaal

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For the upper floor I started with the same grid pattern, then added some irregular smallest stones to it. I kept a circle clear at the center to carve the skull later.

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To carve the central skull I printed the Baldur's Gate logo on paper, cut it and then pinned it to the board. I then cut each tear around the skull with my x-acto knife through the paper, which marked the foam below it.

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I did the same thing for the skull, and was left with a rough shape.

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I pushed the small cuts with a pen to widen them. I wasn't 100% happy with the way the lowest tear turned out, nor the nose or eyes, but it was too late to fix them.

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I then slapped a first coat of modge / black ink on the upper floor and started painting.

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I painted the stone floor red and the skull orange.

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I then painted a few bricks individually in similar colors, and painted with cheap metallic paints the skull.

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I was afraid the contrast between the orange and the red would be too stark, so I decided to drybrush some red on the skull to blend the two together. This was a mistake and ended up looking very bad. I thought adding a black wash in the next step might fix this, so I didn't try to save it too much.

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The wash was even worse... I don't know what happened with my wash, but it completely removed the copper paint I had on the tears as well as the paint on some of the bricks I had individually colored. I think it's because I'm using cheap craft paint and they seem to react weirdly with the wash. I need to wait for the paint to really dry overnight and not just 30mn to be able to apply the wash correctly.

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So I decided to repaint the skull on top of the wash. This time waiting 24h for it to dry. This time I decided to paint the eyes red.

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Once I was sure it was really dry, I applied a liberal amount of wash to it and let it dry.