Painting Underdark Caverns

All hail zenithal priming and inks

For months my players were following a story line that would culimate in a battle deep under ground so I prepared a 3d printed battleground. The (unfortunately) rectuangular main space with a few smaller sections made for a good combat space. I planned for several of the walls to be removable as the players’ opponents were rather tough. After many hours of printing, I had dozens of tiles ready to go.

Fresh 3d printed cavern tiles

Building out with a classic muddy cave floor was fun. I started out with a simple set of layering colors with my airbrush to get the normal stone effect. From there I added browns for mud and actual mud texture paint from vallejo. Finally I topped the pieces off with bits of grass tufts. Later, I came back and added a dark brown wash to all the pieces to get the colors to match a little more.

Muddy floor tiles

Unfortunately for the paint scheme I had going at this point, I came across a video, Black Magic Craft: Making Rock Terrain That Isn't BORING Grey. And wow, I wanted to try and make fun and unusual looking cavern walls like Jeremy did. Knowning my players wouldn’t mind two vastly looking tile sets, I set about to learn a bit more on zenithal priming and inks.

Overall, it’s not a complex technique but does require a little practice. All the wall tiles were primed with a good flat black acrylic primer. Then I did multiple layers of white acrylic ink from various angles above. Taking from the unusual colors I was inspired by, I painted the base in a magenta ink and the top in a rich blue. The same coat of ink looked a lot different depending on the levels of white beneath it.

Single painted wall tile

With everything done a painted, it was an impressive looking battleground. I didn’t get the highlighting done perfectly but I was happy enough. Plenty of room for the large size boss and its minions to cause havock and create a chaoic encounter.

Full encounter space

Unfortunately I underestimated my players creativity. They created a massive explosion in this underground cavern, completely destroying the space. Oh well, the math was really fun to calculate.

Hobby  D&D