Old clothes. When you paint your model, paint will end up spattering everywhere. Be sure to wear some old clothes that you don't mind getting paint on.
Cover your work surface. Tape a trash bag down to the table, or use several layers of newspaper.
Paint brushes. For the first coat of paint, I use a cheap 1" wide trim brush that you can find in the paint department of most stores. For the drybrushing and details, I use a good quality 3/4" wide artist's brush which you can find in the craft department of most stores.
Paint. I prefer to use flat latex exterior house paint because it will hold up the best during game play, but you can also use acrylic craft paint found in the craft department of most stores. If you end up using craft paint, you will not need to dilute it with water as much as the house paint.
Plastic cups and storage containers. You will need these to mix your paint and to save your left over paint for the next project.
Colors for Flat Game Boards
Cavern Floor Colors
The colors I am going to use for a flat game board will be very high contrast. In other words, the dark color is very dark and the light color is very light.
Since flat game boards have no walls, you don't have anything to look at but the flat tiles. I tried to paint the cavern floor tiles with more subtle and realistic colors, but it ended up looking flat and lifeless. The only way to make a flat floor with no walls look good is to bring out all the detail with stark colors.
The colors I finally decided on are shown below. The Water Cavern Dark color is a dark olive drab, the Water Cavern Medium color is a medium khaki and finally the highlight is almost straight white.
If you would like me to send you a sample chip of the first 2 colors (you don't need a color chip of white), mail me a self-addressed stamped envelope or send me an e-mail when you place an order. Any place that sells paint can mix up a quart the exact color to match the samples.
Here are the color formulas from several paint brands so you can mix up your own without needing the paint chips.
Color Place (Walmart)
Water Cavern Dark
Battersea Bronze HGSW3271
Blackened Pine 5003-2C
Austrian Alpine Forest 10697
Water Cavern Medium
Olivine Crystal HGSW2214
Sweet Annie C11-4
La Fonda Olive 6006-6B
Rocky River Reed 10545
Painting the Dark Base
We need to thin the paint so it will go into the cracks easily. Use a large spoon to dip out the paint.
Take 3 parts paint and add one part water. I would start with a cup of paint and 1/3 cup water. This should be enough to paint all the pieces.
Dip the brush into the paint and slop it onto the floor. You want the paint to run into all of the cracks and crevices between the tiles.
Notice that I'm using a 1" wide cheap trim brush for this work. It can even be wider if you like.
You'll have to jam the paint down into the cracks on these floor sections. The cracks between the tiles are so narrow and deep that the paint must be thinned or it will never flow down there.
Once the gaps are completely filled, you'll need to remove the excess paint from the cracks. The best way to do this is to scrape off the excess paint from the brush by scraping it along the edge of the cup.
Then jam the brush down into the cracks to pick up paint out of them. Then scrape the brush off again. Repeat this until you have no paint pooling in the cracks.
When painting the small pieces (such as the posts), I found it easier to paint the top half and let it dry while painting other bits. Once dry, I painted the other half. This helped keep excessive paint off of my hands and kept the pieces from sticking to the newspaper when the paint dried.
Once dry the pieces will be extremely dark. Paint will usually dry darker in color.
Dry Brushing the Medium Color
To do the dry brushing properly you'll need a good quality paint brush. I cannot stress this enough! Go to your local craft or art store and spend $12 on a good 3/4" wide artist's brush. The bristles should be medium soft and about 1" long.
Pour some of the medium color into a small cup. Do not thin the paint! The formula for the Water Cavern medium color is listed above.
I like to tape down a paper towel to the table. This keeps it in place when I brush the excess paint out of the brush on it.
When dipping your brush, only dip the bristles half way into the paint. This will help keep paint from drying way up into the bristles.
Wipe out the excess paint from the brush onto the paper towel. You want a very small amount of paint in the bristles of the brush.
Follow these steps exactly when dry brushing!
Wipe off all the paint out of the brush onto the paper towel. You may think you have it all out, but some will remain - just enough to paint the tile with.
Brush lightly over the surface. This is to check and see if you have removed enough paint from the brush. If you frost the edges with a couple of brush swipes, keep swiping until it goes away.
Now that you're sure the brush is fairly empty, start brushing harder and jamming the brush down into the face of the tiles - even between the tiles.
Use lots of strokes! Continue jamming the brush down into and across the floor surface. You will see the details start to come out and gradual shades happen blending from dark to light.
Pick up more paint from the paper towel and continue brushing across and down into the face of the floor.
The technique I use is a quick jabbing motion. It's a cross between a jab and a stroke. You want to pepper the surface with lots of short strokes, making sure there's very little paint on the brush.
The more brush strokes you use, the more subtle shades between light and dark will appear.
You will notice the main surface is covered with this color. However, you still see some of the dark coming through on the textured places.
Usually I would say this is too solid of a coverage, but we still have the white highlight to go.
I didn't want to just frost the edges with this color because the white highlight paint will do that.
You should clean your brush about once every 10 minutes. This will keep the paint from drying way up on the bristles and ruining the brush.
To clean the brush, dip it in water and rotate it against the side of the cup. Wipe out the brush and repeat this several times.
When finished, blot the excess water off and you'll be ready to paint again.
When you finish the first piece to your liking, leave it on the table as a guide for the other pieces you will paint. Try to get them to match in the same color and texture as the first one you painted.
Also notice the big difference between the first and second coat of paint. Usually I don't paint pieces with this much contrast in color. I tried painting the color more naturally (not so stark), but the game board looked like a field of grass and none of the texture stood out.
Since this is a flat game board and there are no walls to catch your attention, the floor texture has to pop, and it will only do this if we vary the colors from very dark to very light.
For smaller pieces like the 1 x 2 floor sections, I just line up several in a row and paint them all at once.
The door posts line up especially well and you can do all 20 posts fairly quickly this way.
You can also line up the arches the same way and paint them all at one time.
Dry Brushing White
The Light color is mostly white paint with a few drops of the Water Cavern Dark paint in it. You can use just straight white if you want to, but I liked the tinge of color in it myself.
Mix it up well and do not thin the paint. Be sure you tape a paper towel down and use the same dry brushing method as above with a few exceptions.
This time you will not jam the brush down into the face of the floor. Instead you will lightly brush across the face of the tile only.
Dip the brush into the paint and wipe all of the paint out on a paper towel just as we did in the steps above. This time use a very light pressure and longer strokes.
This last coat will take very little paint, so if you mix more than 2 ounces it will probably get wasted.
This step will frost the edges and help them to glow. It will also mute the strong color of the floor so it will look a bit more natural and not so green.
Be sure that you do not jam the brush down into the face of the floor but only lightly brush across the top and edges.
To see how to paint the other features and see close-up photos of the models, take a look at our Tips & Tricks 20 page.
Painting Cavern Layouts With Walls
Cavern Floor Colors
There is a big difference between painting a flat game board and painting a layout with walls. On a flat game board, the floor is all you have to look at so you want to make the details come out nice and bright.
However, on a layout with walls you do not want the floor to be as bright. The cavern walls add so much more detail that painting the floors in the same manner would make them too distracting and take away from the look as a whole. Below is a quick comparison between how a flat game board should be painted and how a layout with walls should be painted.