Wood Dungeon Tiles

Tests with Four Materials.

creator: x14km2d | build: 2021-11-26 | update: 2021-12-30


Yesterday I got latently upset about a widespread opinion in a comment. Not really upset, it was just annoying to hear this opinion over and over again. The comment was about open source software, but you can apply that to any other topic. So every beginner who wants to deal with modeling, mini painting and tabletop terrain buildin is of the opinion that this only works if you buy the same tools or materials that also use, for example, a video creator. to this I would like to say here a few points by way of introduction.

Most people who post videos do it professionally. Squidmar Miniature is a professional mini painter, Jeremy from Black Magic Craft mainly builds terrain but also likes to look into other areas like minis. Miscast is more the artist tabletop gamer with super creative ideas and Geek Gaming Scenics comes from the pure terrain corner. There are many others like Ninjon, Goobertown Hobbies, Midwinter Minis1 or Miniac. You surely ask yourself where is the common thread here that connects these people. Work. These people have become so professional in their hobby at some point that they can live from it through their patrones, advertising, products or sponsors. They want to be able to live, perhaps not primarily, but nevertheless already gladly also further from it. So when you see Jeremy2 cutting even more expensive XPS foam with his ultra expensive Proxon, he’s doing it to make his videos more professional.

You don’t need these products to get started with the tebaletop hobby. You need creativity and a little time. Of course, the model maker etc. on online video channels also know this, because hundreds maybe even thousands of times they get asked questions about how to build a dungeon tile, how to build a column, how to build a simple house and then eventually make a video. But then you realize that these are half-hearted videos, because of course they tell you how to do something, but they leave out the why because of time constraints. Why is it better to use Oil washes instead of bought expensive washes? Why should I not use my good paints and brushes for terrain3. So I will show here not only how I use cheapest materials suitable beginners, but also why I use certain materials or some not.

Since I was scientifically trained, I consider model making not only as a hobby of a few nerds but as a hard science4. I am very deep in the subject and treat it as seriously as other scientists e.g. physics, mathematics or philosophy. I like experiments, trials and studies that prove something empirically. I am for sharing knowledge and stimulating people to own ideas. So today I will use four well known terrain materials to show their disadvantages and advantages. I will also give my personal opinion why I don’t like e.g. Foamcore for surfaces.


We asc for the the Dungeon Tile Template file and print it out with our 3D printer. If we don’t have a 3D printer, we take a ruler and measure the tile in 1J, 3” or 76.3mm. We only need four parts for our experiment, but we cut out as many as we can from regular cardboard (Amazon boxes, etc.).

Our first material is cardboard. Just ordinary plain cardboard. Any cereal or tea box will work. In my window study article I show you how to quickly cut cardboard into small strips. If you don’t have a paper cutter, please use scissors. Process all the cardboard you no longer need, since we humans produce enough trash your supply should not run out so quickly. Store the cardboard in a plastic bag or another box where you can keep it dry.

I use wood glue. But any other glue will work as well. If you want to work fast, use hot glue, but it’s messy and you have to do a lot of touch up later. You can also use clear kids glue. Or use double sided tape or just stare at the cardboard until it sticks to the dungeon tile out of fear. But that will take a long time and will definitely require a lot of concentration5.

We cut all materials into matching strips and here are the first differences. Cardboard you can cut very well with scissors and will not necessarily need a modeling knife (or paper shredder). Dollar store foam can also be cut with scissors. The color of the foam (I used blue) doesn’t matter because the material will be painted over. Dollar store foamcore can be cut in a pinch with scissors, but it will be neater if you have a modeling knife or a simple box cutter. For the wood, I used those flat wood things (medics often use them) that you can get at the dollar store (just like all the other materials). You can also cut the wood with scissors or a modeling knife, but I personally find a small side cutter the best. In a pinch, you can also cut it all with a kitchen knife. You just have to want to, then it works. you must not give up too quickly.

Since I use wood glue, I prefer to let everything dry for a few hours under a stack of heavy books6on the windowsill. After everything has dried, we can trim the edges and move on to the next step.

Since I have never used cardboard for tiles, I did not know how I can get the grain in the material. I decided to use a simple pencil with which I then painted long strokes in the direction of the simulated boards. You can press a little harder, so that you can see the pencil strokes later after painting over.

If you don’t have a ballpoint pen, you can also use a pencil on Dollar Store foam. Usually the pencil is sharpened and then cuts into the foam and sometimes makes it tear. So if you use a pencil, make it a little dull that this will work well. The color of the pen doesn’t matter and it doesn’t even have to write anymore. It’s just a matter of pressing lines into the foam with the ball of the pen. You can also use a blunt wooden stick or something completely different. A knitting needle or the end of a paintbrush should also work.

The next material is Foamcore. This material is super easy to work with. You can scratch lines into it with a pencil to simulate the grain of the wood. However, it is better to use a modeling knife to pre-decide thick bars of the width of a fingernail or 1cm and trace them again with the pencil. If you want, you can also press small dots into it with the tip of the pencil to represent the nails. These you can if you want (and the color has) still paint with silver paint.

The most difficult to work with wood. We already needed pliers. For the grain, we also need better tools to get good results. With a modeling knife we cut long across the flat surface of the wood. In the second step we cut diagonally into some of these cuts to simulate larger cracks. You can also do this with a sharp kitchen knife, but that didn’t work as well (for me). To get the edges smooth we need a nail file, sandpaper or a real wood fill.

Paint Job

We will use only a cheap brush and cheap acrylic paints from the dollar store. We need the colors black, white and brown. Nothing more. Tan (or light brown) can be mixed from white and brown. Gray can be mixed from white and black, so you have all the colors you need to build basic tabletop terrain. That’s all you need for the beginning.

We are not going to use Mod Podge and we are not going to use primer, we are just going to work with the colors. We take a saucer and pour a medium drop of black paint on it. then we take a little water and mix that well. But don’t dilute it too much, because then you will have to apply too many layers. After a few tries, you will be able to estimate how much paint and water you need to mix. Stop always asking for a ratio, there is no such thing in art and model making. You will learn that by yourself. One model maker thins his airbrush paint with 1 ml thinner, the other with 2 ml and both produce magnificent results. Stop always wanting to measure everything7. Do your dungeon tiles have to be 3” long? No, they don’t. If you want it to be different, just do it the way you like it best.

How to wait until all the paint is completely dry. Then we mix water with brown paint and paint everything roughly. We do not have to be perfect, because it is good if some black spots still shine through. When washing, all this is blended with each other, so that you can not see the differences so much.

We wait again until all the paint has dried and then mix brown with white paint. In the next step we will dry brush everything with this color mixture and Ninjon explains it really well (using a mini) what this means. You can also apply this to terrain.


For the wash we use the first recipe from Jeremy. Yes, there is a second and better recipe from him and also that has already been replaced by oil washes. But we are not interested in that here. We work with the cheapest materials we can find.


After we have washed everything we can dry brush again to bring out the highlights, but this is not necessary if you do not want that. In the next section we will look at all the advantages and disadvantages of the four materials, from which you can then extract your personal result. Of course, it would be best if you could do this experiment at home, so that you really understand what I’m trying to teach you.


To my own amazement, I am satisfied with the cardboard result. I had simply underestimated the material until now. The planks look authentic and have a nice straight shape. They are easy to work with and the material can be found everywhere in the household. The drying time is great, because acrylic paints harmonize with paper and cardboard. The moisture is quickly absorbed and distributed back to the air in the environment. So if you need very fast, very cheap dungeon tiles cardboard will become your favorite. From the looks of it, these also fit well in a tavern or a house because they look like a handmade product. So something that was built and created by people. I’m a little proud of the idea with the paper shredder because it makes the wooden boards look even more authentic when they are a little frayed at the edges.

Here is the foam result. The foam looks a little coarser and takes away the illusion that it could be wood. Especially with a skale of the minis of 28-35mm. But this is only my personal perception. Dollar store foam is a cheap alternative, if you don’t like cardboard you can also process this material super fast and in addition also still simply. I don’t like it because it is too soft in many places. If you work the material with Mod Podge you can still save something there, but just like foamcore, foam is not so good for tiles surfaces in my opinion.

I am not satisfied with the Foamcore result. You can still see the structure of the foam and that bothers me a lot. Here, too, you can certainly improve things with Mod Podge, but there is not much room for maneuver. Fomacore is super good if you want to build structures like a house, castle or similar, which then later with another structure such as stones, boards or other materials to work. Foamcore is super easy to work with and you can easily push in nails with a pencil for example. I rarely use this material for surfaces and would then rather use real XPS foam because it has better material properties. You can still use this for tiles if you have no other material at hand.

Here, too, I was surprised, because the result also looks quite good. This is probably because the material is also real wood, which makes this easier for players to recognize as such. The beams have become a little too thick and therefore do not fit from the skale, but I already have some ideas where I can use this. You can use something like this on old and decaying buildings or bridges if you want to simulate something old. Unfortunately, the material is more difficult to work with than its predecessors, but if you have a small toolbox of tools this shouldn’t be a problem either. The wooden spatulas are also cheap and can be bought at any dollar store.


These experiments I have made of course not only to teach you something, because I’m working on a major project and have to find materials that I can use well (and also cheap). I have shown here four cheap materials and what advantages and disadvantages they have. But you have to decide for yourself when you want to use which materials. But I also wanted to show that you can get good results with very cheap materials and don’t have to be afraid of being laughed at by your friends. You have to start somewhere and the mini and tabletop scene is very tolerant about that. Everyone plays and builds in his own personal level. I hope that I could teach you something and maybe you are now interested in making dungeon tiles. Just try it out. If you don’t like the results, just throw them in the trash and start again. Personally, I decided to use the cardboard that I will use in my big project.


  1. I have excluded TheDMsCraft here because he has become great almost only with dollar store tutorials.↩︎

  2. Here’s a little kudos to Jeremy. He is the only one where I don’t click away ads within the video. Why? Each sponsor fits the theme of minis, tabletop or other topics specific videos. I can accept that much better than for example this ultra uninteresting Website builder on another channels, which interests me to zero percent because I am a fucking computer scientist. I click that away. At the Black Magic Craft channel I haven’t clicked away any advertising so far. Ok, I haven’t bought anything yet, because e.g. I don’t have a resin printer, but so far it’s 0:0 and Jeremy still has the theoretical chance to catch me with another good sponsor. I just wanted to say that I don’t find all advertising bad. Geek Gaming Scenics does it quite well. He founded his own company and shows the logo for a few seconds before his videos. That`s a catchy point in the video and I like that. I haven’t ordered anything from him yet, because I get alternative products for cheaper in Europe. The transport costs are then just too expensive for me. Sorry Luke. Brexit sucks. Still, I can’t fault his advertising. It’s a good concept. Just a side note for other model makers who want to earn money with online video creation.↩︎

  3. Of course, only if you want to save money. But if you don’t care about money, buy the Squidmar brush set and use it to paint your entire 5x5sqm terrain. And then please wash your stones with Nulnoil. and liters of Agrax Earthshade. Kappa.↩︎

  4. Sorry. I was born in Germany and I can’t do a hobby just for fun. How grotesque and obscure to do something just for fun and creativity or to relax and play with friends. No Kap.↩︎

  5. I haven’t tried superglue with foam yet, but this test is also on my list.↩︎

  6. Stefan Kaufmann, Impfen - Grundlagen, Wirkung, Risiken, C.H. Beck. Susan Blackmore, The Meme Machine, Oxford University Press. Mario Erdheim, Psychoanalyse und Unbewußtheit in der Kultur, suhrkamp taschenbuch wissenschaft. Alan F. Chalmers, What is this Thing called Science?, Open University Press. Sabine Hossenfelder, Lost in Math - How beauty leads Physics Astray, Basic Books.↩︎

  7. And more importantly. Stop trying to be like others. You must learn to remain yourself, because then you can copy people’s ideas without copying people. This is a little difficult to understand. Maybe another example. If you want to sing like Billie Eilish, go to a music school and learn the craft of singing. So the rules, how to use the voice, train, etc. Don’t learn to sing like Billie Eilish, because you will never be that person and you won’t be able to learn that. Her singing is reflected in her very own individual style, which you will never achieve because (from a very physical point of view) you are not Billie Eilish. You are simply you. But if you pick up tricks from B.E you can more quickly achieve your goal of developing your own very individual style of singing. I know that as a young person or beginner in a hobby you always look for role models but many people then try to be like that person and that won’t work. This is super complicated to explain and I hope the words in my head are at least halfway understandable to you. Copy techniques, not people.↩︎

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