Saturday, January 26, 2013


Tri-City Laser has created a line of laser-cut wood building kits that are relatively easy to assemble and etched with detail that look fantastic when given the kind of dry-brushed highlighting technique that is in every gamer's basic skillset. I was tasked with creating painted samples of the entire line and photographing them for the sell sheets which make up the line's basic promotional package. That meant finishing a lot of buildings quickly. This experience helped me build the following technique which I have found gives the neatest, cleanest result the most efficiently.

The foundation of this technique is painting the building before it is assembled. By doing so, you don't have do as much fiddly stuff around the details and can more or less slap the paint on. You must be warned that it can cause some swelling in the wood, especially if you use too much paint; but although I've had tight fits at time, I've never had a building that failed to go together.

The building I've chosen to illustrate my technique is the newest release, a small store with a fancy stepped-front. First off, lay out all your unpainted parts and give it a dry test-fitting to make sure you know how everything goes together.

Let's start with the exterior surfaces. The front, sides, back, roof, and floor need a thin coat of dark sepia brown paint. Because I need large quantities for terrain and buildings, I mix this color myself with black and red craft paints (make sure they are a good quality, opaque variety). Use a fairly stiff brush and work the paint into all the cracks and crevices.

Once this coat has dried and the missed spots touched up, it's time for the first dry-brushed layer. I use a medium brown craft paint which is a bit like raw sienna. Michael's craft store sells it by the exciting name "brown."

This will be brushed over all the surfaces which are meant to be plain wood. (Isn't it interesting how wood looks more like wood when you paint it?)

I also do a bit of dry-brushing and dappling on the roof, making a pattern that suggest a sun-baked spot in the middle of the surface.

The next shade for the plain wood portions of the building is a very subtle mustard-yellow-brown; something like yellow ochre. At it's most basic it is a mix of brown and yellow. This is dry-brushed over all the surfaces that got the brown treatment earlier.

Now on to the more colorful parts of the building. Often times, the false front was only part of an Old West building that was painted. I've chosen green with yellow trim, but these are very subtle, muted colors and not GREEN! and YELLOW!

I want the final highlights to give it an olive aspect, so I begin by adding black to olive (you can create olive from black and yellow, just like Napoleon did for his gun carriages) to get a nice dark olive drab. Paint the top half of the front and the back of the front (the part that shows above the roof when viewed from behind). The lower half of the front will get a different treatment.

The lower half of the front and all of the trim pieces will receive a basic coat of yellow ochre, the mustard-brown color mentioned earlier. Notice how I do all the windows very thoroughly with this coat, working it onto every surface of the window sashes, and painting slightly beyond the window frames, but not so far that it will extend beyond the trim piece, which will be glued on later.

This will be followed with a dry-brushing of a lighter version of the same.

The interior of the walls recieve a tan which you can dapple and highlight to your heart's content to simulate a smoke-stained white wall.

Now you're ready for assembly with white glue. You will need to use rubber bands or clamps to hold it together tightly while it dries. You can us superglue, but you may run into problems getting everything lined up before it dries.

Once everything is put together, I look for more highlighting I can do to really make details pop. I add some light tan dust on the wood surfaces in strategic places, and even a little fine dusting on the green front (carefully).

And there it is! I plan on making this into an undertaker's shop; Rigor and Mortis, Undertakers (for you Bugs Bunny fans).

Take a gander at the whole collection at There are painted samples of all the buildings in this collection in the catalog pages of the shopping cart.


  1. Very nice work! Thanks for the tutorial.

  2. Thank you for sharing this interesting and informative article, painting with airless spray gun will be faster and more interesting!

    Powder Coating

    1. Whatever floats your boat! I personally prefer dry-brushing.