Monday, December 22, 2014

Secret Weapon Miniatures Tablescapes Urban Table Painting Part 1

A while ago Justin McCoy posted a beautiful city tile from his urban tablescapes product. I loved the result and thought I would see if I could produce similar results with less effort. I wanted to paint the table in no more than 3 painting sessions.  How I would paint a single tile is very different than how I would approach a 24 tile project, so I had to use spray paints at the base coat. What you see here is the product of two days painting. The steps were straightforward, and while oils and additional powders are coming next, I thought this was a good stopping place for a while. I think the table is usable now. 

So how did I get to this stage?

  1. Base coat all of the tiles with Rust-oleum matte iced gray. Cheap easy, but hellish overspray from the bottles. I work inside my office and had to do a quick emergency mopping to get the overspray off my hardwood floors!
  2. Spray Tamiya TS-4 German Grey directly from the can onto the asphalt sections using a piece of foam board as an edge to spray against.
  3. Grab and airbrush and spray tamiya flat black into each of the bomb craters. 
  4. Color modulate the concrete. Using three old CCG cards, I made a square edge with a handle that I could use to produce hard edged for each concert chunk. This took the longest time, but I think makes the terrain more interesting. Think of this as color modulation but on a huge scale.
  5. Using a darker version of the tamiya grey which shaded the concrete, shade the cracks and crevices on the asphalt. 
  6. Paint all of the metal black using a mask. This automated the process.
  7. Drybrush boltgun metal (yep still go some!) on all of the metal parts. Quick and easy don't really worry about how messy this is.
  8. Take a dark old rust weathering powder (one of the ones that comes in the SWM box of powers) and liberally wash all of the metal bits. This produces a nice rusty look over the black and blowgun metal base.
  9. Mix a huge pot of brownish weathering powders with Tamiya x-20a thinner and wash the surface of every tile. 
  10. Make two masks out of tape that can be reused to paint the side walks and lane separators. 
Things to do next
  1. Oil washes in all of the gutters to give the sides of the street that filled with gunk feeling. I might skip this given how many tiles there are. 
  2. Weathering powder wash of grey or light grey weathering powder. I think this will bring out the cracks in the streets more and even out the color over all. 
  3. Paint a load of buildings. I think I am going to stick with a lighter color for the building so they match the concrete. One of the benefits of the light sections is that they help models stand out more. 

Overall I really enjoyed painting these. I rarely attempt to paint something as large as a whole table, so I had to go more gestural to make it work. The tiles are a huge boon for the wargaming community. Thanks to Justin for taking a risk with a kickstarter of this magnitude. I can't wait to get some buildings on this table and take it for a spin. I think the moral of the story here is that I might paint 5 different armies a year, but I paint terrain rarely. Putting terrain on the same level as miniature painting makes the game much more enjoyable for me. I wish I hadn't waited so long to paint these.


Since a lot of other people have SWM boards, here is quick run down of the tools I made/used.

The first is an edge template made from three collectible cards. Any card with a glossy surface that won't easily absorb paint will do. I went through three of these painting the table. The idea is to spray darker color along 1/2 of each square on the tiles. I don't recall how long it took to paint the gradients, but it was the majority of the overall painting time. I saved the solid tiles for last, since they would take the longest. I think it took about an hour to do all of them. The process is tedious, though I really like the result. Normally I would use tape to mask the edges, but with so many tiles it was not worth the effort to the waste of tape!

The last things I made were templates for the side walks and lane dividers. This is just tape that I layered up until I could use it repeatedly. This allowed me to paint all of the street details in about half an hour or so.


  1. John,
    I am absolutely thrilled. I was so hoping that someone would get these tablescapes and paint them up so I could see them in all their glory. I couldn't have hoped for a better artist to give them a treatment. They look absolutely wonderful!

    I can't wait to see shots of games on these tiles!!! Thanks so much for sharing your work! Happy holidays!

  2. I will have to make my way down to your place soon to play a game on this table and work on that join project we have been threatening each other with for years!

  3. Very nicely done. I've been waiting for the spring so I can do the base spraypainting outside. I feel your pain. Beautiful job!

  4. Do you mind showing the tool you made for modulating the individual tiles? How long did it take you to knock out tile's worth of squares?

    1. Thanks so much. It's a bit intimidating tackling big projects like these. Time savers like that really go a long way. Thanks again for sharing!