Painting 3D printed Terrain: Spaceship Graveyard

Painting a 3d printed spaceship graveyard

This terrain painting tutorial explains our process for painting 3D printed spaceships and starship wreckage terrain. We will use the Lost Colony: Spaceship Graveyard Set to demonstrate.

We used an airbrush and airbrush stencils but similar effects could be achieved with brushes or rattlecans.

Which paint to use?

Painting 3D printed terrain? Which paint should you use? After going through buckets of Citadel Paints, Vallejo and Army Painter on previous terrain projects, we came to the conclusion that cheap craft paints are defiantly the way to go! Just follow these steps to mix your own airbrush paint:

  1. Grab a few empty paint bottles – Remember that terrain uses a LOT of paint
  2. Squeeze some craft paint into the bottle
  3. Add some de-ionised / distilled water – This helps it going stinky in a few weeks
  4. Add some airbrush thinner (aim for the consistency of melted ice-cream)
  5. Throw in a glass bead and shake (don’t use metal… it may rust)
Which paint for terrain

1 – Good quality 3D prints

Terrain is best printed on FDM printers such as the Ender 3 or Prusa i3 due to the size and amount of materials used – Resin prints would look great but it’d use a lot of resin and require larger resin printers. If using Cura, we recommend printing on standard settings with 5% infill. None of the Saucermen Studios terrain in this set requires supports.

3D printed spaceship

2 – Priming

We’ve tried a few primers for 3D printed terrain and found that Primer / Filler for cars works great for filling in any print lines. it’s important to take your time, spray multiple thin coats and keep a good distance between the spray and model – This will avoid pooling or thick areas of paint. Drying time is under 10 minutes too!

Primer filler for 3D models
Primng 3D printed models

3 – Panel Lines & Dark Areas

Using A dark grey / black paint, spray across the panel lines and dark areas of the terrain such as metal areas or deep recesses.

4 panel lines

4 – Add Highlights to Panels

Using a white or light colour to paint highlights onto the main areas of the panels, this cleans up any messy panel lines and adds contrast to the model.

5 lighter

5 – Stipple Rust & Dirt

Using an old, thick bristled brush with brown / umber paint to jab or stipple grunge onto dark areas of the terrain. Don’t worry about being too messy here as it will be dry brushed later.

6 stipple brown

6 – Drybrush Metal & Silver Areas

Using a large dry and silver paint, drybrush areas of metal. On these example, we used two different brushes for smaller and larger areas. A cheap house painting brush works great!

Drybrush terrain
Drybrushing terrain

7 – Adding More Colours

Repeating the steps above or applying base colours, then highlighting each panel with a lighter colour, you can add variety to the panels. Using masking tape or a carefully held masking board here is essential to isolate individual parts of the model.

Painting 3D printed terrain

8 – Applying Airbrush Stencils

We used adhesive vinyl airbrush stencils here to add decals and detail to the models. Stencils are a great, clean and effective way to easily boost the aesthetic of a model.

Using Airbrush Stencils
8 panels
how to use airbrush stencils

9 – Edge Highlights (with a pencil)

Using a white artist pencil you can quickly and cleanly apply edge highlights to terrain. Just use the side of the pencil and rub it on the edges!

Using Pencils for Edge Highlights

10 – Sponge on Some Damage!

Using a contrasting colour paint, use a torn sponge to add damage, dirt and grime to the edges. Aim for areas that see some usage or would get scratched up easily. Think about doorway edges and corners, etc.

9 stipple

All done – Add Some Brush Detail!

Grab a small, good quality miniature brush and paint on some of the fine detail for panels, wires and lights, etc.

Crashed Spaceship Wreckage 3D printed terrain
Star Wars Legion Zombei Stormtrooper
spaceship wreckage 3D printable terrain stl

Want this Terrain?

Using & Airbrush Stencils

How to use airbrush stencils

What Are Airbrush Stencils?

Airbrush stencils make painting scenery, miniatures, props, robots, vehicles and other painting projects much easier. They are used by hobbyists and studio painters across the world and allow you to achieve limitless customisation by offering complex shapes and thematic patterns, all of which can be quickly and easily applied will very little skill.

How to use Airbrush Stencils

  1. Ensure your hands are clean before use
  2. If using adhesive stencil, delicately remove your stencil from the backing sheet
  3. Position your stencil onto the clean & dry painting surface
  4. Firmly hold or stick the stencil onto the surface to avoid paint leakage
  5. Apply your paint onto the project
  6. Carefully remove the stencil from the painting surface
  7. For re-use, carefully place the stencil onto the backing sheet

Materials: Adhesive Vinyl vs. Durable Flex

Adhesive Vinyl

flex stencil 2 of 3

Summary:

Low tack adhesive vinyl material that allows super-sharp lines but limited re-usability.

Use When:

  • Your painting surface is uneven or varied in shape
  • You need an adhesive material to stick to your surface
  • You need super sharp paint lines
  • Re-usability isn’t too important

Durable Flex

flex stencil scifi camo 2

Summary:

Strong, re-usable and flexible film material that is quick and easy to use.

Use When:

  • You have a flat painting surface
  • You need a durable stencil
  • You want your stencil to last for a long time

Designs

Airbrush stencils come in a variety of designs, with each stencil offering a range if icons, decals and shapes that share a common theme.

Re-usability

Flexibility

Flex stencil rolled up 1

Airbrush stencils are great to use on a variety of surfaces and can flex, wrap and bend around most shapes. Vinyl stencils provide the best versatility as they can be manipulated to fit into the tightest of places and even heated with a hair dryer for extra moldability. Flex stencils are still able to wrap around larger organic shapes.

How Are Stencils Made?

Good quality airbrush stencils are machine cut with precision hardware.

Do I Need An Airbrush?

Air brushes will give the best results for stencils but you can also use rattle-cans, brushes ands even sponges to dab on worn or ‘chipped’ paintwork and distressed surfaces.

Custom Airbrush Stencils

These are the general guidelines we suggest for custom stencils:
– Your design must be provided as a single colour vector (.ai / .eps / .svg)
– Our machines cut around each shape in your artwork, so merging overlapped objects is required
– Consider how stencils work, you need gaps for certain shapes (otherwise they just fall out the stencil)
– Avoid thin connecting lines as these may to break
– You must own rights to use the design. We will not cut images that infringe copyright

Buying Airbrush Stencils