Box Castle Late Project Log

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Box Castle Late Project Log

Postby Mattias! » Wed Jan 04, 2023 5:49 pm

Not precisely a tutorial nor a true project log since much of the project is complete and I'm in the final stages, but still I thought it might be nice to post some old and new in-progress shots with a few words about what I did/am doing.

For those that don't know, this project is to design a modular model castle out of chipboard in such a way that all of the component pieces--towers, outbuildings, wall segments, etc.--would nest into the 'main box' of the keep, thus making it easily portable and storable.

I also decided to eschew using realistic modeling techniques to disguise the bare chipboard surface, opting instead to take advantage of that surface and illustrate all of the castle textures by hand in a style heavily inspired by Warhammer Townscapes.

First, to give you an idea of the scope, here's the whole set laid out after I constructed it, painted it, and applied black ink (more on that later):


The component parts are:
    -The Main Keep (a 9" cuboid that holds everything else)
    -The Balcony Wing (can be placed as a wing against the keep, or can stand alone as a tower house)
    -4 x long wall segments
    -4 x short wall segments (these and one of the long segments are constructed to slot into the 3 other long segments for storage)
    -1 large open tower
    -1 large roofed tower
    -1 medium open tower
    -1 small turret
    -1 tiny turret (all the turrets and towers nest one into the other, like matryoshka)
    -1 roof piece
    -1 stable/house outbuilding
    -2 small shed/house outbuildings or wall hourdings
    -1 gatehouse
    -2 stairways
    -1 raised courtyard (aka the lid to the 'keep')

The other boxy structures pictured to the right side of the table above are actually just extra boxes I made to hold my other terrain and to use as test pieces for the illustration process.

At this point I had constructed everything out of heavy duty chipboard (super cheap from Blick here:; I used the 30-ply, but I almost certainly could have gotten away with the 14 ply. This stuff is thick.) At this point it is all coated in white acrylic to form a base for the illustration and I was starting to apply black fountain pen ink to form random shadows.

More to come tomorrow!

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Re: Box Castle Late Project Log

Postby Mattias! » Thu Jan 05, 2023 10:23 am

Here are some more detailed shots of the first part of the illustration process, applying the black ink:
Black Ink 1.jpg

The idea here is to imitate shadows and darker/grimier areas of stonework, but also just provide some random depth and texture. It is not a very controlled process though, and I don't sweat it. The randomness makes for loads of visual interest, as well as a starting point for the penwork later.
Black Ink 3.jpg

First I flood most of the surface with water using a mop brush, then I load a smaller craft brush with black fountain pen ink and drip it liberally on the wet surface, trying to make the drops land more towards the bottoms of the buildings since that is where the ink will stay darkest.
Black Ink 4.jpg

Then it's a matter of tilting the piece so the ink flows, dropping more water to move the ink around (fresh water tends to repel the ink somewhat), spritzing with a spray bottle to cause diffusion effects, and then waiting 24 hours at least for everything to dry completely.
Black Ink 2.jpg

I use a very specific ink for this: Noodler's Eel Black Fountain Pen Ink. The reason is the reticulation effect seen above. The ink looks smooth while it's in water, but as it dries it kind of clumps and gathers, drying in zillions of little particles. I've tested a LOT of inks looking for this effect in different colors, but this is the only one that reliably behaves this way.
Black Ink 5.jpg

The effect is almost geologic or effluvial, like a wide river delta seen from an airplane. It provides a wealth of detail, perhaps not quickly, but with very little effort. Just like erosion.
Black Ink 6.jpg

This is just the first layer, of course, establishing the darkest values. Colored inks will follow. The aim of this approach is to layer a lot of random texture and detail onto the surface so that relatively simplistic linework will come to life with the extra depth.
Black Ink 7.jpg

Because this step involves creating essentially an ink puddle, each side of each piece must be done separately and allowed to dry completely.
Black Ink 8.jpg

I occasionally had to raise the top edge very slightly to make sure that the puddle would pool toward the bottom edge of the piece. The ink tends to flow most to where the water is deepest, so this helps maintain the illusion of shadow.
Black Ink 9.jpg

It's hypnotic to watch
Black Ink 10.jpg

I've used this technique before on illustration projects, but I was really pleased to find a way to use it for terrain. I've long been interested in the intersection of tabletop gaming and visual art, and this project is very much a culmination of that interest.
Black Ink 11.jpg

Here you can see the little islands of pigment forming.
Black Ink 12.jpg

Hope this was informative/interesting. More tomorrow!

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Re: Box Castle Late Project Log

Postby Mattias! » Fri Jan 06, 2023 7:34 pm

Next step after black ink was to add some hues! I knew that I wanted a gradient with the lower parts of the buildings cooler and darker as if in shadow, and the upper surfaces warmer and brighter, as if catching the light of the sun. I also knew that I wanted it to be more on the colorful and wyrd than the grim and grimy side of things. I did some experimenting on the backs of door pieces
Colored Ink 3.jpg

...which didn't come out quite right, so I did some more tests on some spare bristol and found this wash gradient:

These are all liquitex inks, which I know from previous projects spray quite well. The colors I landed on were Dioxizine Purple for the lower surfaces (I'm pretty sure I desaturated a bit by mixing in some of the yellow), Quinacridone Magenta for the mids, and Orange Yellow Azo for the tops. On a whim I finished it off with a spatter of gold ink for some additional shimmery chaos.

Colored Ink 4.jpg

With the colors decided, all I needed to do was mix up some dilute jars of each color, grab my trusty mouth atomizer (aka the poor man's airbrush), and get to spraying!

Colored Ink 1.jpg

I started with the purple and worked my way up, trying to go gently so I didn't have too many runs (though I wasn't losing my mind trying to prevent them either). It ended up being much faster than applying the black ink.

The roofs got linear brushes of burnt sienna mixed with azo yellow to start suggesting the lines of tiles.

Colored Ink 2.jpg

It was extremely satisfying to have color on everything. It was really starting to feel like it was coming together.

Unable to help myself, I put together a big mock layout to see how big a castle I could make with both the castle set and my terrain boxes:
Mock Setup 1.jpg

Mock Setup 2.jpg

Mock Setup 3.jpg

Mock Setup 5.jpg

And that's about it for the painting portion! Back tomorrow with some shots of the drawing process!

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Re: Box Castle Late Project Log

Postby Eilif » Sat Jan 07, 2023 10:56 am

Incredible work Mattias. The last castle shots are particularly inspiring.

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Re: Box Castle Late Project Log

Postby Mattias! » Sun Jan 08, 2023 2:06 pm

Eilif wrote:Incredible work Mattias. The last castle shots are particularly inspiring.

Thanks Karl! I was inspired as hell.

Of course, the work up to that point turned out to be the easy part. The penwork is what really takes the time.

Here are some process shots of the Wing/Tower House piece:

Drawing Process 1.jpg

First step is to block out any defining features (windows, battlements, and arches, basically). Then start on the stonework. The first pass is done with a .4mm technical pen.

Drawing Process 2.jpg

For taller pieces like this one, I don't fill the whole thing with stone pattern because I think that that would be too visually overwhelming. I stick to the lower parts to imitate shadow. I also don't want the stonework to be too regular. A lot of paper terrain textures, hand-drawn or otherwise, fail for me in how completely even they are. Even if this is 'realistic' (something I don't particularly care about, obviously, with this project) I find it distracting in it's regularity. So when I draw a line between stones, I loosely follow this basic procedure: I start drawing the line as between two courses. I then draw a 'turn-off' to one side, keep going, then draw a 'turn-off' to the other side, then keep going. Finally, I draw a 'dead-end', which interrupts the course. I then choose one of the additional lines created this way and repeat this procedure. The result is a semi-improvisational pattern that completes itself, and that looks neither too regular nor too haphazard.

Drawing Process 3.jpg

Once the stonework is all drawn in, I go back with a finer .35mm pen and do some loose dots and texture to vary the scale.

Drawing Process 4.jpg

I then use a white gel pen to add in some edge highlights for a bit more dimensionality.

Drawing Process 5.jpg

Then I add a few hatched shadows where appropriate.

Drawing Process 6.jpg

Here's a wall segment and the gatehouse with their finished stonework.

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Re: Box Castle Late Project Log

Postby gattz » Sun Jan 08, 2023 5:40 pm

This is some staggering work, and has a truly unique vibe for wargaming terrain. :o

The ink coagulation and colors have that trippy 70's-80's fantasy animation/graphic novel background feel.
The line drawings look crisp and bring a lot of texture to life.

I love it all. Madly well done!

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Re: Box Castle Late Project Log

Postby Mattias! » Mon Jan 30, 2023 5:29 pm

I knew that this project was time-consuming while I was doing it, but I don't think I had a concept of just how time-consuming it was until I actually set a stopwatch.

Here's a single long face of one of the long wall segments after 15 minutes:
Progress 1.jpg

...and after 30:
Progress 2.jpg

...and after 45:
Progress 3.jpg

...and after 60:
Progress 4.jpg

There are four long wall segments and four half wall segments, so the longer faces of the walls alone represent 12 hours of inkwork :shock: :lol:

I'm going to be so happy to be able to call this done soon

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Re: Box Castle Late Project Log

Postby Eilif » Mon Jan 30, 2023 8:21 pm

Just wanted to add that I've enjoyed seeing the progress on this castle.

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Re: Box Castle Late Project Log

Postby timlillig » Fri Feb 03, 2023 9:50 pm

I agree it has been very inspiring to see your progress on this. Also, it was great fun to play on.

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Re: Box Castle Late Project Log

Postby Mattias! » Sat Mar 04, 2023 4:29 pm

Thanks guys! Progress moves apace with this, the Penultimate Wall!

penultimate wall.jpg

penultimate wall (2).jpg

penultimate wall 3.jpg

I've also started on the doors:
Doors 1.jpg

Doors 2.jpg

Doors 3.jpg

Doors 4.jpg

Doors 5.jpg

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