PoorHammer – our guide to castle dioramas on a budget

PoorHammer – our guide to castle dioramas on a budget

We’re big fans of doing stuff on a budget. And by using some of the materials we supply, as well as some well chosen pieces of junk offcuts, packaging and other gubbins you can get from builders merchants, you too can create epic set pieces for your tabletop. Our PaintPixie has been very busy building a castle.

Follow this simple guide, and you too can build an awesome terrain piece.

Recommended materials:

• Extruded polystyrene 5mm thick – For walls and individual walls, bricks and ground decor.
• Mounting board for bases.
• Cylindrical tubing x 6.
• A single larger and possibly taller cylindrical tube.
• A rectangular box.
• Recycled board game counter cut outs (for use in the portcullis).
• Sand.
• All-purpose filler (for rendering).
• PVA glue.
• Spray adhesive.
• Matte decoupage adhesive and water (mixed to a 1:1 ratio).
• Terrain (Our very own Dammit Granite terrain and Moss Acre flock pots ).
• Technical paints (Digger Yellow, Khaki Dream, Base Black, Base White, Castle Grey, Quagmire Brown, Pastoral Green and Sword Silver)
• Primers- Expo Light Grey or Dark Grey spray primer.

Step 1:

Cut small brick sized shapes from extruded polystyrene for use on the castle and guardhouse wall sections and indent with balled up foil and blunt pencil to create the stone texture. You can also draw in cracked lines onto these walls sections by using a pencil or black biro. Follow a similar process to construct the castle base and gatehouse. In this case, that the castle walls have been made with double thickness polystyrene.

The walls and towers are then assembled and glued firmly to the base of the castle. Use cocktail sticks to align the walls to the base – this also helps to strengthen the overall brickwork structure. We have then joined up the walls and towers in the same way, and then once they are assembled, these have been grouted together with filler.


Step 2:

The all-purpose filler can be used to fill in any gaps, as well as creating further texture and strength. Once dried, mark out any cracks with a scalpel to create a weakened and decayed effect on the walls. Terrain rocks can then be placed in the top of the turrets, across the castle entrance base, and around the guard house door to fill any random gaps.

Glue bricks to the corner turrets as well, adding circular polystyrene turret platforms to the very tops of them, for your figures to stand on.

You can then cover a small box with a portcullis using old game counter cutouts. Entrance bridges walls and side walls can be created using the same polystyrene wall detailing method.

Step 3:

Base the towers platforms, castle floor and entrance with PVA, sprinkle with sand and once dried, cover with a light layer of Base Black paint to produce a weathered look, and to seal in the ‘dirt and grime’. Prime the model with Expo Dark Grey and/or Light Grey primers for any highlights – but please do this in a well ventilated area, preferably outdoors because of the fumes. Above all, use very delicate sprays, as this primer actually reacts with the foam, which helps to create further texture, enhancing the aged, distressed castle aesthetic). Then brown, white and grey paint is used to decorate the castle base.

Paint the black, white and grey stones in a random array across the structure of the model. You can vary the detail with a mixture of sponge painting, brush strokes and dry brushing, or you can apply detail to individual stones and across the walls. The Base Black and Castle Grey paints can then be used to create shadows and a damp look in all the right places. Highlight the turrets and edges of the stonework with Base White mixed with Khaki Dream. Mix small volumes of these paints to create new tones – these help to enhance details and add depth. Add flock (Moss Acre) to the castle corners and grassy surrounding areas.

diorama wargaming dwarves elves scenery

For this castle, the keep, guardhouse and entrance floor are modular, allowing for flexibility in gameplay scenarios, as well as allowing for extending and enhancing the layout later on. Because these are separate, they will also be easy to store. Whilst we here have chosen not to, we would recommend that you seal the model with a matte sealant that is suitable for use with extruded polystyrene. Should you need to preserve the finish, we suggest a water based primer as an alternative.

We threw in some of our own extra marsh-like pieces of terrain and fire pit that we had made earlier, and our 3D printed castle tiles (also shown here) are compatible with the guards house created.

If you are interested in our whole castle bundle then check out our WB0001 – Castle Bundle download, an absolute steal for 31 download print models for just £39.99. Also, take a look at our Instagram and Facebook feeds for updates on what we’re up to, what we’re building and what we stock, be it modelling staples to new product releases.

Our castle dimensions (of course, the size and scale you choose is completely up to you):

Dimensions: Entrance base: 300mm x 300mm
Castle base: 450mm x 300mm
4 smaller towers: 150mm x 90mm
Larger tower: 300mm x 100mm
Gatehouse: 900mm x 100mm x 110mm
Keep: 240mm x 170mm x 50mm

Have fun and good luck!