The interior of the Crypt module is finished, but the sides and the top are still quite unsightly. Raw extruded polystyrene, even with a coat of grey paint, does not look the part.
Part I of this tutorial focused on the basic layout of the Crypt, Part II focused on vegetation (vines, moss, mushrooms and roots) and Part III on all the man-made details (skeletons for the alcoves, urns, candles and sacrificial offerings).
In this part we will use black styrene sheet (commonly known as plastic card) and black, self adhesive vinyl film to add a sturdy and visually pleasing finish to the sides and bottom. We will also make the top more appealing in adding a rock texture that matches the walls of the crypt. First I will point out some problems that came up during the construction process and possible solutions for them. We then proceed to a list of materials used followed by detailed step-by-step instructions.
Covering the module – Issues and solutions
I used 1mm thick black styrene sheet for the bottom and sides of the module. The sheet has a glossy and a matt side. I could have also used a sheet with 0.6mm thickness, but I thought the 1mm will add to the resilience of the piece.
The glossy and matt sides provided me with a choice: Make use off the glossy or matt finish or cover it all together with self adhesive vinyl film. As I have no plastic cutting machine and used a set square to draw the outline of the pieces I would need to cut out some inaccuracies occurred. In the end I was only one millimeter off on some pieces, but the sandwich construction of the module made it very fiddly and difficult to properly align the styrene pieces and not have any unsightly gaps on the corners, as the sides were not even.
To solve this problem I went for the self adhesive vinyl film. While not perfect most gaps, scratches etc. will disappear this way, while still having a nice sturdy exoskeleton around the extruded polystyrene core.
To prevent alignment issues I will – for future modules – first cut and assemble the styrene exoskeleton and support it with a first vertical layer of extruded polystyrene. This way I will have a flat rough surface the styrene can be aligned to.
It indeed was a mistake to create the exoskeleton after the interior of the module had been finished, but I had no styrene sheet at hand when I started. Better a bit more effort than no crypt at all I would say, but I recommend to do it this way round if you want to save yourself some trouble.
Suffice to say this also applies to modelling the top of the module. Doing this after the walls and interior had been finished was time consuming and unnecessary. For future modules I will build it all up to allow a flush transition between the rock and the sides, then paint it altogether. I also thought on saving some material and leave some of the ‘solid’ areas of the module hollow, covering them with some styrene sheet and adding a rock finish. For a nice flush edge it might also be an idea to embed the vinyl film in the paste applied to the top.
Despite the problems I am very pleased with the final look of the module. Creating this prototype did show some problems that need to be addressed, but this will only benefit the look of future modules.
What you need
- Black or white styrene sheet to cover the sides and the bottom. I went for black as it gave me the finish I looked for. You need one 27cm x 27cm piece, two 27cm x 5.5cm pieces and two 26.8cm x 5.5cm pieces. You obviously need to cut out the door openings.
- Some glue that can bond extruded polystyrene to styrene sheet. I used Selleys Liquid Nails Fast.
- Thick cardboard, around 3mm thickness to fill up the hight difference between styrene sides and extruded polystyrene core.
- Woodfiller to cover the cardboard and give the module top a nice rock finish.
- Wood glue.
- Grey acrylic paint.
- Masking tape, to prevent sullying the sides when working with the woodfiller.
- Brown pigment and brush on matt varnish to mix a final ‘stone’ wash.
- Brushes of various sizes to apply paint, wood glue and woodfiller. Old bristle brush for dry brushing.
- X-acto knife.
How you make it
- Cut the styrene sheet to size.
- First align and glue the bottom to the module.
- If necessary shape the extruded polystyrene with an X-acto knife to accommodate the base.
- Glue the sides on, resting them on the styrene base and against the module sides. Let dry over night.
- There is now a 0.5mm discrepancy between the styrene sheet covers and the extruded polystyrene core.
- Fill the height difference with thick cardboard cut to size, glued directly onto the extruded polystyrene. Let dry.
- Mask the sides of the module to prevent spillage during the next step.
- Cover the cardboard with a mix of woodfiller, wood glue and grey paint. You might need to add some water to get the right consistency. Pull off the masking tape before the woodfiller sets, this way you get a nice flush edge. Let dry.
- Depending on how thick you applied the woodfiller some cracks might have formed. Make another batch of the mixture and cover the cracks. If necessary mask the sides again. Let dry.
- You now need to fill in the 1mm gap on each side that has a door opening. Using the same mix you used for the dirt floor in Part I fill the gap and let dry.
- Apply some wood glue to the edges and sprinkle sand over them.
- Paint the woodfiller in the same colour you painted the crypt walls, drybrush and finally apply a wash of brown pigment, water and matt varnish. If you think it is necessary, again, mask the sides.
- Cut the self adhesive vinyl film to size. I went for a continuous piece of 6cm x 108cm. This gives a bit of leeway if the piece should not be aligned properly. Slowly but steadily pull away the backing of the film and attach to the sides.
- Trim away any excess on the top edge with the X-acto knife, and fold the bottom part under the module. This way the bottom edge will be nice and flush.
- Finally, using some acrylic matt gel fill in any small gaps between vinyl film and module wall on the top. This will prevent the film of coming loose.
- Glorious dungeoneering can ensue!