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  • Writer's picturezoe birrell

Gloomhaven Doorways; a Terrain Commission


I’m going to do a bit of a case study here about the Gloomhaven terrain

painting and customizing commission I have just completed.


I am really happy with the results and have decided to submit these doorways to the Dark Elf Erin dare on instagram as this month the theme happens to be doorways.


In this post I will walk you through the planning and ideas, the preparation and customization through the sculpting of small things to add onto the miniatures provided, and then look at some photos of the painted pieces and finishing touches.


I will try and keep the word count down and instead walk you through the process with many many photos. I hope you find it interesting.



The Concept Behind The Gloomhaven Custom Doorways and Chests


The request from my client was to paint and customize some doorways and treasure chests they where getting, and make each set unique to themes the individual players had requested for their sets.






The client sent me a sketch of the the ideas and feel they wanted each set to have with a few specifics:

1x “dark” blood and bones

1x “forest”

1x “dragon” with egg and scales

1x “elf” with ivy and arrows

2x “fairy tale” with cheerful colours and magic things for a 10 year old.




As a creative person I love this kind of brief that gives me a few simple directions but gives me the freedom to customize the pieces and figure out a good way to make them unique.


Things I was taking into account while planning how to carry out the work where; maintaining a coherence between all of the pieces so they still worked as a set,



making sure they still worked with the Gloomhaven overall artwork and universe, and making each one special and unique so the individual player who picked a theme can feel more immersed and personally a part of the Gloomhaven campaign they are taking part in.






This influenced artwork decisions say with the dragon base where I decided to go for hinting at red drakes instead of going for any other dragon colour and when doing the dark base making sure I used non humanoid skulls as well.

At the same time it is really important to me, when painting campaign games, to keep content spoiling to a minimum.




The Preparation

The first thing to not here was that unfortunately there where some issues

with printing lines on the minis the client sent me. I am always very wary of 3D printed stuff and if these where playable characters at the point I received the prints I would probably have been reconsidering taking on the commission, however the client had been up front with me that the prints where not quite to the standard they would have liked and that if it took extra time to prep them that would be fine.


The other thing I took into account is that these are terrain and really don’t need to be as perfect as the main characters. Finally there was the environmental impact to take into account as at the end of the day I could fix these prints and if we went down the route of getting them reprinted by the provider that would have used more plastic and energy and generated unnecessary waste. I like to keep to my studio as ethical as possible so was happy to avoid this.




I went down a bit of a rabbit hole in my own time researching and asked my followers on instagram if anyone had any suggestions on how to fix them. Some suggestions where making milliput paste, filler primer, wood filler, uv resin, … and yes I think that was it.






I was going to go off on a tangent testing all these different techniques out and comparing them but took a step back and weighed the benefits in doing this against the fact I have a lot of other work on and all this research etc I was basically going to be doing in my own time as professional development and to create an interesting blog post maybe.






In the end I decided to use things I had to hand like wood filler and some Vallejo filling putty which I suspect would be similar to the milliput paste if I where to make it up except for having the added bonus of being mixed already in a bottle saving me a lot of time.





There was a lot of sanding and I used wood filler for some of the bigger areas and then brushed on the filling putty with an old scruffy brush to try and introduce some different texture on the wooden frames and doors.

On the whole the results of these filling techniques are not perfect but they do the job and although the macro lens on my camera is pretty unforgiving I am really happy with the end results when the minis are on the table.




A side note on brushes for this particularly commission is that I steered clear of using any of my more expensive synthetic brushes as I knew due to the surfaces (where even after me sanding) are pretty ruff by miniature standards there was a high risk of the brush tips getting damaged.




The Customization



I truly love making custom pieces but, there is always a but, they can easily take a lot of time specially when you start sculpting small details. This makes it really hard to estimate how long they will take to complete. In this particular case I had estimated taking around 12 hours to complete the commission but it ended up taking almost twice that time.






This was in part due to the extra work I had not predicted from fixing print lines. Basically on custom pieces like this at best I can make an educated guess as to how long they will take and just keep the client in the loop. I always bear in mind however that I am on the clock and try and rain in my perfectionism to the actual requirements of the pieces being worked on.



I used wire, green stuff for the sculpting the mushrooms, fairy and dragon tail, and used some brown stuff for the sculpting the cracked egg as it a bit less floppy that green stuff.


Bamboo skewers were used to make the arrows.


This was my first time using this arrow making technique and must say I am really happy with the results.




The Painting

Once all of the prep was done I did started wet blending away and getting down the colour schemes I wanted.


I dug out a doorway from the game terrain so I could colour match my floors to the game art and studied some images of dry stone walls and old wooden doors and started clacked on with some painting.





I will leave you with a picture gallery now of the doorways after after they where done painting and getting all the bits of greenery etc added on.











Final Thoughts and Specifics


Over all I really enjoyed working on this project even though it had a slightly challenging start with all those print lines. I think the end results are enchanting and I am really grateful the client trusted me with bringing their ideas to life.


I do feel like the chest ended up rather plain even though I made sure to colour match them to the doorways they go with.



In total the commission took 23 hours to complete; 8 hours on prep and customization, and 15 hours on painting and final touches and cost the client a total of £345 plus shipping.


I really hope you found this post interesting and would love to hear any comments or thoughts below. If you are interested in having something like this painted up or customized you can find more information about the services I offer here. I hope this gave you a good idea of how the process works.


Thank you for showing an interest in my work and taking some time out of your day to read this post.


Some Lovely Things the Client Said About My Work


“Your work is amazing. I was not mistaken in thinking that a creative (…) touch would make the difference with the usual warhammer painting

The colour rendering is great, and the touches of nature and moss are so well done and distributed.


The atmospheres are perfect with impressive details. The blood on the door, the arrows or the dragon's egg, and all so small and precise!


I'm looking forward to using them and will need a display case to show them off in the meantime :)”


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