Herein lies the first installment of the beginning of my wood painting deep dive. Wow, do I have a ton to unpack for this series and am already running out of “time” as I attempt to break things down and schedule them out. I can already tell that like all things in art and hobby there is no definite end or mastery but rather a continuous journey. So lets get to it!

The Problem

I do not know about you but I absolutely hate painting wooden textures in the tabletop space. In my mind almost every aspect of the hobby includes wood of some form. Miniatures have shields, perhaps wooden tavern bases, wooden helmets, bows, staffs, handles to weapons etc. Terrain can be trees, a fort, a barricade, tables & chairs to just name a few. Don’t even get me to start listing different buildings built out of wood. Everywhere I look I have to paint more wood onto objects. 

As a crafter I am now faced at a crossroads. Do I continue doing the same thing, paint, method and color? OR Do I attempt to grow my knowledge and skill? Obviously since I am starting a deep dive category regarding the subject I’ve obviously chosen road number 2.

Now let us face the looming question. How do I make all the things with wood in my collection not look the same? I am aspiring to diversify my collection and wheel house of choices as well as skill.

The Questions

1) How can I paint different wood species to provide a larger variety color palette while still looking realistic?

2) What are the main wood types that I can use in the space and still not break the immersion of my tabletop? Primary focus in Fantasy or medieval time periods.

3) What are the various ways to add mold, decay, age, etc to wood grain?

4) What if the piece of terrain does not have a wooden texture. What mentality should I have while painting by hand? What are great ways to practice this?

5) How do I increase the variety of plant life on my tabletop based on season and biome? Almost all my trees end up being deciduous tree from a temperate climate.

6) Is there a “best” way to make trees? How many should I have? Considerations to have when playing on the table?

7) What about paint on wood? How do I paint color onto a wood finish and still keep the texture?

These are just a few of the numerous questions I have when painting wooden things for my tabletop. I am sure there are going to be plenty of others and not all will be answered in this short series but at least it will get my foot in the door, of things to look out for while I’m researching and painting.

The Inspiration

Part of the inspiration for doing deep dives at all is from a facebook post by a man named Michael Cavagnaro in the Miniature Painters Tips and Tricks group on December 4, 2020. He created a large collection of wooden floor tiles for reference using different washs & contrast paint on top of 2 undercoats. The first was just a printed Brown PLA and the second primed with white spray paint. 

Inspiration Work by Michael Cavagnaro

While this is a great reference document, I am unable to find the original source as well as do not frequently use or own many contrast paints. I am also someone who currently has the mentality that the extra time spent on learning, and making it look as good as I can. My intention is that each wagon, tree, shield I make and paint will last year’s and I am in no rush to make my ultimate game table, battle map, and epic miniature paint job. Within reason of course, finishing projects is the goal after all.

My plan is to make not only my own sample selection of paint for wood like Michael did but also be more transparent on paints used for others to grow the collection. 

My Wood Painting Journey Thus Far

In reality I did not truly get into the miniature painting and tabletop gaming hobby until 2014 of which was a brief introduction which was not rekindled until summer of 2018 when I started 3d printing. Check out the Beginnings into 3d printing if you are curious about how I got my start specifically for 3d printing. 

Like almost all people the starting prints in the hobby consisted of scatter terrain things like treasure chests, trees and the like. Then I saw the project that I absolutely MUST do. My first ever 3d printable file purchase was a lake backer purchase of the Forest of Oakenspire by Evan Carathers. This project is royalty among wood terrain. A fully modular, livable, tree village! I mean come on who doesn’t want to make that? 

Kickstarter Image of the Forest of Oakenspire Tree house.

In the end as a brand new person into 3d printing I decided to start with something “small” (insert laughter) of a flying airship from that Kickstarter set. To this day it is still a project I haven’t completed and is looming over my head. One day i’ll finally finish it.

Airship work in progress project from 2018.

Not too long after I started diving into Dungeon tiles and 3d printed some tavern tiles.

We can say that the project got a little bit out of hand. Also that I might seriously have an affinity towards Dungeon Tiles.

I worked on docks for city harbors, these are made an Openforge design by Devon Jones.

I’ve also made bookshelves, tables, trees, and so many more things made out of wood. With the exception of the dungeon tiles, every single one of these projects I have never completed because I was unhappy with the quality of paint job and diversity of my wood based builds. 

Wood Painting in 2021

This year however, 2021, I have decided to put more work into painting wooden textures and have already tried a few different things and learned quite a bit already.

Starting one of my first paint jobs I painted the siege equipment from the Fantasy Props Kickstarter. The Trebuchet and Catapult I learned a very important lesson about underpainting. So far I have always primed the wood brown and layered up. The method used for the siege was a black base coat then dry brushing up. I love the dark hue underneath and there is definitely something there that deserves more time and experimenting.

Another wood paint style i’ve attempted this year is a more dynamic wood age and weathered look. Painting the fishers hut I used a large variety of colors to attempt to give the grain and planks their own unique look rather than a static uniformity that I think tends to be dull. I have gotten so many compliments on this specific paint job and am excited that my going in blind approach of throwing colors at it actually came out great. I would like more confidence in doing this though rather than just throwing a hail Mary and hoping it turns out well.

I also really really loved the fact that I added bronze paint to attempt to showcase a rusted nail look on the planks of the Fishers hut. It is actually my favorite painting aspect of the entire project.

All in all wood is the perfect example of just how crazy in depth the crafting hobby can go. Due to the sake of length as well as providing more time for research I am going to extend the research portion this deep dive for next week. While I think I have had a great start in improving my skills of wooden painting for the tabletop hobby there is so much more I can do. I’m excited about pursuing it further. 

Stay tuned for next week where we break down various applications of painting wood textures, materials commonly used, where its commonly found, and the planning of future painting projects to test new concepts.

Do you have any questions about painting wood? What kind of things would you like to see experimented?

New Website Sections!

I’ve recently added new sections to the website to make this conversation and others for deep dives more easily accessible. Found under Painting you can navigate to either the homepage of all Deep Dives or directly to Wood Painting for more easily accessible information and pictures of the color palette.

Previous Write Ups

4 thoughts on “Wood Painting Deep Dive: Part 1 The Questions, Inspiration and Self Reflection

    1. One day, one day I’ll finally finish it. The airship is also modular to hold different magnetic pieces so it could be sail or turbine powered and the like.

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