Nord Tomb Walls Terrain Painting

By Callum France


Greetings, fellow Dovakhiin! I’m Callum, the in-house Studio Painter here at Modiphius. Recently I had the opportunity to paint some of our fantastic Elder Scrolls: Call to Arms terrain for display at shows, and I thought it would be a great opportunity to share my process with you all. So, today we’re creeping into the depths of a Draugr crypt, where I’ll be showing you how I tackled my very own Nord Tomb Walls.

A quick disclaimer: I did use an airbrush for several steps in this guide, and while I highly recommend that you invest in one if you are considering it, an airbrush is not essential to follow this tutorial. At these stages I will offer alternative ways to achieve a similar result.

Step 1: I first primed the walls with a black rattle-can primer. A good primer is essential for painting highly detailed resin miniatures, and these walls are going to be handled a lot during games and at shows. Once I’d left the spray to dry for around two hours, I gave the walls another coat of Molotow Acrylic Black through my airbrush, to cover any spots I missed with the can.

Step 2: Next, I coated the entire piece with Two Thin Coats Wasteland Brown. I applied my paint through the airbrush for speed, but a brush coat would be fine – just remember to thin the paint with water. We don’t want to clog any of that beautifully rendered detail!

Step 3: Using the airbrush, I first applied a zenithal highlight using Two Thin Coats Temple Stone. A zenithal highlight is applied almost directly from above, to catch all the upward-facing angles and edges. Once I was happy with the coverage, I also brought the highlight onto some of the flatter, more open areas towards the top of the wall. If you don’t have an airbrush, you could use a similarly-coloured rattle can, or just skip this step.

Step 4: Drybrushing! Our first stage of dryrbrushing sees us return to Two Thin Coats Temple Stone, with the goal of catching all of the edges of the rock wall to define the shape. The larger the brush the better, here. 

Step 5: For the next stage of drybrushing, mix Two Thin Coats Ivory Tusk with Two Thin Coats Temple Stone in a rough 1:1 ratio, and drybrush down, focusing on mostly the upward-facing edges, and towards the top third of the wall. For a final careful drybrush, use pure Ivory Tusk.

Step 6: Now that we’ve established some early highlights and transitions, let’s get some shading on there! I mixed Two Thin Coats Battle Mud Wash, Two Thin Coats Oblivion Black Wash, and water together in a rough 5:3:1 ratio – don’t worry about getting this exact each time, as we want each wall to be a little unique. Apply with a large brush and move quickly. Once you’ve coated the entire face, return with a smaller, damp brush and some tissue to soak up any large pools. Try to be gentle at this stage, as a rough application can start to tear some of our paintwork underneath.

Step 7: Let’s re-establish those highlights! Repeat steps 4 and 5, though with a much lighter application. 

Step 8: In my airbrush, I mixed Two Thin Coats Temple Stone and Two Thin Coats Ivory Tusk in a 1:3 ratio, thinned with Airbrush Flow Improver and water, then applied very thin, gradual layers on some of the more pronounced rocks and bricks towards the top half of the wall. This will help to create the gradient of light we see in the final result, and soften any harsh drybrush highlights. If you don’t own an airbrush, you can apply these layers as a glaze with your brush – just be careful to build the transition gradually. 

Step 9: Now we really want to enhance that gradient, and get that rich, earthy tone towards the bottom of the wall. I mixed Two Thin Coats Ancient Forest with Citadel Thondia Brown in a rough 1:1 ratio, and applied thin, gradual coats with my airbrush. I focused on the recesses, some spot shadows towards the top of the wall for some tonal variety, but mostly I applied the paint to the bottom third. As with the previous step, if you don’t have an airbrush you can apply this as a glaze by brush.

Step 10: We’ve got some lovely earthy tones on the terrain, so now let’s establish some shadows to really define the shape of the wall and give it that dark, dungeon vibe. I thinned Two Thin Coats Doom Death Black with Airbrush Flow Improver and a lot of water, and airbrushed along the seams, beneath outcrops, and in the corners of each recessed segment. Gradually build up this stage, as too much black will appear stark and cartoony, and ruin our hard work! This stage is really useful, as you can blend out some of the more intense spots of wash that you might have let pool too heavily. Again, if you don’t have an airbrush you can apply this as a glaze by brush – just be careful not to let the black pool, as it will leave ‘tide’ marks on your model.

Step 11: To simulate moss growing in the depths of this dank crypt, we’re going to work some green hues onto this Tomb Wall. With my airbrush, I applied a mix of Army Painter Speedpaints Absolution Green and Malignant Green in a 1:8 ratio (Absolution Green is waaay more intense!), thinned the lot down with water and Airbrush Flow Improver, and applied it to the model. I focused on areas where I could transition from the brown tones to this green, as the gradient was visually pleasing and noticeable at distance. Less is more with this stage. If you don’t own an airbrush. Skip to step 12.

Step 12: Switching over to our standard brushes, apply Army Painter Speedpaints Malignant Green straight from the pot in a series of random dots and larger clumps across the face of the wall. I also reinforced the greens from the previous step with the more yellow Malignant Green. Speedpaints are an incredibly useful tool, as they are very pigmented and can either be thinned to create a subtle transition or used neat for really intense pops of colour; the only downside is that they reactivate with anything watery, be it washes or glazes. Only use these as a final step, or varnish the entire model afterwards. The final touch was to drybrush our original basecoat, Two Thin Coats Wasteland Brown along the bottom edge to bring out the texture.

And there you have it! Exactly how I painted our Nord Tomb Walls. Let us know if you enjoyed this blog post, and if you did what you’d like to see next - Gavin said I’m always welcome to stay with him and the Greybeards up in High Hrothgar while I write more tutorials. Happy delving, children of Skyrim!

The elder scrolls: call to arms