Sunday, October 16, 2011

Terrain: Habitat and Office Block

Or “Windows? OMG! They have windows!”

UPDATE: I've uploaded a PDF file for blank windows and doors that can be used for masking templates and filled windows and doors which have blue gradient fills and can be used as basic stickers.

Since moving from one milieu to another often entails a change of scenery (ha ha), I felt that the usual Ruins just wouldn’t cut it for Infinity. To remedy the situation, I started making some nice clean walls. What good, though, are walls if you don’t have something to put them around? Here’s my answer:

Always looking for cheap terrain options, I found some 8”x5” acrylic boxes at the Container Store near my office. They were on sale for about $3 each, so I snagged six of them and decided to create some intact buildings. With complete walls. And windows. So totally not 40k.

The first step was to invert the lid and box, then superglue the two parts together. This means that the top of the box is now the bottom, and the upended lid is now the roof. In one move I created a taller building with a slight railing around perimeter of the roof.

The second step was to add some sort of dividing structure in the middle of the long walls. In my example, sheet styrene runs vertically and is then capped by a length of half-round rod. I had to remove two-inch lengths of the lip (now at ground level) under the original lid in order to make room for eventual door placement.

The next step was to create a simple Adobe Illustrator file for windows and doors which was then printed on to self-adhesive label paper (about $1.50 per sheet from Staples). Once printed, I cut out the windows and doors, scored around the curved corners of the windows with a very sharp knife, then stuck the windows on the boxes. The idea was to use the windows as masks for the forthcoming spray paint. When I had all the windows attached, I finished scoring the outlines of the windows. The partial scoring was done before placement so I could get the control needed to follow the curves. This also allowed me to not have to worry about the windows coming completely apart as I peeled them off the backing paper.

I spray painted the exterior of the boxes with Rustoleum Fossil, then added some highlights with Gloss Almond. When the paint was dry, I added the stickers for the doors. Once the doors were securely attached, I hit the whole thing with dullcoat to both kill the gloss and protect the finish.

The final step was to go back and remove the windows/masks. This was tricky, since I only wanted to remove the “glass” parts that I had scored earlier, yet still leave the window frame attached to the box. It was a good idea, but in practice the stickers came off very slowly and left a LOT of adhesive behind. I managed to use rolled up duct tape to essentially remove adhesive with adhesive, but it took a long time. Fortunately, I had MST3K to keep me occupied. When the last traces of adhesive were tacked up, I went back with a cotton swab and isopropyl alcohol for a final cleaning.

The units are stackable, and look good for tabletop use. You can see through the windows, and that means we can declare them as open LOS, obscured LOS, or no LOS. I may hit the units with highlights later on, but I’m going to have to get the adhesives out from under my fingernails first.


  1. Those are amazing! And really smart. Can't wait to throw dice up against them. Wednesday, right?

  2. All I can say is wow! Simple but wonderful. I will have to steal this idea.

  3. Cool idea and excellent execution! I'll definitely try to do something similar. They would probably look even better with some quick highlighting and perhaps some shading.

  4. Thanks! I was trying to keep this simple, so I used spray cans instead of airbrushing. As a result, the finish is a bit heavy-handed. Maybe some brush detailing later on. Once I've got a bit of time, I'll convert the AI file to PDF and upload it as well.

  5. To reduce the amount of stickage, you could leave a smaller section of adhesive backing on, so only the edges need stick.

  6. Those buildings look awesome! Can't wait to get some game time on them!

  7. Mo' grim, those buildings would fit well in conjunction with your cars, the skateboard park, and possibly even that heli-pad...

  8. Troy,

    I was over-eager and decided to do all the buildings at once. Had I taken the time to do a prototype, I would have indentified the adhesive issue. Your suggestion makes sense- after cutting the outlines of the windows, I could have flipped over the paper and cut squares within the window area so that the paper backing would remain in place when pulling off the rest of the sticker. Might be flimsy, though. In the end, the duct tape pulled off all the residue.

  9. What were the containers named, referred to? I would like to get some, but I'll have to order them from the co. website and I can't figure out which ones they are.

  10. How did you remove the two-inch lengths of the lip to make room for the doors?

  11. I just stumbled across this post and would love some more info about sourcing the boxes you used. Googling 8x5 clear acrylic box unfortunately didn't yield any useful results...

    1. I'm not sure where Lo Pan got these. I think I remember him saying they were actually going out of production.