Sunday, April 19, 2015

Creating a Pulp Sci-Fi Building Using Papier-mâché

Here's another article that I wrote for Ravage Magazine US. This one was published in Issue #12. Check out Ravage US at

Also check out my first article: Making Wargaming Buildings from Papier-mâché

And have a look at the Trash Bash Bits Kickstarter. I'm making a collection of doors and windows to be used in just this sort of project.

Creating a Pulp Sci-Fi Building Using Papier-mâché 
Brian S. Roe

People enjoy model building and miniature painting for many reasons. For some it’s merely an enjoyable hobby that is calm and quiet, something that they can devote a few hours each night to and in the end have a beautiful little work of art to admire. Others play their games with such a competitive spirit that they want their miniatures to be the best as well. And there are some who truly believe that well painted models perform better during the game.

I’m in a different camp. I want to make movies. And playing wargames allows me to come pretty close to that experience. I’ll never forget the Rhino that exploded and flipped over onto Noah Doyle’s Chaos Champion or the volley of flaming arrows that destroyed the lions from Cathy Hamaker’s Khemru Beastmaster. These moments played out on tables that had well painted scenery against opponents who had taken the time to make their miniatures look great. And for those brief moments the tiny world we were sharing was as vast and epic as any Hollywood blockbuster.

With this in mind I’ve been thinking about building some pulp sci-fi buildings roughly based on buildings from pulp magazine covers and from movie serials such as Radar Men From The Moon and Undersea Kingdom. I was also inspired by my pod house build from Ravage #10. The idea of using papier-mâché for more organic forms stuck in my head and so I decided my Valkeeri from Hydra Miniatures needed a hide-out.

Check out my article from here for the basics on using Celluclay papier-mâché for buildings. For the pulp sci-fi building I used large plastic eggs that I found last Easter as well as a small plastic paint bucket to make my basic shapes. These were then cut and glued together using wood-glue. I used more Celluclay to blend the joins between them. I then mounted the whole construction onto an MDF base.

The basic building shape.

Once everything was completely dry I created two windows and a doorway by drilling portals using a spade type drill-bit. This gives a cleaner result than trying to cut into the shape while it’s still wet.

I then built steps out of foamcore and then coated them in Durham’s Water Putty. Once this was dry I sanded them to shape. Finally I built a door from plasticard and foamcore.

The balconies are made from a smaller egg shape glued to the towers. The archway over the balcony was just modeled with moist Celluclay. I then added a floor for each balcony made from cereal box cardboard. I filled the egg shape with Celluclay and then pressed the cardboard into it. 

I made some ornaments for the tops of the two towers using a small plastic ball ("zombie eyeball” Halloween decorations) thick plasticard and collars cut from plastic tubing. I assembled them with gel type super glue to give them a crude, soldered look. Later I sprayed these with textured spraypaint to make them look like hammered metal. I added pieces of wooden dowel and glued an anchor made from the plastic tubing into the towers. This allows for the ornaments to be removed for storage and the plastic anchors keep the Celluclay from tearing out.

I painted the ornaments to look like weathered bronze.
Styrene tubes keep the papier mache from tearing out when the ornaments are removed.

I added some small hemispheres to the towers to balance the whole design. Finally I added sand and small stones to texture the base.

Painting was standard damp brushing and dry brushing. I use pretty large hog-bristle brushes since I want to get as much coverage as possible. Bristle brushes feather the drybrushing more evenly than plastic bristle house painting brushes. I also use cheap tube acrylics since they are thicker than bottled paints and much more affordable than using miniature paints.

The texture of the papier mache really comes out when drybrushed.
The final building is pretty lightweight and sturdy for it’s size. Although I could have used the plastic pieces that I used for molds to make the final building I love the texture of papier-mâché. And being able to model freeform shapes from the same material really helps as well. Papier-mâché fells very organic and is just fun to work with. It’s a material that I respond well to and one that allows my imagination to run free. I hope it works that way for you as well.

“Who knew that there were dames on the moon!? Especially dames with guns!” Miniatures by Hydra Miniatures and Ars Minima. Paper Juggernaut by Mayhem in Paper.


  1. What a great and certainly fitting stylewise building. Top job sir!

  2. That Rhino was the best part of any minis game I've ever had - and I've had some good ones in the (mathmathmath) ~25 years since then!

    Now, I've got to go get some Celluclay...

    1. I think that was the same day/game that Kurt was using a Greater Demon of Khorne with Appearance of Normality so it just appeared as a standard Chaos Marine. Bit of a shock when he first attacked.