The floor is lava! Painting guide for some fiery modular dungeon tiles!

Posted by Annabelle Collins on

Hello all! Today I'm going to take you through painting your Modular Realms "cracked stone" dungeon tiles to have a lava-like feel. I like to use it as traps (whoops! You got dropped into a room where THE FLOOR IS LAVA!) or as whole areas when the party travels to hell or the halls of the Fire Giants.

An image of my cracked stone lava effect from this painting guide painted onto dnd dungeon tiles next to real world lava to show the similarities

It's a surprisingly easy effect to paint and, like my "Old Stone" effect, can achieved without ever needing to pick up a paint brush. I'm big on painting cool effects with minimal skills required - makes it much easier for me!

I would rate painting the lava effect as "easy". This one does take a bit more time, mainly because you want to let the layer of paint to dry before adding a new one.

A five stage difficulty bar rating the lava effect dnd terrain painting tutorial as "easy"

The guide does also take more paints of different kinds, but most of us who do mini painting will have a black, red and orange knocking around.

Alright, let's get started!


Materials Needed:

  1. Modular Realms dungeon tiles with one of the sides having the "Cracked Stone" texture.
  2. Sponge - I used these but a washing up sponge will do
  3. Orange paint - I used this one
  4. Red paint - I used this one
  5. Black paint 
  6. Rusty red-brown paint - I used this one but feel free to mix your own!
  7. Gloss Varnish

I want to take a moment to thank The Army Painter for sponsoring me and providing many of the paints you will see me use in this painting guide. Fun fact! The Army Painter were the first proper mini paints I ever bought myself.

I've used their paints across the years and it's a pleasure to be sponsored by them now. Cheers guys! 


Step 1

Prime your terrain yellow


The first thing you'll want to do is prime your terrain yellow. 

A top down view of a cracked stone dungeon tileset primed a really offensively yellow color, DnD terrain painting guide

For the set used in pictures for this blog I used an offensively yellow spray paint on top of a white primer, but I have had just as good effects (if not better!) in the past using any bog standard yellow acrylic primer.

When you're priming your terrain, have the tiles all lined up together. Ideally we want a thick coat and to have the primer go in all the cracks.

The cracks will be the brightest part of the finished terrain so the more yellow primer we get on them now the better.



Step 2

Sponge on some orange


Ok, now the primer is dry we're going to water down some orange and dab it on with a wet sponge. 

Unlike other sponging techniques, we actually want our sponge to be a bit wet and over saturated - that way the orange will definitely go down into a lot of the cracks. 

Top down view of the yellow dungeon tiles with some orange paint sponged across. Note, I used a new primer for this set and I regret that heavily. Your tiles will look even better

Be a bit messy and patchy with your orange cover. If we look at lava in real life we see that it's a mix of oranges and reds and yellows rather than a solid color. That's what we're emulating here! We don't want a flat, featureless coat of paint.



Step 3 

Sponge on some red


A top down view of our DnD terrain with yellow prier, orange and now red sponged on top. It look a bit messy but bright and warm, painting guide for DnD dungeon tiles

Once your orange layer has dried (and I mean dried! This may be a few hours to overnight depending on your weather), you can repeat the process with red.

Again, we want patchy cover that is somewhat blended but certainly not a neat, flat coat. 

You can of course keep repeating this process, layering up yellows and oranges and reds until you get to an effect you're happy with.

I'm trying to keep this guide quick and easy though so I'm going to leave it here.



Step 4

Varnish with gloss varnish


Seems a bit strange to be varnishing your terrain before you've finished painting it right? Trust me though, it's so worth it! 

Using a gloss varnish now really makes your lava pop. It brightens the colors and the shine makes it look more hot and bright to me. 

Just make sure the wetter coats you did before have dried properly before applying the varnish.

my D&D dungeon tiles after they have had a gloss varnish. Terrain looks much shinier and brighter with the colours looking a little more vibrant. How to paint dungeon tiles

If you really want to push for that shine it's worth doing a couple of layers of gloss varnish rather than just one. I think it's personal preference though so I'll leave that up to you!



Step 5

Sponge black on top


using my sponge to add a layer of black acrylic paint over my DnD tiles, how to paint dungeon tiles

This time we don't want to have such a wet sponge - the last thing we want to do is put black all inside the nice cracks we've been painting! 

Instead I use a damp-dry sponge.

I dab it into the black acrylic to load it up, dab off the excess and then use the same sponge to dab it on.

 This is my favourite step because the effect it creates is immediate!

Image showing the yellow-orange dnd terrain with black half-sponged on top to show the contrast between before and afterHow do I paint dungeon tiles


Suddenly your splashing with orange and red looks a lot more subtle and effective. The contrast between the bright colors and black of the cooling lava on top really makes an eye-catching DnD terrain that feels dramatic!

I don't sponge right to the outer edges of the big rectangle (or whatever shape) I've arranged my terrain in. If I do that, I tend to have black go down the edges on the outside facing grooves.

Instead I just move the top tiles to the bottom and the left-most tiles to the right and sponge it on when the yellow edges are in the middle of the sheet.

Top down view of the dungeon tiles showing how to rearrange them so you can easily paint the terrain without getting black over the edges


The terrain looks great already, you could totally leave it here and skip to varnishing if you like.



Step 6

Sponge on rusty colors


As I just said, you can definitely skip this step, it's not mandatory for making epic lava terrain.

I like a bit more texture on my gaming terrain though so I'll be adding one last layer for my own stuff. 

View of the modular dungeon tiles with a bit of warm browns blended into the black to give a more natural paint job. How to paint DnD terrain

Basically. I get some rusty dark red-brown and sponge a diluted layer on the tiles over the top of the black. 

You want your sponge to be relatively dry / damp, but the paint your using to be somewhat wet.

More runny than you'd have your paint for normal mini painting but not as runny as a wash!

The reason why is because diluted paint will dry slightly transparent which aids in blending and gives it a subtler look. 



Step 6

Add a smidgeon of Matt Varnish


I tend to give mine a gloss varnish first to seal everything. Then I'll do a light matt varnish.

I don't really want the matt varnish to go in the cracks, just to cover the darker surface tiles.

If I was someone with more time, I'd be tempted to buy a jar of matt varnish and paint it carefully on the black surface bits. I'm not though, so I just prop my tiles vertically and do a light coverage with my spray matt varnish. 

Being light with it tends to cover the top most black bits, whilst leaving my yellow cracks nice and shiny.



And Bob's your badger!

A finished modular dungeon tile painted in the lava effect. Pretty easy and not all that labor intensive!


Not technically hard and is definitely very effective! 

If you want to go one step further, consider painting extra cracks in yellow onto the top surface.

To be honest, I think the tile looks great as it is though!

I also had someone share a picture in the Discord recently where they had used this technique on cobblestone tiles. That looks really fantastic too!


If you've got questions or want more tips, feel free to comment below or hop over to my Discord!



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