Cheap rust effect on tabletop terrain

In this tutorial I will briefly explain, how I proceed to achieve a rust effect on metal structures such as grids, fences and so on fort my tabletop terrain. As with all my builds, I wanted to find a quick and easily repeatable way to craft, in order to maintain uniformity.
I’d like to underline, that I use this crude technique only for terrain pieces.

The idea for this tutorial came to me while building an iron cage for my dungeon scatter collection. Said cage whould also serve as test piece (I did not dare trying it out on my more elaborate metal fence).

The cage was built using the traditional cardboard and toothpick method. I like these materials and prefer them to plastics or 3D-Prints, since they add extra texture to the terrain piece.

 toothpick and cardboard cage
Henri posing with an absolutely sturdy toothpick and cardboard cage, built in the ways of the tabletopcrafters of old

A note on rust

Rust is (simply speaking) the result of occidation on iron due to moisture and water. Hence it will primarily build up in places where water and moisture can pool. We have to keep this in mind, when determing where to emphasize our rust effect.

4 easy steps

1. As usual I prime everything with a mix of black and mod podge.

Thus any irregularities in steps 2 and 3 will appear as shadows or extreme weathering.

2. After priming we turn immediately to our rust effect.

I paint certain areas of the metal structure very arbitratily with a dusty looking brown colour. A mix of brown and orange works too. This will be the base colour for our rust effect.
I make sure to focus on areas, where water and moisture whould pool, aswell as the lower parts of the structure.

Adding some

To add the extra rust effect, I use a sponge to dabb some Burnt Sienna on the rusty areas. Burnt Sienna or even natural Sienna are my got-to colours, since they have the orange-y tint of rust. Alternatively you may mix some orange with a bit of brown.
I prefer the sponge method because it is less messy than the toothbrush-spray technique.

rust effect tabletop terrain
dabbing Sienna on the rusted part for extra rust effect on the rusty cage

3. Having let everything dry properly, I apply a crude overbrush with some metallic paint, making sure to cover the rusted areas with less paint. Bars and edges, that are prone to wear, get some extra attention.

In hindsight I wonder, if I should have left the black bars black ?

rust effect tabletop terrain
carefully drybrushing the cage with metallic colour

There 🙂 done.
Crude, messy… but the rust effect is sufficient for tabletop terrain pieces that you see only from a distance.

rust effect tabletop terrain
Poor Henri, how will he escape the rusty cage…

Happy crafting


Leave a Reply