How to: Paint Cities of Death Buildings

Many moons ago, when the Cities of Death expansion and terrain came out, I ended up with two sets of the Imperial Sector box. These were built and sprayed grey with a car spray paint and left for years. I was always focussed on painting armies and terrain took the back seat. This was back during my Tournament Gamer phase and I was more focussed on getting armies up to scratch.

Now I am old(er), I play a lot less competitive games, and a lot more with my friends (who I hope tend to enjoy games more now my lists aren’t quite as cheesy- although maybe not as my luck remains outrageous…) These games focus more on stories, campaigns and on nicely painted armies clobbering the living daylights out of one another.

A pleasant backdrop makes these stories so much more cinematic. In the same way as I wouldn’t play with unpainted models, I would no longer play on unpainted terrain from choice. Mike led the way on this by painting his Realm of Battle board, some craters and barricades.

About a year later, I took on the task of painting up my buildings for us to use. Virtually all are now done, enough to fill a 4×4 board with terrain dense enough for a Cityfight. However, there are still a few buildings to do. This is quite fortunate, as now I can show you some of the stages I went through to get my Cities of Death terrain up to scratch.

The majority of these techniques are basic, and I do not foresee any issues with even the least experienced painter getting good results following these steps.

This tutorial assumes that you have managed to build your Imperial Sector buildings yourself. If I have one recommendation on assembly I would say to pay attention to removing mould lines, as we will be doing a lot of drybrushing which makes them very noticeable if left in place. Our drybrushing video can be found here – How to: Drybrush.

For the cutting tasks, make sure you are confident with the tools used to cut the base. Don’t use power-tools/Stanley knives if you do not feel safe doing so: you can paint these buildings without bases and they will still look good!

To follow these steps you will need:

  • Cities of Death Terrain, assembled.
  • A Tank Brush or Large Flat Drybrush
  • Standard Brush
  • Small Drybrush
  • Citadel Eshin Grey
  • Citadel Administratum Grey
  • Citadel Russ Grey
  • Citadel Mournfang Brown
  • Citadel Terminus Stone (Drybrush paint)
  • Citadel Warplock Bronze
  • Citadel Hashut Copper
  • Citadel Leadbelcher
  • Airbrush and Black Primer/Black Spray Can


  • PVA glue (Sometimes referred to as wood glue)
  • Thick card, or thin MDF board and a way to cut it
  • Textured paint, as per below
  • Static Grass
  • Textured card/Plasticard
  • Paint the same colour as your board and a highlight (I used Wilko Java Bean, Chocolate Fountain and Ivory Tusk as it is cheaper to buy in volume than dedicated model paints- £1 for a 75ml tester).

Textured paint is available from most DIY stores. This cost me £20 for a pot and has done most of my terrain (between 8 and 10 40k buildings, some roads, a Dark Age village and a Pirate town) and four whole 2’x4′ boards. There is still about 10% left!How-to-paint-cities-of-death

The sample building I am using has already been sprayed grey and washed, as mentioned earlier, and is made from the Basilica Administratum kit.

Step 1: Basing (optional)

Cut the base to size. I generally choose between 0.5 and 1 inch space all around the building, in a square. Glue the building to the base using PVA.

Once this is dry,  you can put in any ground floor texture you wish, using textured card, or plasticard. In this instance I have left the basing card (artists’ watercolour card in this instance. For most of my terrain I use thin MDF) showing through as it is already slightly textured.

Paint the base all around the building with textured paint up to a depth of 1mm. This will help to hold the building to the base in concert with the glue. Take care and think about where the exterior line of the building would be, so that you do not have dirt and grass growing all over the ground floor in your building (unless your theme is ancient ruins/death world).

Some textured paint inside can be painted using the techniques to paint walls as rubble. that is what I will do with the patches inside the building below, mixing in some cut up ceiling panels to make things a bit more interesting:

Step 2: Undercoat/Prime

Use the airbrush or spray can to undercoat the building in black. You could do this by hand using black paint and a large brush, but it would be much more time consuming. The spray also gives a rougher finish to the model which is better when drybrushing.Painting-40k-buildings


Step 3: Basecoats

Use the Tank Brush (or a large old brush) to heavily drybrush Eshin grey over all of the walls and floors.

Optional: Paint over the textured paint in your board’s base colour (in this picture, Wilko Java Bean).

Alternative: For the Mechanicus buildings use Warplock Bronze for both.

Step 4: Highlight Walls

Use the Tank Brush to lightly drybrush over both walls and floors with Administratum grey.

Optional: Use the Tank Brush to drybrush base with highlight stages (in this picture, Wilko Chocolate Fountain and Ivory Tusk).

Alternative: For the Mechanicus buildings use Leadbelcher for both.

Step 5: Basecoat Details

Use the Standard Brush to paint all of the metallic detailing in Warplock Bronze: struts, window edging etc.

Basecoat all skulls/scrolls in Mournfang Brown:How-to-paint-40k-buildings

Step 6: Highlight Details

Use the Small Drybrush to highlight the skulls and scrolls with Terminus Stone.

Once the small drybrush has been cleaned and had a chance to dry out (or use a spare), drybrush the metallic details in Hashut Copper.

Use the Standard brush to paint in the chains and lights in Leadbelcher and the small drybrush to pick out vents and metallic areas of floor panels, also in Leadbelcher .

Use the Standard brush to paint your choice of colour into the light sockets and the pyramids atop the balconies (in this case, Khorne red/Blood Red Highlight on pyramids, Averland Sunset on lights).How-to-paint-40k-buildings

Step 7: Complete Basing

In this case, I have simply used PVA to glue on some static grass to match my gaming board.

And that is the building done!

This technique is easy to port over into different colours or metallic for the Mechanicus buildings. The other panels with doors, etc. use the same principles. Just drybrush these a metallic colour (I used Hashut Copper).

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A final note: these buildings are all highlighted one stage lower than I would do my models. This is because I believe the terrain shouldn’t be as bright. When models are fighting over the terrain it should be in the backdrop. However, if you would like brighter terrain, simply add an extreme highlight (White Scar to the stone, Stormhost Silver to the metal perhaps).

Hopefully this has been helpful/informative! If you have any thoughts or queries please comment below, and please consider following us on other social media listed below:

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