Pre-painted Wargaming Terrain Made in the U.S.A.

Building and Painting the A.R.K.

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Written By Adam Huenecke

Congratulations on your entrance into the A.R.K. program! With the help of dedicated patriots like yourself, we will be certain that our company’s values carry on despite any future threats of total annihilation.

Now that you are in possession of your new A.R.K. construction kit, a few thoughts are surely running through your head. Gee, this is the heaviest box I remember receiving in a while! Golly, look at all those pieces! Jeepers, where do I start!?!

Well fear not valued customer valiant citizen, this guide will help you through the process of establishing your foothold into the future.
Now, you could go ahead and assemble you’re A.R.K. right out of the box, and it would look just dandy. However, for those looking to get the most out of their stay, a nice paint job will make your new vault the envy of the neighborhood.

Before you get started,
⦁ Have you downloaded your official A.R.K. construction documents?
⦁ Do you have the right tools? You will want to be sure you have a few things available:
⦁ A trusty hobby knife (for trimming and releasing all of those little parts)
⦁ A hand-held file (for removing any excess MDF from your parts)
⦁ Fine grit sandpaper (to even out your edges for the best fit)
⦁ Wood Glue (Wood glue has a stronger bond than white glue, but is more forgiving than super glue)
⦁ Primer (Stynylrez brand primer applied via an airbrush allows for a thin but durable coat)
⦁ Masking tape (for holding pieces together and masking areas from paint)
⦁ An airbrush and compressor (this is not as hard or expensive as it sounds)

Prepping Your A.R.K.
Carefully remove all of the pieces from their sheets using your hobby knife to score and cut any connecting pieces. Once you’ve cut the pieces, use your file and sandpaper to make sure the rough pieces are completely smooth, or things might not fit together properly.

PRO TIP: Dry Fit Once you have everything cut out, do a dry test assembly without any glue. You may have to use a little bit of masking tape to hold the walls together, but this will familiarize you with assembly and help you identify any issues with fit that might make it difficult to get things together once they are painted.
Labeling: As you disassemble your A.R.K. test fits, consider using a hobby knife to label your bigger pieces. Many of the rooms only go together one way, and once you start getting things painted they can be easy to mix up. If you scratch a code into a part of your pieces that won’t be visible, you’ll be able to keep track of where each piece goes once it is primed and painted. For instance, if you are painting multiple rooms at once, scribe “D-S” on to the back side of the ‘south’ doorway wall piece, “D-W” onto the ‘west’ doorway wall piece, and so on.

Priming Your A.R.K

Why do I need to prime my A.R.K., you may ask? Even though the pieces are pre-painted, the laser-cut ends need to be primed or they will such up all of your paint and look weird. While you can do this with a spray can, I highly recommend using an airbrush. Spray cans can leave a very thick layer of paint that can make it hard to fit the tight pegs during assembly. Stynylrez makes some of the nicest airbrush primer available.
It makes sense to assemble some of the pieces before priming. Pieces like the door, walkway, and other pieces that you plan to keep a single color can be assembled so you have fewer pieces to deal with.
You can take the smallest pieces and stick them to a piece of masking tape for painting and priming. This will keep them from flying around and getting lost.

Additionally, for the purposes of this tutorial, the ‘concrete’ walls were left unprimed or painted- The color and laser-etches on those pieces didn’t need to be painted in order to look good in the final product. Likewise, don’t worry about painting or priming the sub-floor as you won’t be able to see it.

PRO TIP: Fiddly Filters Be careful with the little filters- They break pretty easily if crushed. Try not to touch the face of them with your finger at all.
Make sure you prime all of the corners and edges so the paint takes to them well.
Painting Your A.R.K.

Now that you have everything primed, it’s time to get things organized. To save time and paint, figure out which pieces you want to be what colors, and bundle them together.

In the image below, each pile is divided by which color it would ultimately be painted. This makes your little assembly line of painting a bit easier.

Using an airbrush, you’ll get a nice, even paint job that will keep assembly easy.
Use masking tape to mask off any areas you don’t want to paint, like the sides of the doorway.

Painting the Floors

Most of the painting is pretty straight-forward (put paint on the piece until it is a different color), but if you want to add some detail on your floors, there is a quick and easy way to get a vintage ‘linoleum’ floor look.

Step 1 – Paint your floor a base shade. In this case, a nice mid-century green.

Step 2 – Take some packing foam (the kind you find with most miniatures) and cut out a small block. Using your hobby knife, cut one end into jagged points, as seen below.

Step 3 – Choose a secondary color- in this instance a green-grey- and dab the jagged end of the foam into the paint. Carefully apply the paint to the floor tiles in a checkerboard pattern, keeping the orientation of your foam tool the same so you get a uniform direction.
Don’t worry if some of the pattern gets on the other tiles- this won’t be noticeable in the finished product.

Step 4 – Repeat the dabbing process on the alternating tiles, but in the other direction (a 90 degree turn of the tool from your first pattern).

And there you have it! Some nice tiles for your A.R.K.

Detailing Your Vault

Once you have all of your parts painted their base color, you can add some detail and weathering.

Shading/Weathering: You can add a lot of richness to your pieces by adding shadows and filth with an airbrush. Mix some black/brown paint thinner than you would for your base colors (not quite a wash, but fairly thin). Use your airbrush to carefully outline your details and add shadows to your parts.

You can repeat this process with a rusty color to add streaks of rust.

Chipped Paint: To get a great chipped paint effect, rip off another piece of your packing foam and dip it into some dark steel-colored paint. Dab your foam around edges and areas that would naturally see wear and tear. For rustier areas, use the same process with Citadel Typhus Corrosion Technical Paint. Combined with a few streaks of rust, this is a quick and easy way to make your A.R.K. feel aged and lived-in.


Small Details: You can use a brush to paint the cables, terminals, and other smaller details right on the masking tape.

Final Assembly

Once you have all of your parts painted, you are ready for final assembly! Using wood glue, assemble all of your parts (armed with all of your experience from your dry-fitting). Use a wet brush to remove any unwanted globs that might emerge between pieces.
Masking tape can be useful while holding your parts together as they dry.

You may notice that you still have some tabs or small areas unpainted (like the sub-floor that slots into the exterior walls). Use a brush to paint these, and touch things up with a little more of your black/brown airbrush shadows.
For added detail, you can print posters or signs out on your home or office printer. Use a light-grey marker to color the edges after you cut them, and glue where appropriate.

Congratulations on all of your hard work! Now sit back in your new home and relax, knowing that the harsh realities of the outside world can’t touch you here!

You can find more of Adam’s work on Instagram at @giddyup_buttercup




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