Lara Croft and the Tomb of Ixmucane Diorama

The Tomb of Glowing Lava

This has been one of the most fun dioramas I have ever built with glowing lava, a plucky heroine and some great new techniques. You can get a free painting guide to glowing lava here. I’ve listed the materials then a quick step by step. Please check out my collaborators – My Mini Factory – they have some amazing designs on their website.


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3D Print Files

Main files from My Mini Factory by Iain Lovecraft:
Toran of Ixmucane
Pyramid – Quetza’ Al Itza

New Tomb Raider with bow and clothes by solidt

Mayan God statue 3D scanned by Ultrachangon
Mayan Sculpture by 3DWP
This is the one I ended up using: Mayan Statue by Zbrushingmx


I have produced a free painting guide specifically for the lava but if you want to check out the actual products that I used then here they are:

Clear base – I used transparent worbla.
Diffusion material – any translucent packing material will do but I used one aimed at packaging plates when moving.
Golden Clear Granular Gel
Golden Glass Bead Gel
Galleria Structure Gel
Vallejo Model Colour 70949 Light Yellow
Green Stuff World 1701 Fluorescent Yellow (not affiliated just satisfied!)
Vallejo Model Colour 70911 Light Orange
Green Stuff World 1702 Fluorescent Orange-Yellow (not affiliated just satisfied!)
Vallejo Model Colour 70956 Clear Orange
Green Stuff World 1703 Fluorescent Orange (not affiliated just satisfied!)
Green Stuff World 1704 Fluorescent Red (not affiliated just satisfied!)
Vallejo Model Colour 70859 Black Red/Cadmium Brown
Vallejo Model Colour 70994 Dark Grey
Vallejo Model Colour 70872 Chocolate Brown


Halfords Black Automotive Primer – from Halfords but any car automotive primer should do. You can’t buy this online in the UK so you will need to pop into a store in person.
Liquitex White Ink
Liquitex Translucent Raw Umber Ink
Plastikote Hobby & Craft Sealer Matt
Tamiya XF-55 Deck Tan
Tamiya XF-57 Buff
AK Interactive Slimy Grime Light
AK Interactive Slimy Grime Dark


Tamiya Fine Grey Primer
Alclad Black Gloss
Alclad Pale Gold

Base and Lights

Picture Frame Base – whatever size suits although this was A3 – just try and get it with perspex rather than glass.
LED light strands
I did a longer version of the video for my Patreon page and that went into far more detail on how I wired the diorama.

Step by Step

First was choosing the 3D print designs. When My Mini Factory asked me to collaborate with them on a diorama, I knew exactly which designs I wanted to use as I had been looking at the Meso American collection by Iain Lovecraft for over a year. They screamed Tomb Raider to me and what could be more fun than a lava filled tomb with Lara jumping her way from pillar to pillar to cross it?

The first challenge was to find a design that would show off the glowing lava whilst sending Lara on a journey, all using the STLs provided. Thankfully, the files included plain floor tiles that I could remix to produce the walls and stone columns I needed. An altar was cut up for the stepping stones and the Toran was shortened to fit.

Once the designs were sorted, I printed everything full size on my Peopoly Phenom using Peopoly Deft resin and the default settings. This is a large resin printer and even the pyramid fitted in one go. All would have been perfect if I had remembered to fill the resin up on the 26 hour pyramid print!

A key feature is the glowing lava and that needed lighting. I used a string of fairy lights with 100 LEDs and a picture frame base to give the effect I needed. The clear Perspex in the frame allowed the lava to really glow from underneath.  I did end up adding another string towards the end as 100 LEDs were just not bright enough though.

Any 3D print is made infinitely better by a good paint job and for this lava chamber I painted the light directionally with a cooler brown from above and a reflected lava glow from below. I also added in fluorescent paint so that the stonework really glowed with light even without the LEDs turned on. 

Once everything was painted, I assembled it on the base. I heat formed transparent worbla for the lava streaming down the walls and to avoid the LEDs behind it being too spotty, I added a diffusion layer from some packaging material. I needed the lava to be crusty and for that I used three types of acrylic texture gel to fill gaps, build up the cooled lava and add a little bit of texture to the flatter areas.

I painted the flowing lava with a mix of model and fluorescent paints. The fluorescent paints are fairly translucent so they needed some extra coverage from mixing with a model paint. I sprayed two layers of each colour to slowly build up from yellow to red.  I then dry brushed a small amount of a darker colour to bring out the texture.

For the lava crusts on the floor of the tomb, I hand painted and dry brushed the cracked shapes. I highlighted every edge to represent the light and the hotter lava. This was time consuming but really makes the diorama come to life.

Finally, I put a fluorescent orange wash over everything, including where the light reflects on the stonework, to really make the lava pop and when that was dry, I touched up the yellow cracks with a fluorescent yellow.

The Toran entrance was painted a stone colour then weathered using enamel washes. It’s deep in a jungle so the green toned everything down.

Finally, I printed a mini Lara Croft and a golden idol for her to steal. I painted Lara in model paints and washes then used Alclad lacquers for the idol.  They both got liberally doused in fluorescent orange to give them the reflected lava glow.  

All I needed to do then was turn on the lights and enjoy as Lara makes her way around the tomb.

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2 thoughts on “Lara Croft and the Tomb of Ixmucane Diorama”

  1. Nicely done! I’m working on making a lava flow over a clift. Im struggling to make it realistic and backlit like yours. Very inspirational!

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