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.
The Amazon links are all items I have either bought or bought something similar for myself. Clicking on any links to Amazon will give me a small affiliate income which I use to produce more videos at absolutely no extra cost to yourself. Every little helps!
3D Print Files
Main files from My Mini Factory by Iain Lovecraft:
Toran of Ixmucane https://www.myminifactory.com/object/3d-print-toran-of-ixmucane-72684
Pyramid – Quetza’ Al Itza https://www.myminifactory.com/object/3d-print-quetza-al-itza-72683
New Tomb Raider with bow and clothes by solidt www.thingiverse.com/thing:1412057
Mayan God statue 3D scanned by Ultrachangon www.thingiverse.com/thing:2694913
Mayan Sculpture by 3DWP https://www.myminifactory.com/object/3d-print-mayan-sculpture-51220
This is the one I ended up using: Mayan Statue by Zbrushingmx https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:961273/files
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. https://amzn.to/2IcE7x9
Diffusion material – any translucent packing material will do but I used one aimed at packaging plates when moving. https://amzn.to/34RkfqX
Golden Clear Granular Gel https://amzn.to/2Imajym
Golden Glass Bead Gel https://amzn.to/2FmUJ4r
Galleria Structure Gel https://amzn.to/2ImDzVH
Vallejo Model Colour 70949 Light Yellow https://amzn.to/2Iq8uk5
Green Stuff World 1701 Fluorescent Yellow http://www.greenstuffworld.com/en/187-fluorescent-acrylic-paints (not affiliated just satisfied!)
Vallejo Model Colour 70911 Light Orange https://amzn.to/36W8ulP
Green Stuff World 1702 Fluorescent Orange-Yellow http://www.greenstuffworld.com/en/187-fluorescent-acrylic-paints (not affiliated just satisfied!)
Vallejo Model Colour 70956 Clear Orange https://amzn.to/3nGRO7L
Green Stuff World 1703 Fluorescent Orange http://www.greenstuffworld.com/en/187-fluorescent-acrylic-paints (not affiliated just satisfied!)
Green Stuff World 1704 Fluorescent Red http://www.greenstuffworld.com/en/187-fluorescent-acrylic-paints (not affiliated just satisfied!)
Vallejo Model Colour 70859 Black Red/Cadmium Brown https://amzn.to/3jR2HBT
Vallejo Model Colour 70994 Dark Grey https://amzn.to/3jRCBib
Vallejo Model Colour 70872 Chocolate Brown https://amzn.to/3lDNx3j
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 https://amzn.to/2Fl4RdN
Liquitex Translucent Raw Umber Ink https://amzn.to/30CbxLd
Plastikote Hobby & Craft Sealer Matt https://amzn.to/33SNR8q
Tamiya XF-55 Deck Tan https://amzn.to/2Tjcy5W
Tamiya XF-57 Buff https://amzn.to/2NFsgYx
AK Interactive Slimy Grime Light https://amzn.to/310lnYe
AK Interactive Slimy Grime Dark https://amzn.to/3nLxO4e
Base and Lights
Picture Frame Base – whatever size suits although this was A3 – just try and get it with perspex rather than glass. https://amzn.to/3lQ2aAP
LED light strands https://amzn.to/33QNnzp
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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