Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Photo Tutorial: Broken Blacktop by Zuzzy Miniatures

As promised, here is the tutorial to help you tackle the unusual task of painting your very own Zuzzy Miniatures mat. This is the Broken Blacktop model in the 6'x4' cut.

What is it?
A high-detail textured latex mat used for tabletop gaming.

Who makes it?
Zuzzy Miniatures

What's the hobby angle?
Paint it to maximize its impact on the table. Pew pew!

What materials do I need?
Large flat brushes, cheap acrylic craft paints, acrylic hobby paints (optional).

Any key techniques?
Drybrush, wash, patience

How long will it take me?
1-2 days

Step 1 - Unwrap

Get your Zuzzy mat and place it flat. This is what it looks like off the roll. You're bound to get some folded edges, but I didn't care much about those. Looks great anyhow. 

Step 2 - Colours and tools

All of the Zuzzy tutorials I studied prior to starting emphasized the importance of thinning out your acrylic paints with water IF they were generic art store acrylics. Specialized hobby paints should work well out of the pot, but I ain't made of money. So water down everything! When in doubt put some water in it.

I got that set of brushes from Michaels along with the craft smart paints for around $15. I had some other paints from before. Only used the Black3 Greys (Grey, Dark Grey, Graphite), Dark ChocolateCacao and Brick Red. For detail work I used my standard Citadel hobby brushes, 1/3 pot of Abbadon BlackBlazing Orange (old Citadel), Lahmian Medium and Agrax Earthshade wash. Incidental items were 2 rolls of paper towel, a jug of water, styrofoam cups and plates. Pretty simple. 

Step 3 - Dark base layer (maybe SKIP!) - 30m + dry time

This was more experimentation than anything. Did not yield much so you can skip. I spread a wash of Graphite over the entire mat then dabbed it into a stippled pattern with paper towel. The second picture shows how it dried so ended up being useless. It may have put down a primer base, which helped the other paint stick, but the other paint could have done the same without it.

Quick concept - WASH: A wash or a shade is a thinned out paint with unique qualities that can usually be slopped onto dried paint layers and improve their appearance. Washes accumulate in the nooks and folds of models enhancing the depths of flat paints and the overall paint scheme. For this tutorial, when I say "wash" I mean a very diluted standard acrylic paint. 

Step 4 - Highlight wash (maybe SKIP!) - 15m + dry time

Did the exact same thing with a lighter grey on the cracks with the intention of washing the whole thing black. Did not really work and ended up looking like water stains. One side benefit was marking out all the cracks, but not worth the time.

Step 5 - Wash three layers of grey - 1.5h + overnight dry

Scrambled to find an alternate plan after the previous steps failed. I decided to go the recommended route which I should have done in the first place. I created three washes from the greys and applied them lightest to darkest inside out (starting at the cracks then outwards in waves). The result was a nice patched concrete. Longest drying time. 

Step 6 - Wash black lowlights - 10m + dry time

The orthodoxy of painting these mats would suggest a complete black wash to pull out the depth. After a swipe of very watery black generic I decided against it. Instead, I went for left-right square splotches of the wash throughout. This gives it a patched asphalt feel. Success son!

Step 7 - Drybrush dark brown base and light brown highlights - 45m to 1h

Wide dark chocolate drybrush around cracks then a cacao drybrush in the centres. Great way to break up plainess of the greys.

Step 8 - Hand paint cracks - 5h (brutal) + dry time

Started with 1/3 pot of kinda dry Abbadon Black. That was hell. Almost at the end squirted 2/5 generic black in pot, 1/5 Lahmian Medium (Citadel technical) and 2/5 warm water. Shake it like nuts in the pot. Made a great opaque paint and very runny. More of an ink really. Still time intensive, easier and therefore more enjoyable. Hit all the cracks. Connected some and feathered out ends for visual appeal.

Step 9 - Hand paint bricks with orange mix, drybrush edges, wash with Agrax Earthshade - 45m + dry time

Blazing Orange with some generic Red Brick and bit of water. Painted uneven and when brush was almost out I drybrushed asphalt surrounding brick to represent brick dust. Heavy Agrax wash. Let dry.

Step 10 - Drybrush grey to finish - 30m

Drybrush the beejeezus out of the table. Hit some of the brick for effect. Best step since its completion marked the end. Boom you got a Zuzzy!

Final thoughts

Simply put I highly recommend this mat! I had some tedious moments during the build, but I'll chalk that up to this being my first time working with the product. In the big picture a couple of hours of hand painting cracks is a walk in the park for this result. Two days and about $100 all in for an awesome table base is a solid deal in my book.


  1. Thanks! Starring at my first Zuzzy mat and thinking about how I'm going to paint it. Great to read someone else's experience.

    1. Thanks for visiting Drake and good luck with your mat. If you have any questions just send me a PM on Instagram (link at top of blog). Cheers!