Carnevale Venetian Quarter – Painting the Town Red

Hop in the gondola as Mike takes us through the canals of Venice and shares his thoughts on painting the town red.

In this new min-series, Mike details his journey towards building a gaming board for Carnevale, sharing his thoughts and experiences with both the kits and techniques for getting the most out of them.

It’s been a little while since we took the scenic route through the canals of Venice, so if you’d like to refresh your memory of the series so far, you can find the review here and my journey creating the board here.

Once again my local gondalier wowshawk was able to give me some pointers on getting a lot of MDF painted fast. After taking me on a tour of his ruined cities, and own little slice of Italy, I’d settled on how I wanted to paint my own. For the purposes of this article though, I still wanted to try a few different approaches to painting and preparation.

The three methods I’m going to be covering in this article all involve an airbrush however from talking to wowshawk, a suitably sized brush is and some patience works just as well. The three methods I’m covering in this article are using acrylic ink, high flow acrylics and ink over primed MDF.

Carnevale building for Venice. Credit: Mike Bettle-Shaffer

Acrylic Ink over MDF Primer

I wanted to try MDF Primer for myself, it had been recommended by others and I was curious what impact it would have, given how painting with inks on to MDF works. I used regular MDF clear sealer, which you should be able to find at any hardware store for this and it’ll be much cheaper than any terrain specific cans you can find.

Clear MDF sealer dries clear, and it just looks like regular MDF with a slight shine before you start throwing paint. With the two pieces below, I do regret not base coating white first as the orange didn’t come out quite as vibrant as I’d hoped but this whole project has been a great series of learning opportunities. I don’t really feel like the process of priming saved me a huge amount of ink overall, and the time saving in skipping this step was preferable to the extra set up.

Carnevale building for Venice. Credit: Mike Bettle-Shaffer


Acrylic ink

This method has been my garlic bread and butter throughout the project. With the way MDF soaks paint up, using something as densely pigmented as an ink still provides good coverage quickly. Even the more transparent inks, such as Daler Rowney FW Marine Blue provide reasonable coverage. All of the brick work has been done using Burnt Sienna and the coverage there has been excellent. My least favourite part of the process is applying the Daley Rowney FW Crimson for the roof tiles, which has consistently caused clogging and feed issues with my airbrush.

I’ve used the same method for all of the grey board, applying colour while it’s still attached to the sheets and then removing them afterwards to be attached with superglue. I did find that carbon transfer was an issue so you need to be careful not to get too dirty while handling the extra pieces.

Carnevale building for Venice. Credit: Mike Bettle-Shaffer

One of my earlier attempts and I definitely didn’t spend enough time laying down base layers of ink, so I didn’t hit the saturation I wanted on this one.

Plenty of lessons learned at this point and a result I’m pretty happy with overall. A base coat of white followed by Rose Peach.

High flow acrylic paint

I really wanted to find a way to create a nice sky blue, and after my failed experiment with the Marine Blue ink, I thought I’d give the high flow acrylics a shot. The whole building was base coated white, a lesson learned earlier in the article with my orange buildings, and then I mixed Golden High Flow Artist Collection Titanium White with a couple drops of Pthalo Blue for the light blue. One mistake I did make here was masking the bannister, balcony and floor, after I put the blue down I realised that actually having those in white too would’ve been nice. I’m sure at some point I’ll remember to plan these schemes.

This last one was a little bit of a special case, most of the work was done with the airbrush and inks however the beams are hand painted using high flow acrylics and the arch detailing is medium body acrylic and regular miniature paint.

Final thoughts

Inks have definitely been a huge time saver for this project, as have the high flow acrylics which behave in a very similar way. Proper masking and airbrushing has almost always been easier than brush painting, outside of some of the detail work. I’m not sure where I’d want to use MDF Sealer in a project again but I may revisit it in the future (I’m sat here wondering if it helps prevent warping on larger MDF bases). If you want fast and easy coverage for your MDF terrain painting projects, I can recommend all of the inks in the image below. I’ll begrudgingly say even the Crimson covers well, despite it being a nightmare through the air brush.

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