Make Your Own 3D Settlers of Catan
Posted in
Afternoon watch, 3 bells (1:41 pm)

First of all, many thanks to those people that pioneered this idea. Without their detailed walkthroughs, I would never have attempted a project of this scale. Special thanks go out to Dan Becker and Gerard Boom for all their work. I just added a version of this page to Instructables, which you can view as an alternative to this page, although my images here are higher res.

small image of FIMO polymer clay
Get some FIMO!

First off, you need some modeling clay. I like the polymer clays, they stay malleable until you bake them. I like Fimo, and it was on sale, so that's what I used. This part is really up to you. The clay colors don't matter since you're only making originals, so get whatever is on sale. If you're doing a lot of originals like I did, you can get FIMO in bulk, but I want to warn you about fimozone.com—stay away from them. I had to contact the BBB when they didn't ship my order but charged me for it.

Roll the clay flat, and use something on the sides to keep the thickness even. I used 1/4"x2"x4 poplar strips my wife uses when she makes sugar cookies.

a flat Catan-sized hex

You can get them for a couple of dollars at any home improvement store. When you have enough rolled out (each flat hex took me a little more than one package of FIMO), use a cardboard hex from the game to get the shape right. I cut down with a straight knife then baked the flat hexes. This made sure that anything I add to the hex doesn't mess up the shape of the base. Be careful and try not to leave fingerprints on the pieces like I often did, they will show up on your casted pieces!

This next step can potentially be the most time-consuming: model your terrain.

two sculpted hexes

The more time you spend on this step, the better your set will look. I am definitely not a sculptor, and even pieces that don't look that great sculpted can look real nice after you've painted them. The great part about this is if you dont' like it, add more clay and try again. If you get something you really like, bake it hard. You can still sculpt and sand the pieces after baking, but it's tougher to get what you want. Every little bit of texture will transfer to your casted pieces, so the more work you put in to smooth or rough areas, the more rewarded you will be. Be warned that undercuts may complicate your molds and cause more wear and tear than they're worth. The materials I used were fairly forgiving, but I have two molds that started coming apart after about 20 castings.

Before you get started making molds, you should pick up a few supplies.

rubber gloves and plastic cups

I strongly recomment some rubber gloves, a big stack of plastic cups, and some plastic spoons. The silicone is real greasy and difficult to wash off of things like your fingers. try not to get it all over everything. Use the plastic cups to mix your silicone. The cool thing is they clean up easy—wait for the silicone to cure then just peel it out of the cup and (if you mixed things up good), you can reuse the cup. The two important things to remember here are: one, make sure you measure as accurately as possible each of the silicone liquids. Too much of either one and you'll have stuff seeping out of your molds. Two, make sure you mix the two liquids completely. It's got a long enough pot life, so spend the extra minute or two mixing the silicone.

homemade measuring cups

Take a couple of plastic cups, put one inside the other and pour 1/4 cup of water in the top cup. mark the side of the bottom cup at the level of the water. Repeat for 1/3, 1/2, 2/3, 3/4, and 1 cup. You must have large cups to mix 1 cup of each liquid. Plus, the silicone gets harder to stir properly with plastic utensils when you have that much liquid. Remove the cup with the water in it, put a new cup in and measure parts A and B (in different cups). You can reuse the "measuring cup" until the project is done. Sorry about the dim picture, this one was hard to get with a flash.

When you've got your originals done, you're ready to make the molds. I purchased a trial kit of Smooth-On's Oomoo 25 silicone rubber from FarWest Materials out of Walla Walla WA, who happens to be my nearest Smooth-On distributor.

ready to pour silicone

The great thing about this stuff is it's simple to work with in a 1:1 by volume mixture. The silicone is pretty fluid, but you should still be careful about bubbles. Pour your silicone mix into a 4" PVC pipe joiner with the original face up at the bottom. My pipe joiners weren't smooth at the bottom, so I sealed up the edges with FIMO to keep the liquid silicone from leaking out. Some people make their own mold boxes for this step, but the PVC worked great for me.

Oomoo 25, your silicone friend

If you get the gallon kit of Oomoo 25, make sure you pick up some cheap plastic measuring cups, preferably with a looped handle, as the gallon kit of Oomoo 25 comes as two buckets. This is not something that pours easily. Your arms will get tired if you try to make too many molds at one time, you really have to put some elbow grease into mixing the silicone (the plastic is much easier!). Pour the silicone into your mold. I found pouring into the lowest part of the mold and letting the level of silicone rise up and over the original works great. If you have some undercuts, you can brush the silicone on around the trouble areas and then fill slowly. I never bothered with this, as my undercuts weren't very big. Make sure you pour enough silicone to completely cover your original, then give it another 1/2" at least on top. A little more won't kill you, and your mold will last longer. I found that a little post-molding cleanup is also necessary. Cut away any unwanted silicone with a small sharp hobby knife. You can continue to alter your model by carving the silicone, but that's pretty crazy and I don't suggest it.

a small silicone mold

I found the silicone takes a couple of hours (around four) to firm up, but it was also easier removing them if I let them sit overnight. It's a little tough to get the mold out, but work slowly around the back by pushing your hand through the PVC pipe until it starts coming out. Smooth-On recommends heating the silicone to 150 degrees Fahrenheit for four or five hours to evaporate leftovers from the silicone mixture. I did this for all my molds, so I don't know what happens if you don't. Make sure you keep everything around room temperature and that you use up all the containers that you open because they have a limited shelf life after you start opening and closing them.

Mann Ease-Release 200

Get some silicone mold release. I've read that talcum powder works, too, but I stuck to the manufacturer-recommended release. I used Mann's Ease-Release 200, one can goes a long way. Spray your molds every 3 or 4 pieces to preserve the life of the molds and ensure the easy removal of the casted pieces. It's best to let the release agent dry, but in all honesty most of the time I just sprayed and casted again. It leaves a sheen on the casted part, but it didn't appear to hurt anything. Smooth-On's website also recommended spraying primer into the mold after the release agent dried. When you pour your plastic, it supposedly comes out bonded with the primer. I did not test this, although I am still thinking about doing it in the future. The problem is you have to wait for the release to dry, then the paint to dry, before you can cast parts—not good if you're making a lot of small pieces.

Smooth-Cast 300 1 gallon kit

I like the one gallon kit of Smooth-Cast 300, the gallon kits come as one gallon of part A and one gallon of part B, to make two gallons of plastic. This goes for the silicone as well. The nice thing about these is that they're easy to pour. I found that pouring part A into part B (the yellow bottle into the blue bottle) made less bubbles, as part B is a little more viscous than part A. Make sure you shake both parts up good before you use them. This goes for the silicone as well.

casting a piece

Smooth-Cast 300 has a three minute pot life, which means you'd better move your pigu. There are other plastics that have longer pot lives (and equally longer demold times) if you're worried about your time. You definitely have to work quick. When you mix parts A and B, you will introduce bubbles to the mixture. But try not to anyway. Pour your plastic into the mold the same way you poured your silicone. If you have places where bubbles form (typically around undercuts), direct the stream of pouring plastic right above that spot, and it may force the air bubble out. When this is not enough, use a blunted toothpick to push the bubble until it comes away from the mold and rises to the top. Try to pop the larger bubbles that may form—the smoother the surface the easier your job will be later.

a newly casted plastic game piece

Did I mention you want to do this on a level surface? How about casting plastic in a well-ventilated area? These are both important. The plastic fumes aren't very fun to breathe in. The plastic solution also heats up as it cures, and is fun to watch. Parts A and B are both pretty clear (A has a slightly yellowish tint), and when mixed, they remain clear, but as the start to cure, they turn a bright white color. After the plastic has had time to cure (about 10 minutes for Smooth-Cast 300), gently bend the mold and ease the piece out. Marvel at your power of duplication. By being careful and spraying mold release every few parts, your molds will outlast your project and you won't have to make replacements. I've casted sixty parts from a single mold with no problems. The more undercuts you have, the more wear-and-tear you'll see. I have one mold (my second forest hex) that started breaking because of the undercuts after about twenty pieces.

make many copies

Repeat these steps to make as many parts as you need. Make a couple extras. Make a set for yourself. Make them for Christmas gifts (that's what I did). The important thing to remember is to have fun, because this can get real tedious real fast. If you're making a lot of parts, make sure you have a nice big area to put them. I had a big stack of drywall in my garage where I put them. I made enough hexes to almost completely cover a 4'x8' sheet of drywall.

use automobile primer for best results

Get yourself some sandpaper and a palm sander, because you'll be here for a while. I tried to hand-sand the parts, but gave up due to my arms nearly falling off with the strain. I sanded each edge and bottom with progressively finer sandpaper, starting around 60 grit and ending at 440. Make sure you have a respirator/filter on, you don't want to breathe in plastic dust. Spread all the pieces out and spray them down with automobile primer (recommended by Smooth-On). Make sure you get all sides. You can skip this step if you spray-primed the molds.

spray on the base color

Spray on a base color. I chose to use normal spray paint for this part, and it worked pretty well. I used a different base color for each different type of terrain to make it more easy to identify when playing Settlers of Catan. Since I created two different sculptures for each terrain type, this reduces confusion. I tried to keep them close to the color of the original Catan resources, red for hills, gray for mountains, yellow for fields, etc. When the paint dries, you're ready for the real work to begin.

I used Testor's enamel paint

I used enamel paints from Testor's, they have a decent selection of color and were the only enamel paints my local craft shop had anyway. This next part is real important: beg for, borrow, or steal an airbrush—I promise you won't regret it. An airbrush not only turns an art-challenged person like me into a pro, it also uses less paint doing so! Also get some newspaper to put down, some paper towels, cotton swabs, and a few different-sized brushes. Don't forget plenty of brush cleaner.

some airbrushed pieces

Fire up your airbrush and pick a color. Don't be afraid to experiment! I was really overwhelmed at the beginning and didn't know where to start, so let me make a recommendation: grab a nice brown and spray it around the middle of your mountains. Move on to any other parts that may need brown to cut down on the number of color-switches you do with the airbrush. I hate cleaning those things. Switch to a foresty-green color and spray the base of the mountains, then add white to the top. That's all I did here, and it looks pretty nifty. Add a final two coats of clear matte coating and you'll be ready to play!

Here's a quick board we threw together this morning:

Apologies in advance for some sloppy focus (some of the parts were photographed very close to the camera) and in a few cases, less than optimal lighting. I took these pictures in my garage and it was freezing out there. As with most things, the closer you look at them, the more little details you see that you either like or don't like. I see a lot of mistakes when I look this close, but when you play the game you just don't see them. Anyway, without further delay, here they are:

Volcano Volcano

Farm A Farm A

Farm B Farm B

Mountains A Mountains A

Mountains B Mountains B

Forest A Forest A

Forest B Forest B

Pasture A Pasture A

Pasture B Pasture B

Hills A Hills A

Hills B Hills B

Desert Desert

Gold Gold

Port - Wood Port - Wood

Port - Stone Port - Stone

Port - Clay Port - Clay

Port - Wool Port - Wool

Port - Wheat Port - Wheat

Port - Any Port - Any

Ocean - Calm Ocean - Calm

Ocean - Rough Ocean - Rough

Ocean - Serpent Ocean - Serpent

Ocean - Shipwreck Ocean - Shipwreck

44 Comments »

44 Responses to “Make Your Own 3D Settlers of Catan”

  1. Pelle says:

    Nice work!

  2. Webmonster says:

    Thanks for stopping by to take a look!

  3. Scott says:

    This is awesome!!! I have played 'Der Siedler', but I don't play enough to justify make the pieces. However..... I was just talking to a friend last week about making our own hexes for other games with miniatures - then I came across your site, what a coincidence! I am going to try your method to make pieces for our miniature war games, thanks for the great idea!!

  4. Webmonster says:

    You're welcome! Be sure and check out Gerard Boom's site if you are going to make miniatures, the guy is amazing.

  5. Geboom says:

    Huge compliment on this great 3D version of catan!
    Now you experienced the world of moldmaking and resin casting and with these tiles you produced, I think we can expect more wonderful work in the future from you.

    Greetings
    Geboom

  6. David Millar says:

    Amazing! Great job! I love love love all of your pieces! It would be really cool if you made your own variations on the game, or possibly even your own board game this way!

  7. Webmonster says:

    I actually did write my own scenario, and posted it here. I would love to make my own board game, too, but I haven't got any working ideas yet. It will probably have something to do with pirates and ships…

  8. Trevor says:

    Great tiles! Any chance that you would be interested in selling a Volcano? - Shipped to Canada. Thanks!

  9. Webmonster says:

    Sorry, I only made enough for the sets that I created. I still have the mold, but I'm out of plastic material. I don't know when I'd have the reason to buy more, but it probably won't be anytime soon...

  10. trevor says:

    Has anyone figured out what to do about the figures? (Knights, settlements, city walls etc)? I just made my first tile and it was surprisingly pretty easy. Just out of drywall compound and a cut tile from homedepot. I don't see much point making a full set if I'm stuck using the crappy wooden pieces which come with the basic edition. Any suggestions? Thanks!

  11. Webmonster says:

    I started making my own settlements, cities, and roads from small bits of wood, but stopped because it was taking too much time and effort. I'd love to hear ideas from other people on how to tackle this problem.

    I molded a city out of clay and cast some plastic pieces of it as well, but I was never really happy with the way they looked, so I didn't make very many of them.

  12. trevor says:

    I've been looking around on the web and there seems to be a lot of plastic/pewter miniatures available which should work. I was thinking it would be fun to have Orc, undead, human and some other group as knight pieces. I've seen a few houses and castles which would be appropriate for settlements and cities but I'm not really a collector so the searches have been less than optimal. I think it's totally doable. I just wish I was a better painter and had more than just 1 tile (volcano) built so far šŸ™‚ I think I'm going to go with the drywall compound method, seems to work.

  13. Jon says:

    cool. I was thinking about making my own too. Im not sure if I want to go with 3d or something 2d that is artistically stylized. Either way, the cardboard isn't doing it for me and neither is that ridiculously priced collectors edition. Nice work.

  14. Webmonster says:

    Thanks. It's a lot of work, but the rewards are well worth it. Every time my wife's family gets together, one of us breaks out our set and we play.

    One of my other ideas was to take the cardboard game and cut out sheet magnets and glue the pieces down, then make a metal board. Everything would stay right where you put it.

  15. Robot Ron says:

    I have been scouring the web for a few hours on making my own (more permanent) Catan board, and I have found this to be very very helpful. I have one question though.

    About how much of the Oomoo 25 will I need for making 20 or so molds?

    Thank you for your time taken to make this walkthrough.

  16. Webmonster says:

    You probably want a gallon kit. It comes as 1 gallon of A and one gallon of B, so it makes 2 gallons of silicon. This is what I used, and had a little left over. Depending on the depth of your pieces, your mileage may vary.

  17. Anatoly says:

    This looks awesome!

    I really want to make my own. I think it would be a great little project and a "gift that keeps on giving" as well.

    Great work on the tutorial as well.

    One question though. If I was to make my own board, about how much would you think it would cost? The tiles would probably about the same size as yours.

  18. Webmonster says:

    I bought a large quantity of materials because of the number of pieces I had to make (6 sets!). I probably spent over $500. Depending on the number of tiles you want to make, you will probably spend somewhere between $100-$200 dollars. This is a total guess, though.

  19. MrAdventure says:

    Yaaaaar, you're right, I should give Mayfare the heads up on Cooperative Cataan. Thanks for checking it out and giving me the tip.

    And of course, this board is freaken amazing!

    MrAdventure

  20. Wonni says:

    I love Catan and have just come across your blog, what a great idea. This could be a great project to do with the kids on long winter evenings. Thanks!

  21. Scurvy Jake says:

    You're welcome! Thanks for stopping by!

  22. Jimmy_hand says:

    How do you implement probability letters?
    Looks really good.

  23. Scurvy Jake says:

    If I were to do it again, I'd make the red clay tiles flat on top to keep the numbers on them. The other tiles manage to keep a number on top without any trouble.

  24. Scurvy Jake says:

    If I had to do it all over again, I would make sure there was a flat surface on every tile, but the only problematic ones are the red clay tiles with the bricks. The other tiles manage to hold up a number token just fine.

  25. Kathe says:

    Amazing detail on your pieces. I like that you made 2 different types of each.

    I'm currently attempting to make my own game board, but am stumped as to how to decorate the brick tile. Any input you have is appreciated!

    Also, mine's not nearly as ambitious as yours, as the whole scuptling/resin thing is super intimidating šŸ˜‰

  26. Scurvy Jake says:

    Kathe: the one thing I would do different would be to make sure I always had a good flat place to put the markers on each tile. My brick can be problematic when playing.

  27. Gizm0 says:

    Hey!

    Wonderful stuff, just wondering, how much it materials do you think you spent? I'm looking to do this but would like to budget it out...

  28. Scurvy Jake says:

    I probably spent somewhere between $275 and $350 on the project. If you made fewer, smaller sets you should be able to make one for under $100.

  29. Gilligan5 says:

    Ive sunk about 200 bucks into my project. Im following this tutorial pretty close, i didnt use FIMO but a clay i got at about half the price of the FIMO. I was only able to bake it for around 45 minutes and it started smoking - had to shut down my operation - the rubber mixture is none too cheap and neither is the plastic, but like was said here, if you want to go through the pain of making a set you may as well make a few sets.

  30. Gilligan5 says:

    btw, thanks for posting this, your set looks amazing. im hopin mine will turn out well, i get a month or so "off" from college and i hope to turn out some nice pieces once the rubber and plastic get delivered.

  31. Gilligan5 says:

    One question, how easy does the rubber mold come out of the pvc pip part once it sets up? Do i need to use the silicone release stuff on the inside of the pvc pipe before pouring the rubber?

  32. Scurvy Jake says:

    I would recommend some release compound for your molds, it will definitely extend the life of the mold. The more undercuts you have, the harder the part will be to remove, and the more likely you'll tear the silicone rubber mold. The new parts are essentially a perfect fit, so the only way you can get the parts out is by virtue of the flexible rubber. Spray the mold every couple of casts, or more if it feels like the part is sticking.

  33. Wow, this is cool! It's so hard to look for a 3D version when it came out. I'm glad you shared this...I never thought I could make this right at home.

  34. Wonderful project! I think I can do this with my kids for recreational purposes. Thank you for sharing this information.

    By the way, the photos are great. šŸ™‚

  35. Scooter Zamboni says:

    This is an interesting project to make. Iā€™m sure the kids will go crazy over this one.

  36. Joe says:

    This is really cool. I'm going to give this a shot. I was wondering how you put together the hexes and the terrain. The FIMO says it shouldn't be overbaked, so did you double-bake the flat hex tiles or did you bake the terrain sepparately and then glue that to the flat hexes?

  37. Scurvy Jake says:

    I double-baked them and there didn't seem to be any issues at all. If you're worried, you can try under-baking the hex until it's just hard enough to hold its shape, then add the terrain and do a final bake.

  38. Devin says:

    How much fimo did you use for the project.

  39. Joe says:

    After 10 months, I finally finished the project, and it is well worth it! I shouldn't have delayed so much in between tasks, although sanding is horrible. I was wondering how you store your hexes? I was thinking about getting hard plastic cases for electronics with foam inserts, but I think that might be a bit expensive. I'm planning on shipping one set across the country, so it needs to be secure. Any ideas?

  40. Scurvy Jake says:

    @Devin: Sorry, I don't remember now how much I used. Since I made more than one of each tile type, I used at least twice what one would normally use. Making the hexes takes the most clay overall. I think I remember more than one trip back to the craft store for more Fimo, though I just bought the small blocks, never anything in bulk.

  41. Scurvy Jake says:

    @Joe: I use small bubble-wrap pouches I got online and pack them back to back in a cardboard box.

  42. Scurvy Jake says:

    Wow, very nice! I like the paint job!

Leave a Reply