Painting MDF Buildings – The Easy Way

By now most of us have probably bought an MDF building of some sort and there is a strong probability that it will need painting. If you’ve ever tried painting MDF before or have at least read a few posts on the subject elsewhere you will know that it drinks paint like a sponge. So solve this problem most people resort to using various layers of primer, varnish or paint to achieve the desired effect but this both costly and time consuming.

After trying a few different approaches to the problem I’ve found my own way of getting that all important layer of paint onto your models in a quick single coat application.

The Model

As I’m making some scenery for the Batman Miniature Game right now I have a number of buildings that need a coat of paint. So I though I’d share my quick technique with you.


The main difference in this technique is to keep your paint thick, very thick. Don’t even think about using regular game paint for this, it’s just not thick enough and will cost you £20 to paint one building. I’ve found the best paint to use is Emulsion paint from a DIY store, in fact the cheapest solution is just buy the £1.50 test pots. If you can’t get the right colour you want you can always mix in some artists acrylic (again thicker and cheaper than gamer paint) but emulsion really does work best for the bulk of your paint.

As well as your paint you will need a piece of sponge (the stuff they pad figure clamshell boxes with is ideal, you do keep this don’t you?) and something to mix it in (again a clamshell case is ideal).

The Technique

Once you’ve mixed your paint to the desired colour it’s time to get applying it to your model. Take your piece of sponge (this is not that messy a technique except for your hands so you may want to wear gloves for this) and get it loaded up with paint (I use the clamshell lid to help spread it evenly on the sponge) but be careful not to use too much paint (keep the MDF offcuts for practise).

Then just wipe the paint loaded sponge across your building. You will find that it covers quickly and doesn’t get absorbed away as it  would if you were painting with a brush or spray. If you have and areas you don’t want to get covered and you are worried about your accuracy you can use a low tac masking tape to cover them up first (use low tac as regular can lift the surface of the MDF when you remove it).

The Finished Effect

I find that it takes about five minutes to do a reasonably sized building, which is a lot faster than using other techniques and costs almost nothing in paint usage. OK it will destroy your sponge and clamshell case but you had already bought these anyway .

Just to show the difference here is a comparison between a painted and unpainted MDF building and a finished model with all the detailing added.


About Jarec

Long term Wargamer and dice hugger. My preferences tend towards Fantasy and Sci-Fi but I have a strong interest in the WWII and Vietnam gaming eras.
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2 Responses to Painting MDF Buildings – The Easy Way

  1. Elmar says:

    Thank you so much for posting this !!!

    I have just recently started out into the great world of table top skirmishes (I strongly favour Old West or Steampunk settings) and before deciding on which buildings to buy, I was looking into practical ways to paint them.

    Yes, of course, there are a lot of very astonishing ways to paint the various style buildings, but as an adult with a pretty demeaning job, I have to juggle my spare time as it is and do not have the time for the too elaborate approach (I figure, you can always pretty things up later on).

    Turning to the pre-painted buildngs on the market, besides the much steeper price tag, was never an option as I deem that way too dull – I do take time and care with the miniatures, though, but for the buildings, I was looking for something just practical.

    And I think the results when applying your approach are just great !!!

    With a little planning, various sections can be processed pretty neat and just adding some finer touches make for very good-looking buildings in a very short time.

    Once again, THANK YOU !!! Truly appreciate your post!

  2. Leo Donkersley says:

    Brilliant! I have been reading about 25% PVA/water sealant, spray or brush on primers, shellac…this seems simpler. With some detailing and drybrushing, it looks superb. Thanks for the post.

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