Handcrafted CastleStorm Minis: From the Screen to Your Tabletop

Published: September 18, 2020

Handcrafted CastleStorm Minis: From the Screen to Your Tabletop

Published: September 18, 2020

With the launch of CastleStorm II a few days away, we are celebrating the release with limited edition minis and free downloadable 5e resources. That way, you can play CastleStorm II on the console of your choice and then add some unique Zen Studios flavor to your tabletop campaigns.

The contest is free to enter, but we also thought you might like a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to transform in-game characters into a real, physical, hand-painted minis.

3D Models Are Not Print-Ready

Our art team did a fantastic job bringing the personalities of CastleStorm characters to life with models, textures, and animations. At first glance, you might think that printing these in 3D would be as simple as dropping them into the printer software, but that’s not quite the case.

Here are the models we started with:

The kinds of printers used for tabletop minis are great with detail, but they still have limitations. Shrinking models down to 35mm means that some of the detail in a piece becomes a structural challenge. For example, guitar strings and individual arrows in a quiver will either not print at all or they will break easily. 

After a few test prints, we identified the problem areas and asked a modeler with 3D printing experience to help. In addition to adjusting structural weak points in the models, he also beveled the edges of models so that they would print more smoothly, making it easier to print the final product.

Once the models consistently printed to our quality standard (let’s just say we have a few angry dice rollers in the office), we moved into the painting phase.

Hand-Painting Minis

As much as we love tabletop RPGs, all of us were too deep into the development of CastleStorm II to pause working on the game to break out our paintbrushes. So, in the spirit of supporting other indie artists, we reached out an experienced mini painter for help. Nathan Bursac runs an Etsy shop. He’s devoted to his family. And he spends a lot of time painting minis.

Right away, we had to make more adjustments to our models. Structurally, they were fine, but our passion for detailed characters does not readily translate to a miniature tabletop format. We had to decide what details were too complex for a mini brush and focus instead on capturing the spirit of the characters in this new medium.

That means that intricate tattoos, for example, were best left out. Nathan did a test painting to show us what that meant for the final product, and we still felt that the personality of our characters came through with the combination of colors and poses.

From there, Nathan set up the rest of the minis for painting in his workshop. And there were a lot of minis to paint. A lot.

As Nathan updated us on his progress, the collection of minis felt more and more like a true CastleStorm army, like we could reach into the screen and start playing like we had been through all of our testing with the actual game.

What surprised us through this process was Nathan’s consistency. Working at this small scale with this level of detail over dozens of minis seems like it would be exhausting. We know from our hobbyist time with minis that a minor mistake with a brush can mean a big problem for the look of a mini, but Nathan’s skill and focus makes it look like we had these mass-produced by a machine. But that’s not the case at all. This was one artist in his garage.

The Photoshoot

The last hurdle that we didn’t expect as video game developers was the unique challenge of photographing minis. Our art team has a great eye for video game art and cinematic experiences, but lighting a 35mm model is a bit strange if you’re used to building digital fantasy landscapes and dungeons. Nathan was used to this though, and he put our characters through some macro photography paces to produce studio-grade shots of our minis.

Adding CastleStorm Minis to Your Next Campaign

If you’re lucky enough to win one of these minis, you can easily drop them into your 5e session with our free character sheets. We’re adding more in our lead-up to the launch of CastleStorm II, but you can download Luna’s sheet today to get started.

And, if you haven’t already, you can enter our contest for a chance to win these extremely limited edition minis. 

CastleStorm II launches on Sept. 23 in the Epic Store. If you want to learn more, check it out on Epic.