I have a miniature trophy made out of plastic (3D printed from PLA) and I want to paint the base to look like polished mahogany. It's about 2" across.

Is there any guidance on which colors to use, which order to use them, or any techniques that I can use?

  • 2
    I think the reason this question has languished without an answer is that a good answer may not be possible in the site's format; it's pretty complex. It will also probably require experimentation to modify techniques that are commonly available for large wood surfaces. There are lots of resources online for simulating mahogany wood grain (the "polished" part would just be a glossy finish layer added when you're done). The first step would be a primer layer to establish a background color that paint will stick to. (cont'd)
    – fixer1234
    Commented Mar 23, 2022 at 22:40
  • 1
    There are a number of different color combinations that have been refined for this purpose, but they tend to be identified as specific colors in a specific paint, which is often water-based because the process was designed for wood. You would probably need to replicate those colors in acrylic or something else that will all bond with plastic/primer. The graining is a complex process using various techniques with specific kinds of brushes. The techniques are designed for large, flat surfaces, so you would need to modify them for a small base. That's the gist. (cont'd)
    – fixer1234
    Commented Mar 23, 2022 at 22:40
  • 1
    Here are some resources to give you a few different starting points and approaches: 1. anniesloanpaintandcolour.blogspot.com/2015/10/… 2. Another version by the same author: anniesloanpaintandcolour.blogspot.com/2015/10/… 3. youtube.com/watch?v=b4rW2qZ0rMQ 4. A 3-part video: youtube.com/watch?v=dFJB6gGnnHU, youtube.com/watch?v=E5Bq6xisf4c, and youtube.com/watch?v=3Wv4SIsDi1Y
    – fixer1234
    Commented Mar 23, 2022 at 22:40

1 Answer 1


I'm a lifelong artist and owner of a museum display with many thousands of miniatures. I'm going to share the method I would use.

I'd probably use acrylic for this job, it's quicker drying and easier to use.

First, Google 'mahogany wood bases' and screenshot this to refer to. Have it by you when painting.

Look at how the bases have a black line around the top or bottom or both. Observe the colours you can see in the light, medium, and dark areas.

Mahogany has a lot of red in it; to paint something like this I would prepare a palette of scarlet red, maybe crimson red, black, bright yellow, sienna brown.

Paint the black line defining top and or bottom of the base, first. Don't fuss - it will be softened by later overpainting. Just paint it.

Using thin bright red paint, wash over the rest of the object following 'the grain' of the wood. Let your brush strokes suggest wood grain. Let dry or nearly dry.

Tip: Use a tissue while painting to take some of the wetness from the brush. You want thin flowy paint, but lessen the wetness by touching brush tip with a tissue while painting. Take off too much paint on the object, with the tissue as well.

Having painted the object red, which will help your piece have the back-glow that mahogany does, lightly overpaint with a browny orange red. Blot as needed with tissue. Brush strokes should follow the grain - go around around base, or across a square one.

Let dry or almost dry, then paint the somewhat higher areas where the light hits the surface of the base on the top, at one side, a browny orange-red colour (mix scarlet, yellow, and a tiny bit of black).

While that is still wet, add a little white to that colour and put that on the very lightest areas.

Let it dry, then overpaint lightly with any of the colours to get the desired effect.

Stop before finished - don't labour it - to keep the work fresh.

  • At last, somebody with solid advice. Commented Sep 8, 2022 at 7:06
  • Hope that helps you Aaaargh! 😊 Have a look at my creation, Ubud Fairy Village, if you'd like. Good luck w your models. Jelila
    – user3025
    Commented Sep 8, 2022 at 7:36

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