Dragon Skeleton Terrain – No 3D Printing

Welcome, fellow tabletop roleplaying enthusiasts! If you’ve ever wanted to enhance your gaming experience with intricate dragon skeleton scatter terrain but don’t have access to a 3D printer, fear not! In this step-by-step guide, inspired by Pibblepusher’s creative process, we’ll show you how to craft your own dragon skeleton pieces using simple materials and techniques.

Materials Needed:

  1. Thin, sturdy cardboard (IKEA furniture boxes work well)
  2. XPS foam (or something vaguely spine and teeth shaped)
  3. Masking tape
  4. Newspaper
  5. Hot glue gun
  6. Quarter-inch copper wire (optional)
  7. Water and flour (for paper mache)
  8. Mod Podge (optional)
  9. Spray paint (optional, but recommended for non-foam pieces)
  10. Acrylic paints (tan, gray, and white worked well for me.)

Creating the Form

Start by cutting thin, sturdy cardboard into basic shapes for the dragon’s skull and ribs. IKEA furniture boxes are recommended for their ideal thickness. Curve the panels by hand into the desired shapes and secure them in place with masking tape.

Build the spinal cord using XPS foam or any material resembling a spine shape to connect the ribs. You could probably use balled up newspaper and masking tape if you don’t have XPS foam. If you are using foam, you may want to paint them separate to the ribs and hot glue them at the end, otherwise you can connect them now.

Add Character

Use rolled or balled newspaper and masking tape to add bulk to your form. This helps it to look more lifelike. If you’re struggling, look up images of real animal skulls, or even drawings of dragon skulls, and use those as a reference.

Get creative to give your dragon some character. For mine, I used quarter-inch copper wire, newspaper rolled into cones, and masking tape to make horns. Play around with different shapes and sizes to give your dragon skeleton a unique personality. If you need inspiration, you can always look at dragons in your bestiary or monster manual (that’s what I did!) Don’t forget to add a little bulk to the ribs too – though they don’t need much.

Paper Mache

Combine two parts water and 1 part flour to create a paper mache mixture. Apply the mixture to your dragon skeleton pieces, covering them completely. This messy process will add structure and create a solid shell. Let them dry completely. If you want a little extra durability, you can paint on a layer of mod podge for good measure once the paper mache is dry.



But if you haven’t used foam, I highly recommend spray paint for this project. It’s a quick way to get good coverage over the newsprint. Otherwise, it’s going to take several (4-6) coats with brushed on white acrylic. Allow each coat to dry completely before doing the next. If you can, opt for a warm white to make it more bone-like. Once all the newsprint is covered, lightly dry brush your piece. I used tan and gray to add depth and detail and weathering.


I wanted my skull to sit propped up, so that the mouth acted like a dungeon entrance. To achieve this, I carved teeth from XPS foam and painted them to match the skull. The last step in this project was to hot glue the teeth into the mouth, making sure to place them so they propped the dragon up.

Congratulations! You’ve successfully crafted your own dragon skeleton scatter terrain without the need for a 3D printer. Experiment with colors, textures, and additional details to match your gaming aesthetic. Share your results and experiences in the comments below. As always, happy crafting!

PS: You can put other terrain in the ribs and I’m living for it:

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