Bases and how to even

Have you ever wondered how to even when it comes to bases? There are an infinite amount of ways to do a base, and some people either have a 'go-to' that they use for all their minis. Some like to switch it up. Keep the body guessing, you know?

Before we get started, lets talk about what makes up the base and why choosing the right style is important.

  • The first thing to take into consideration is your army itself. Is it light, dark, or neutral coloured? You want to pick a base that complements the army, not overwhelms it. For example, if you have a winter themed army with lots of white camo, you don't want your base to be solely white. Where does his foot end and the snow begin? I mean, in real life, blending in with ones surroundings is pretty important when it comes to why things are seen, but this is art! 
  • What kind of world are you fighting on? Is it an ice planet? Desert? Wasteland? Industrial? There are so many options and you want to pick something fun that fits with your theme.
  • How intense do you want to get with these? Remember you don't want to go overboard and draw peoples eye away from your mini and towards the base. But do you want to have rocks, boulders, body parts, sigils, broken equipment, or anything else? Think about it!
  • THE RIM! This is one of your saving graces as well. If you want your winter troops to be on a winter base, break it up by painting the rim in a complementing colour. In this case, a dark grey or black helps. If you're doing a desert, a nice muted brown is good. Or if you're doing an agri-world situation, a nice camo green is perfect.

In this tutorial we are going to take a look at one of my favourite methods of doing bases. This gives a mountainous/desert-y feel that looks great with dark coloured models. So without further ado, here's the good stuff!:


First, in your super clean and organized workspace (see my previous blog post!), you're going to want to gather your materials. For this project, I used the following items:

  • Sand (medium with some ballast mixed in there)
  • PVA Glue
  • Liquitex Black Lava (I'll explain later!)
  • Various paints
  • Bark nuggets/chips
  • Brushes (Drybrush and a large #6 brush)
  • Application tool (in this case, a sculpting tool)

Adding Texture

The first thing you want to do is organize your space. You'll find that I start with this step on literally all of my projects. Here's a picture to see what I mean.

Next, we're going to get the bark nuggets/chips out and start cutting them to size. When you use these, you'll notice that you're throwing away most of it. You want to pick pieces that are irregular and well textured. When you cut the textured bits off, you have to make sure you are cutting a bit more off than you want, because these buggers have a tendency to flake off and become useless. I like to find a piece that, when cut diagonally, can be used on two bases! Behold:

Another thing you can do is just snap a piece in half and see what happens. Life is all about taking risks :P

One thing you need to be aware of as well, is how these break in half. They are comprised of many layers and it looks unnatural if they are cut cleanly. All that needs to happen is a simple gouging with your nail, a file, or something along those lines.

As part of your planning, some of your models (heroes, most likely), will have specific bases. The easiest way to label these is to simply carve who they're for on the underside. Like this one is for my Eversor Assassin.

Next, you just take a dollop of the Black Lava and smash it on the base, then your cut piece of bark nuggets. The reason I use the Black Lava instead of PVA glue is because I find that it has a much higher adhesion strength. Realistically you can use whatever you want, but PVA is good to go either way.

Once you have them all done and your character bases labelled, we can move onto the next step.

Pretty simple now, just put a bunch of PVA glue around each of your bark nuggets as such:

Give your sand container a sift so you can get all the delicious rock bits to the surface, and give it a gentle dunk. If there are some areas that didn't get coated with sand, just sprinkle a bit on the offending areas. Make sure you don't press down and flatten it out since that will ruin the texture.

Alternatively, if you have some problem areas, don't fret! That's what grass tufts are for. Once everything is finalized you can put grass in those areas to cover up mistakes. Just make sure not to go overboard! More on that later, since I'm doing something different (finishing the bases prior to painting the army).

And now they're ready for the next step!

Painting the Bases

Now we have to prepare the bases for priming. Normally I prime with an airbrush using Vallejo Black Surface Primer, but for terrain and bases, I just use Krylon Flat Black. If you have models with flying stands, it would behoove you to wrap them in masking tape so they don't get primed on.

Once the primer is dry, you can start with your basecoat. For these, I'm using Burnt Sienna as the basecoat for the sand, and Adeptus Standard Grey for the rocks.

Then when that's all done and dry, give the entire thing a nice drybrush with a bone colour (or in my case, Unbleached Titanium).

Now that those bases are dry, time to give them a wash from depth. Give it a solid coat of Aggrax Earthshade and LET IT DRY! This is a good thing to do before bed or going outside (whatever that is) to make sure it's properly dry.

Once the wash is nice and dry, give everything another drybrush (lighter... much lighter) of the bone colour. Lastly, a very light drybrush of white to bring it all together. Now the drybrushing is complete!

The last thing we're going to do is make a wash for the rocks. I used Payne's Grey, Flow Aid, and Nuln Oil. You'll have to play around with the exact ratios of it to find something that suits you, but in the next two pictures you can see the difference and the effect it achieves.

Then, just paint the rims (I used Steel Legion Drab) and you're done! Here are some completed pictures.

You may be wondering where the tufts of grass are. Great question, loyal reader! Once I finish painting the army, I'll write another post on the finer details of placing tufts of grass, as well as something new for me (weathering bases!). Nothing like a getting a little dirt in your dirt.

Thanks for reading! I hope this helps you out!

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