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Battlefield Basing

Here are the steps I use to create a batch of bases that look like the scorched-earth that 40K armies are likely storming across to victory. It’s a quick and fun way to get some texture and depth under your models that doesn’t take away from the model itself.

I start by collecting sand, dust and small debris from the street and from the corners of the windows in my studio. I’m in an old warehouse/ industrial space so there is always something cool crumbling away in some corner that makes for good battlefield junk. It is a good idea to bake this debris to take the moisture out of it. Storing it in a tub with desiccant packets is a good way to keep some on hand.

I like to tape all the bases that I am working on to the inside of a carboard box. A game-box lid or cardboard pet food can tray is perfect for this. This gives me a way to pour on our glue and little bits of debris and paint them quickly with the airbrush or spray can. I start by covering the bases with layers of white glue. I get these at the dollar store. I try to be messy here. If I have time, I will let it dry and do several layers of glue and debris to build up some slight elevations. My only rule here is to cover all of the flat plastic with SOMETHING. Anything to give these texture is going to be cool.

Then I attack it all with my sand and debris mixture.

I let that dry, dump the excess back into the tub to be used again and move on to adding some more detail bits. Small pieces of wire, plastic tubing, twist ties, bigger pebbles and bits of cork are all good to go at this stage.

Let’s let that dry and make additions and adjustments as needed. I’ll hit this with a hair drier if I’m in a hurry, or leave it in a sunny spot and have a coffee before moving on to the priming step. This next photo shows the primer and a bit of Vallejo Armour Brown applied to all the bases. I start with completely priming everything in black and then hitting some random places with the brown. Can’t go wrong here, just have some fun getting a color on there. I use the airbrush for this, but rattle cans work well too.

I’ll keep adding colors, Vallejo Desert Brown and Sky Grey are favorites here. Again, the reality of these colors doesn’t matter. This is a jacked-up blasted battlefield. Go for it!

Those got a little too light in this example, and I’m taking bad pictures here. I’ll go back in with the black or brown as needed to add depth. Black patches = bomb destruction. Looking good!

Next, I’ll hit the whole tray with a gloss varnish. Anything in a rattle can will do, just make sure that EVERYTHING IS SUPER DRY before you seal it into place with varnish. We use gloss varnish here as it creates areas for the oil wash we are about to apply. I use Gamsol as a thinner, but turpentine or white spirit is also good. Gamsol is nice because it has no odor. I mix about half a pencil eraser’s worth of colour with about a shot glass of gamsol. Mix up two or more colors for this. Black and brown work well to simulate the oil and lubricants that would be found on the battlefield. Yes, blood red is also a swell choice.

Use a busted old brush that will never see acrylic paints again to splash these oil washes on to the dry glossy bases. Use cotton make up pads or swabs to pick up and excess.

OK, here’s where I stopped taking pictures, I’ll get some more shots of my next batch I swear (6/19/19 swears to get more photos of washed bases). The bases above are too light, so I’ll go back in with more black oil wash and even the airbrush again to get the vibe right.

Let’s have another coffee while everything dries. Last thing to do is to lightly drybrush the tippy tops of all of the details we have added to the bases. Just a little bit of Ivory or Sky Grey to make the top of those rocks or plastic bits really pop. Well, the real last thing to do is to hand paint the sides of the bases in Army Painter Matt Black. That tightens up the whole thing and makes the sides of the bases disappear. I’ll then use CA glue and accelerator to attach the painted models before varnishing everything. In some cases I’ll matte varnish the figure and base and then go back with gloss varnish and a brush to add some shine into the puddles. Bring some of that wetness back.

That’s it. I’ll get some better photos I swear. Cheers!

6/14/19 BAM! New photos added. Check out the Delaque ganger and the Alpha Legion Space Marine below, as well as the base for the Sisters of Silence Acquisitor.

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