Wednesday, May 2, 2018

All About That Base

Often times, the bases of our models are the last thing we think about. They're what we need to do to make the mini playable, but it can and should be so much more to that. There are several ways to go about basing, as well as several tips to keep in mind when working on them.

I'll admit, I used to fall into the camp of "meh, the base is the base." I would often just glue some sand down, drybrush it, and add some static grass and call it good. Not that there is anything wrong with that, and there are some great looking armies that do just that. Heck, most of the Games Workshop studio and 'Eavy Metal armies follow that style. The important thing is to realize that there are more options than that, and even if you do just go that route, there are a few important things to keep in mind. So to start with, let's talk about some basing ideas that apply to almost all forms of basing.

The Frame of your Model

Besides just being the thing that hold up you mini, the base also acts as the sort of frame to your model. Unless you're doing a diorama, the base is the one thing that your finished model will always visually be accompanied by. It should compliment the colors you've used on your model and help frame it in a way that makes sure the mini is still the focus of the piece. You can make an epic looking base with tons of character and vignettes, but if it steals the show from the model, then it's not doing its job. That's not to say you shouldn't make the base interesting, just make sure you don't take it too far. You should also make sure you choose colors that work. This can be harder across an army with a variety of units and colors since a basing scheme may work well with part of your army and not with the other. All you can do is try and find a happy middle. Brown is generally a good choice if you're unsure. It's right in the middle of everything. Nice and neutral, and not too light or dark. On an army of mostly brown Brayherd or something though it might end up looking too "muddy." In this case that term applies to the actual color as well, but generally it's just talking about when the model and base blend together. You wouldn't want to do an army of Raven Guard on dark grey bases or White Scars on a snowy tundra either. Unless you do something to help pull the two elements apart it can all just become a sort of visual mess. You can get away with similar colors if they're different enough hues, like the studios Ad Mech army, which is mostly red on red bases. The red of their robes is a very saturated and bright red though, while the base is a more desaturated and crimson color. The abundance of mechanical bits on them helps break it up too.

The Rims

While the base is the frame to your model, the rims of your base are the frames of your base. Personally I'm a big fan of black since it works with almost anything. It gives it a nice feeling of being on display and helps make the model look finished. When you're playing a game it helps separate out the models from the table too. If you had snow bases with white rims, but were playing on a desert board, it might look a little odd. If you have snow bases with black rims though, it kind of separates out the two and makes the juxtaposition a little less obvious. Brown and grey are other popular choices, with the GW studio usually doing one of those two. I think a desaturated brown can look pretty good as well, but it all depends on the other colors of your models. Play around a bit with a few different options, and see which one looks best in the end. Base rims are fairly quick and easy to repaint, so don't be afraid.

Basing Materials

The tried and true method of basing for years has been to glue sand on to the base and paint it. This is still a great method, and something I do for several of my armies. All you have to do is apply some PVA glue (like Elmer's) onto the base, dunk them in some sand, clean any spillage off of the rims (it's important to keep a clean look), and then reseal the sand with some heavily watered down glue. This last step will help you from having any sand come off while painting. With the introduction of texture paints we have a whole other host of options. I've become a big fan of these lately, especially some of the thicker ones, since it lets you create variation in thickness on the base. In my mind this more accurately represents what the ground would look like at that scale. The texture on the GW paints is fine enough that it looks correct at 28mm scale. These also come in a variety of colors to cut out a step since you won't need to basecoat it. The one thing I'll say though is that if you glued your model onto your base before basing it, you'll have to be more careful with the texture paint. Since it has the color already in it, if you accidentally get some on your models feet then wipe the texture off, you've still just painted their foot that color.

Basing Seperately

Which brings us to another point, whether to do the bases seperately and then glue the model on, or do it all glued together. Generally I just glue my model on and base around it, but there are several reasons to do it the other way. If you're doing a really complex base it's probably worthwhile doing it seperately, that's what I did for my Tomb King on Chariot conversion. Lately, with all of the colors sprays, I've also been spraying my bases seperately, especially if they're a sculpted base. On my Blood Stalker I sprayed the base white since it was desert themed, but sprayed the snake tail Incubi Darkness. I then painted both of these up on their own and glued them together at the end. Same for my Shadespire Stormcast. The models were sprayed Retributor Armor, and the bases Incubi Darkness. Some people also don't like how it looks like the model is sinking into the basing material when you do it with the model already glued to the base, but for me that adds to a sense of weight, and it's usually not that noticeable.

Pre-sculpted Bases

Games Workshop has been knocking it out of the park lately with their pre-sculpted bases, whether it's the Shattered Dominion bases for AoS, or one of the three options available for 40k, or even the Shadespire bases. These all look great, and really help ground your models in the worlds of Warhammer. I'm currently using Shattered Dominion bases for a few projects and I absolutely love the Shadespire bases. These generally require no additional basing, just paint and go.

Scenic Bases

This could be anything from a full blown diorama for a painting competition, to just creating your own version of a pre-sculpted base. These really help ground your model in the sense of a place. Before there were any pre-sculpted options for 40k, I made some of my own spaceship bases for my Imperial Fists. This takes longer than normal basing, but will looks great in the end. Generally you'll use stuff like Plasticard or natural materials like cork or bark. This will definitely make your army unique, with no one else having the same bases as you, but like I said, be prepared to spend almost as much time on the base as on the model.

Additional Elements

This can cover a wide range of things, but generally I'm talking about the "extras" you add on after the sand/texture paint/scenic base. This can be static grass, grass clumps, snow, skulls, other plant life, bits from other kits, you name it. Some of these you can do more of than others, like the grass and snow. If you're going for a highly snowy area, then go crazy with the snow, some with a lush forest. Whatever you do though, make sure you're working towards your theme, and remember not to overwhelm the model. If parts of your basing has vibrant colors, like flowers or painted bits from other kits, make sure they complement the model and don't clash or distract from it. If you're unsure, use more neutral colors, or desaturated versions of other colors. The best bet is to mess around with it a bit until you find something you like. On my Nurgle army I use a lot of the Nurgle's Rot technical paint. I also coupled this with a few Middenheim Tuffs scattered around to give it a sense of a swampy, infected place.

Those are just a few tips and tricks on basing, and there are a lot more that I haven't even touched on. Sufficed to say, we've come along way from the flock and Goblin Green bases of the 90s and will probably be even more advanced in 10 years. What are some of the trends you've seen develop in basing since you started and where do you think we'll go from here?

Until next time,

Tyler M.

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