In the days of pre-sculpted bases and texture paints (both of which are awesome by the way – those Necromunda bases…), the art of basing can sometimes feel a little lost. Basing has never been the sexiest bit of the hobby, but it’s a skill that isn’t just worth learning, but one that can make your miniatures special to both you as the painter, and to those looking at it. A base helps to place your miniature in its world or its universe, and it’s something that’s worth taking the time to learn and enjoy. I promise you, sometimes, the base, whether you’re army painting or competition painting, can be the most fun part of a miniature. Here are 9 tips and tricks from me, to help you get the most from your basing.
Stealing stones from a pub planter
We all have a limited amount of funds, and frankly, actually spending money on basing material is a bit much when you HAVE TO spend money on the actual cool miniature itself. But what if I told you half of the materials in my basing materials collection were either free, or cut price? A lot of miniatures companies, large and small, like to deploy the “we saw you coming” technique, and I can’t blame them, but I can undercut them by telling you that so much stuff that you think costs money really doesn’t. The title of this section comes from the days before lockdown when I would go to the pub and they would often have slate filled planters in the garden. Slate is a great material, especially for characters, but it’s not the only freebie. If the gardener of the family is weeding or getting rid of plants, take what they want to throw out, dry it, and use the roots as small saplings or trees, even roots! If you’ve got a couple of quid, go to your local pet store and buy some fish gravel and budgie sand – you can get kilos of it for next to nothing and it will last even the most prolific army painter years. There’s treasure everywhere, Hobbes, and if I had a penny for all the mornings I’ve woken up to find my coat pockets stuffed with stones, bark, corks… I’d have £1.35!
Use a different shade that scares you
Rocks aren’t grey. One of the easiest basing methods is to put down some sand (as mentioned above,Budgie sand’s great if you’re feeling frugal) or texture paint, base paint it, shade it black (or with Agrax if you feel fancy) and then highlight it. Well, how about you use something different to a dark or muddy-looking wash? How about using Carroburg Crimson? Or Drakenhoff Night? Or an orange wash, or a green wash, or… well, anything other than black/brown? This can be a great way to frame your minis. If you’re doing Ultramarines, why not do a red-tinted base to make that blue pop more? if you’re doing Black Legion, any colour will help add uniformity and interest to your army while also framing those darker toy soldiers. If you’re starting a new army, have fun and do something different. It will help to put your army in a unique setting of your own design, make it recognisable, and allow the character to punch through.
Tufts are not the only organic
Tufts, be they Citadel tufts or from any other company, are really fun ways of adding an organic touch to your bases, but they’re not the only trick up a hobbyists’ sleeve. Tiny amounts of greenstuff can help you create mushrooms, toadstools, and (what I call) spore puffs – just little spherical things that might be full of fungal spores. Or take some autumn leaves, or coloured paper and buy a leaf punch to help convey a forest setting when you add them to a base. What’s more, there a companies that make actual teeny-tiny flowers and bushes to use on your bases. With a little time, and a little money you can have your army tramping though a veritable Eden. if there was ever a way to bring your bases to life, this is it.
The simple pool and making it special
A lot of hobbyists think that to install a water feature on your mini, you have to invest loads in water effect products but really you don’t. Yes, those products are great, but I’ve made watery pools of life from glue, contrast paints and a gloss varnish. Ok, if you want a flowing river, yeah, you’ll need something that can do that unless you’re very good with greenstuff, but for a simple pool? No, all you need is a well in the base, a glue to fill it that leaves you with a flat surface when dry, and some colour. Contrast paints are great for this, and when you cover them in ‘ardcoat, you’ll get a small pond that can make characters stand out, and put your army in a verdant and life-giving realm or area. Or, depending on the colour you use, it can be a pool of blood, or bile, or lava… whatever you need and it takes no real effort or money to do.
That’s my glowing rock!
I remain of the opinion that OSL gets overused especially by those who don’t understand how light works. A small campfire spreads its orange light all over a Stormcast Eternal… who has been painted like he’s in daylight? Sorry, it looks naff. But, very subtle OSL used by anyone can make a detail on a mini’s base all important. That glowing orb, shining icon or, yes, that sickly green glowing rock can add a very simple detail to a base that just helps to make your army special and recognisable. You don’t have to go mad (it’s better that you don’t – straight jacket rental prices be crazy for a start), but maybe your general has the biggest glowing rock, or the most of them, and in your squads, only one or two appear. It’s easy to do, and makes things different to what everyone else is doing.
Debris and the player you hate/love
Most of us are not alone in this hobby. And most of us have substantial bits boxes, even when we’ve only worked on a single army. So how about theming your army, through basing, as a (playful) “screw you” to your best mate? When you’re both working on armies, do a bits exchange. Those heads and weapons that neither of you need, just slide them across the table to each other, and then incorporate those into your bases (or hell, even buy some bits if he or she is initially unwilling to supply you with trophies). Trust me, the Dark Angels player will be delightfully horrified by seeing the decapitated helm of a Ravenwing biker at the feet of your champion. The discarded T’au pulse rifles strewn across the bases of your mob of Boyz… a wonderful way to make your army matter more both in your eyes, and in the eyes of your chief opponent.
The Importance of Elevation
Not to sound like someone who looks down on others, but when you’re higher up, you just feel more important. And this works for miniatures as well. If you place your captains, chaplains, librarians and any other bosses on elevated base, it makes them stand out as more important in your army. It’s a trick that makes characters more characterful, and sets aside the minis you care about from the ones who are probably going to die to the echoes of your disinterested shrugs. You can achieve this for the cost of almost no money, either by using bits of cork board, or by using those stones you robbed from a pub garden planter back in the first tip (and the only reason it’s not listed as “no cost” is because I’m presuming you were at least decent enough to buy a pint before pilfering their planters). It’s one of the easiest tricks, it’s almost free, and it makes for a great looking hero.
In the same way that “rocks aren’t grey”, it’s worth thinking more about the colours of your bases. Those martian paints always seem to work best when the army standing on them isn’t somewhere on the red spectrum. Dark minis look best on light bases, and visa versa. And this should flow through to anything else you’re adding to the base. Making some mushrooms for a red space marine? Don’t make them red. Adding some tufts to a green nurgly dude’s base? There are other natural colours than green? Use your basing to compliment, border and frame your miniatures to help them stand out from themselves and spark the imagination in yourself and others. Opposites attract!
Kinda dusty/dirty round here
It’s an easy and obvious trick to put in there but one that is one of the most successful at grounding your toy soldiers in the base you’ve built for them. Got an ash-covered base? The drybrush some grey going up the mini’s legs. Are they marching through a muddy plain? Drybrush some brown onto his or her lower legs. it really is one of the best uses of drybrushing and it’s easy, but it kind of gets overlooked when talking about the most effective ways of making your toy soldiers part of the world you’ve placed them in. Simple as anything, it can make the biggest of differences, so, if you want your basing to do the most for your minis, make sure you do it!
So there you have it. If you knew all of these, then well done, but I hope you at least got some insight from this post. Basing can be so much fun and with a little know-how and not much money, you can transform your miniatures. And I got to show you a few of my minis that I haven’t shared here for a while. Anyway, I hope this gave you some ideas, and until the next time, dear readers, Onwards!