Basing Models by Andrew Ovel

26 Aug

Unsurprisingly, I like my models to look nice, most gamers do. I have not been blessed with an exceptional painting talent, but I do try to make my models look as nice as I can. Many tournaments ask you to use painted models, and award prizes/points for well painted and based models.

For many painting the models is actually more important than playing the game; my friend Guido just buys the models because he loves painting them; he doesn’t play the game, and he doesn’t want to. For Guido, and many others, it’s all about painting the models and improving their art. Guido makes, what appears to me to be, small works of art, his painting is of a very high standard but what impressed me most was the level of detail on the bases he had used.

I was genuinly inspired by the models he showed me, and particularly by the bases he had used (the £50 bill for all the new resin bases I bought is testament to that), and it made me want to do more with my own models. So I began to look around, talked to friends and searched the net for different ways to base your models and drawn up a short list of what is out there to use for those little black plastic discs:

Plain – This is the easiest method, just paint the base what ever colour you feel like, it’s very quick and easy but not too impressive. This is probably the most cost effective way to base your models, as you probably have the paint already. I would not be happy to do this with my models, but for many it a popular option as it is so quick and easy to do. I’m prepared to go a bit further to try and get a more interesting textured look to my bases. I would recommend however to use the same colour paint for all the bases in the army and give it a unified look.

Flock – This is coloured sawdust used to create texture on bases and models. Flock is an old favourite with railway model enthusiasts, and you get a big bag of it for your money. It can be found in many different colours and shades, so even if you have a particularly unusual battlefield to simulate you should find a suitable colour. However I feel on close examination of models you can see the flock doesn’t quite have a completely natural look and feel, but is definitely a step up from just painting the bases.

Rocks – These can be a nice piece of slate or even some rocks you found in your garden. Simply gluing a few rocks to your base and then ironically painting them as rocks can produce a good effect. Availability is really down to you, if you just want a few small rocks you can pick up some gravel for a small charge or buy more elaborate rocks from specialists. If however you want to go for something a bit fancier you could always try something like a small pieces of amethyst (good look for Independent characters in your Tzeentch army) or more unusual rocks. The beauty of rocks is they are all over the place.

Sand – It wasn’t till I actually started buying sand that I found out it comes in different sizes or grades. The first sand I bought had very large grains, and it looked wrong on my bases, it was too big and out of scale. Now I have some specialist sand that I bought from a model shop (this was my wife’s first clue that she may have made a terrible mistake marrying me when I dragged her to model train shop to buy some “special sand” on a sunny Bank Holiday weekend) that has a smaller grain size, and is already dyed a gray colour to fit with my “city fight” theme that I have for my IG army. This is my preferred method for basing my models as it’s so quick, easy and effective, you can even paint and highlight the sand if you like as it produce a nice effect.

Grit – This is half way between sand and rocks. As I said previously I feel this can be “too much” on its own so I prefer to mix a small amount of these larger grains, with my smaller grained sand. This has the benefit of giving a few larger rocks dotted in amongst the regular sized sand. Try it and find your own balance.

Static grass – This was a real revelation when I first saw this in the 90’s, a colleague of mine in GW Cambridge brought it in and said he had found it at a railway model shop. Well a short 16 years later and you can now buy several different colours from the very dull to the bright green. I myself have never liked to use the super bright green grass; I always feel it looks too much like you are fighting over someone’s perfectly mowed lawn. Small additions of patches of static grass on the other basing styles can produce a wonderful effect and combined with the mixed sand can create a quite realistic appearance. You can even buy tufts of static grass now for your bases to give the look of small grassy clumps.

Snow – Obviously real snow is not an option, unlike sand, but this is another good option. I like the snow effect powders available, and mixed with the static grass can produce a wonderful tundra effect. This is glued onto bases just like any other covering, but obviously it’s white for snow. I have heard of a snow effect being created by mixing PVA and baking soda but I have never tried it. Good for space wolves or Valhallans or any other snow themed army.

Water – Using PVA, paint and varnish, you can model and create a really good water effect, but I would probably save this for larger bases, as small pools can easily get lost under the feet of models on 25mm bases.

Bits Box – You can create a good effect by adding random bits of kit from old sprues to represent bits of equipment or rubble dropped on the battlefield. I have even modelled a whole base for my assasin using just a Chaos Dreadnought arm for a dramatic effect. Just look in your bits box and see what would look good, maybe an old gun, a severed head, a plastic plant, a pile of grenades or whatever grabs your fancy.

Mix of Materials – A mix of the different basing materials can create an interesting chaotic/organic feel to the bases. Spend a little time thinking of which styles you want to combine, and maybe try one out before committing to the whole army. Larger bases give you more range to combine different effects that you would struggle to fit on to smaller bases.

Resin Bases – These can produce an incredible effect for an already wonderfully painted model. If you are a great painter then one of the many resin bases available may be just the thing to show off your painting skills to their best; these can be highly detailed works of art in themselves, deserving only the finest models to adorn them. They are considerably more expensive than standard bases, and to convert your whole army on to these bases would be a large expense. I would recommend saving them for special units or characters, but if you have the cash and the desire then there is nothing stopping you. One note your beautiful big resin base can make your model too large to fit in a single compartment in your carry case so you may have to make adjustments to fit them in. There are so many different styles of resin base out there that if you can think of an environment then someone has modelled a base for it, just have a look and then take your pick.

In consideration I would always try and balance the cost (both in money and time) with appearance, and try and choose an overriding theme that will tie the army together (i.e. if you have a city fight theme then do bases covered in rubble and keep the theme running through the whole army). It’s really amazing the difference having a collection of really nicely based models can make to your army. I REALLY like the resin bases but feel they are too expensive for me, so I like to save them just for my special/independent characters, as it really makes them stand out as someone special in the army.

If anyone else out there in 40K land has any other suggestions or techniques for basing models I would love to know so please add a comment below.



2 Responses to “Basing Models by Andrew Ovel”

  1. thepuck1 August 31, 2011 at 04:46 #

    These are all great suggestions, but I have a few more.

    I use kitty litter for my bases, and a bit of twine cut at 1/4″ for a “weed” look. If you use a hefty drop of superglue, and add the twine, the superglue soaks up the twine and makes it nice and stiff. Add some static grass for a realistic look.

    Bits of lichen can be uses for plants.

    Birch seed pods make excellent fallen leaves.

    • Andy Ovel August 31, 2011 at 21:43 #

      Thanks, those are all awesome suggestions too. 🙂

      Of course now I’m going to have to start hunting for birch trees, so I can get some seed pods! :$

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