Thursday, February 24, 2011

Basic Training: Basic Bases

So last week, while failing to keep up on the blog, I was frantically jumping into the hobby world.  My Flames of War army was suddenly out and being assembled and my Blood Angels were out, finally getting their final touches.  I realized that I had an opportunity to work on both armies at the same time, especially since both needed the same things done- their bases.

I am going to give a quick step-by-step guide on how to easily base your models.  I had to add the sand to my German army before I basecoated it, and I had to finish the sand on my Blood Angels.  So you'll see both here. 

The first thing to do, after you've assembled your models, is to gather all the materials you need.  That list is: 

1.  A dirty old paintbrush.  A standard size or larger is the best, but make sure you don't want to use it for painting anymore.
2. Two bowls of water.  One doesn't need to be clean, just wet.  The other will be for normal painting.
3.  White glue or wood glue.  I use good 'ol Elmers School glue, as it costs almost nothing and is, in fact, the same stuff as PVA glue (mostly)
4.  A tile or palette.  Again, it doesn't have to be clean, just flat.
5.  A paper towel.  If you don't clean your brush out often, it'll die in a bad way.  Don't be that guy; respect the paintbrush and bring a paper towel.
6.  A smaller bowl of sand or gravel (or very fine ballast if you're a train guy).  I use GW's old sand as it was perfectly fine and included scattered pebbles already. 
7.  The models.  Don't be dumb, it's why you're here.
8.  A good paintbrush.  Standard or larger works great.
9.  Four colors:  a dark shade, a basecoat shade, and a highlight color, and the color to go around the ring.  I use Scorched Brown, Snakebite Leather, Bleached Bone, and Catachan Green for mine.  But if you'd rather do a desert, arctic, or urban basing style, you'll need different colors.  Just match up the colors and the style- desert:  Vomit Brown, Desert Yellow, Bleached Bone; arctic:  Ice Blue, SW Grey, Skull White; urban:  Chaos Black, Charadon Granite, Codex Grey.  You get the idea, it isn't difficult (luckily).

So once you have your materials, you gotta get the bases ready to recieve the sand.  First, squirt some glue onto your tile.  Next, add water with your dirty paintbrush in the normal way.  You want the glue to be the consistency of gravy, so don't add too much water.  Finally, using your dirty paintbrush, simply apply the glue to the base of the model (in between feet and doods) as though you were painting it white.

Once you have the base appropriately covered in glue, simply dip the model straight into your bowl of sand.  Drown the base deep below the sand.  Be sure to hold the model while you do this, so your hand doesn't get in the way of the base.

Pull the model from the sand-bowl and, using your finger, wipe the glue and sand from the ring of the base (that's the outside border, if you're working of FoW).  This is purely for aesthetic purposes and some people don't do this, preferring the sand to cover all of the base of their models.  I think this looks silly. 

Once you've done this, set the model down and move on to the next one.  Sadly, it takes the glue a couple of hours to fully dry.  Luckily, I always work on batches of models, so I have plenty to keep me busy while I wait for the glue to dry.

See?  And there's still more.  There's always more...

After the glue has dried, take your entire army and prime it up.  The glue will hold the sand onto the bases from the bottom, while the primer will seal the sand from the top.  Also, this cuts down on your work for later. 
I typically don't base my models before I prime them, and wait until the whole army is fully painted.  I learned different, and it's a true disservice to my training.  However, it doesn't really make a difference to the finished product.  Really, this step is a safety net and cuts down on later work.

Once the bases are completely dry and solid, it's time to paint them.  DO NOT ATTEMPT TO PAINT 'ALMOST DRY' BASES!  It's an epic fail everytime, and usually removes the sand from the base.  Save yourself the frustration and wait a couple of hours before painting the sand.
To paint the sand, simply grab your good paintbrush and pop open the shadow-color paint you've chosen.  Create your puddle of paint on the tile (not near the glue) as normal, and then paint it onto the sand.  If you add a little more water than normal, you'll find the paint actually 'seeps' into the sand faster.  But don't add too much water as it'll 'wash' the sand instead, and that looks terrible.  After basecoating the sand, set the model down and let it dry.  This'll take a couple of hours again as wet sand doesn't dry quickly. 

After you're SURE the shadow coat is dry (and you must be sure), it's time to add the next color.  Using your good brush, simply drybrush the base-color paint you've chosen.  It should be starkly brighter than the shadow coat, as the drybrush should be rather heavy.  This may require you to do multiple layers of drybrush on the base to get it right, but it's worth it. 
Once you've drybrushed all the models with the base-color, it's time to finish the sand.  Simply use your highlight-color paint and good paintbrush to drybrush the last layer on.  This layer is literally a highlight for the sand, so don't drybrush too heavily in this step.  Luckily, there's no dry-time involved for both of these steps.

To finish the bases, pull out the ring-color you've chosen, grab that good paintbrush, and prepare for the hardest part of the process... 
Create a puddle of the paint on your tile (away from the shadow-color and glue) and add water as normal using your good brush.  It generally helps to add less water at this stage, as the paint already has a hard time sticking to the outside of the bases.  Then, using your good paintbrush, basecoat the outside ring of the base (or border, if you're working on FoW).  Be sure not to overpaint onto the sand or the model's feet.  Even more importantly, DO NOT touch the model with paint on your fingers.  I can't tell you how many beautiful models I've ruined at the last minute, just because I was sloppy in basing.  Once you're done with this step, simply put the model down and marvel (and clean out your brushes one last time).  It'll take almost an hour for the paint to fully dry, so that's an hour of admiring you can pile onto your doods!

You can also add static grass, flock, and other decorative things to the bases.  That'll be another blog sometime in the future.  For now, it's all about the basics.


  1. It's just like a basing academy that your not being paid for o.O I like it ;D

  2. I almost named it 'Academy 2.4', but yeah...

  3. Academy was retarded.