Along with the colour palette bases are one of the things that helps tie all of the units in an army together cohesively. For most of my 28mm gaming in the past I’ve generally followed the tried and tested approach of adding a texture, painting it a base colour then overbrushing a first highlight and finally dry-brushing a final light highlight and popping the odd grass tuft or patch of static grass onto it. Nothing wrong with that, It’s how I still do all of my Lord of the Rings and Fantasy armies. With Age of Darkness however I’ve been applying a lot more in the way of scale modelling techniques in the weathering and appearance of the vehicles in particular and the way of helping to carrying this over onto the infantry is through the bases and it’s not as difficult as you might think.
Step 1: Base choice.
Games Workshop shifted the base size for a lot of its 40K and Sigmar kits from 25 to 32mm recently. However I already had a decent number of 25 and 40mm Dragonforge Design bases I was using for Ultramarines in the past and wanted to keep the look coherent. Not enough to do the entire force however, but that’s fine as I don’t mind some variety in the textures as long as overall look is consistent and that would be done through the use of pigments. With that in mind I opted to base all of the Legion Tacticals and Support on 25mm, Breachers on 32mm and Terminators on 40mm as standard. Dreadnoughts and other walkers were not an issue as the base size has not changed for these so Dragonforge’s already matched.
Step 2: Creating volume.
To give the blank bases both height and volume in line with the resin ones I use pieces of cork floor tiles to create a foundation. This is a popular and easy method that a lot of gamers have been using for years. The material is light, simple to work with and creates the appearance of rock. I break off a section of cork tile roughly the size of the base and glue it in place with super-glue. Don’t worry about it being too big or small, it gets adjusted. Once firmly fixed in place I break off any excess that extrudes past the rim until I have an interesting shape that fits the footprint of the miniature. I make sure I leave voids so that I can add extra texture and use the broken fragments as extra sections or small rock fragments to add even further variety in height. What you want to avoid is just one flat layer of cork as that doesn’t give much in the way of interest for the eye and doesn’t look particularly natural.
With the cork foundation in place I then add other materials to create volume. I apply a mix of talus over a few patches of super-glue to get the process going. Once that has set I apply more over the top to build up more natural looking earth and use an old paintbrush to move it around and control the overall look. Once it is where I want it I lightly drip Woodland Scenics cement over the top. This is designed for model railway hobbyists and has a wetting agent which breaks the surface tension allowing it to soak between the granules and bind them without moving them around.
Important: Do Not Touch or move the bases at this stage or you risk disturbing the talus and spoiling the end effect. Leave to fully cure.
By the time they have dried you should have a more natural looking base. This I tidy up with a few additional patches of light sand where there are gaps or it needs further blending before using a pipette to add drops of MIG Sand and Gravel fixative over the rubble. Similar to the Woodland Scenics cement this naturally soaks in and will form a resilient and hard final finish that will stand up to heavy handling and painting.
Step 3: Adding colour.
For the Ultramarines I do the bases in two stages. First I give the entire base a block colour of Mechanicum Standard Grey over which I apply a light dry-brush of Celestra Grey to help highlight the detail. This is purely to give the ground a neutral base over which you can apply the pigments. I could just as easily chose a mid or earthy brown, but as a lot of the resin bases featured stone slabs grey worked best as the undercolour. The whole base was then given a gloss varnish, usually at same time I do the rest of the miniature to protect the work done before I hit it with the oil paints and white spirit.
The second stage is adding the final colours over the grey using the raw pigment. I use three colours to give an interesting mix of tones and shades, an ash grey as the main base and then aged rust to add contrast to the earth areas and finally a bone dust to provide interest and an arid look. All three are dusted onto the base raw and are not mixed, simply placed where you think most effective. To help blend without mixing into one colour I add drops of white spirit from a pipette over the pigment being careful not to disturb them and let capilliary action pull the pigments into the detail. The drying process can be sped up with a hair-dryer and it’s easy to see when all the white spirit had evaporated as the base will have a matt finish. Using a soft dry brush the pigments can be pushed around further into and around detail until you get the look you want. At this stage they are still not fixed so I I use a pipette again to gently apply MIG Pigment Fixer just as I did with the white spirit. After another blast with the trusty hair-dryer a final coat of matt varnish seals it all in for good.
The dusty scale-model style pigments give over the classic texture base and drybrush is one I think particularly suits 30K armies as it instantly gives the infantry and tanks a more serious and battle-weary look to them. Speaking of tanks I’m going to cover those in a separate post as I haven’t completely settled on a final palette having recently picked up some of Vallejo’s texture paint which I’m experimenting with as an under-layer for airbrush and pigments. As I don’t need to do this until the very final stages when the majority of the force is complete I’ll come back to it at a later date.
Hopefully you found this useful, or at least vaguely interesting so I’m going to wrap this technique tip up here and get back to working on the thirteenth Legion. Until next time, have a great weekend.
Update: Since penning this last night I’ve shot some video walking through the tutorial stage by stage which is much clearer. Once I’ve finished tidying it up and editing I’ll upload to the YouTube channel and post a note here.