A look at the more common basing materials

This is a Guest Post by misterjustin

After my first post, which covered 8 ways to base with snow, I decided to go back and look at some of the basic materials that make up the majority of bases you see out there.

There is such a wide variety to choose from that I can really only touch on some of them in this post. If you'd like to know more about specific techniques for working with any of these materials, please let me know in the comments and I'll put it together.

But before we get into the materials, let's talk real quick about glues.
There are two glues that you'll use for most of your basing: PVA, also known as "white glue" or "Elmer's Glue" and cyanoacrylate, also known as "Super Glue."
PVA is a slow drying, water soluble glue that is great in almost any application but takes a while to dry.
Cyanoacrylate is quick drying, but doesn't give you long to work with your materials. Chances are good that if you're reading this, you don't need to know much more about glue. If you do have glue questions, leave them in the comments and I'll see about putting something together on them.

Now the materials.
There are a lot of materials that you can use for basing that require no painting. The sample base at the top of this post uses just five materials and PVA. No paint was harmed in the making of the base. So let's look at some of the materials, and I'll give a brief explanation of each one.


Talus is a coarse, porous rock that makes decent... rock. No real surprise there. It comes in various grades and colors and is very inexpensive. With just a spot of glue, you can have a variety of scale rocks with or without painting.


Ballast is typically smaller than Talus, but comes in a larger variety of colors. Ballast is one of my favorite materials and I used two grades of it, (fine and coarse) on the sample base seen at the beginning of this post. This is another great material for creating rock, rubble or gravel without having to paint it if you don't want to.

Static Grass

Static grass is probably the most common, and sometimes overused, basing material out there. Every scenics manufacturer has some variation of this stuff and you can find it in a huge variety of colours at almost every hobby store on the planet. This stuff works best with PVA, or another slow drying adhesive. All you have to do is sprinkle it in place and then blow on it gently to create your basic grass.

Field Grass

Field Grass is much different than its Static Grass cousin. Field Grass can be used to create clumping grasses and small grassy shrubs. Simply bunch it together, level out one end and apply a bit of glue or modelling putty to attach it to your base. Once the adhesive is dry cut the grass to the desired length (you can keep and reuse what you cut off) and then press down gently in the center with your finger to spread it out.

Alternately you can apply the glue to the clump of field grass and set it on its side with the adhesive not touching anything and let it dry. This secures the bunch together. Once the glue is dry you can apply it to the base as above.

I prefer to use "Water Effects" to hold my Field Grass together as it's thicker than PVA and less prone to running. I used a small clump on the sample base to mimic some tall grass, but a larger clump can be used to create a more shrub like appearance.


Lichen is another common basing material. Personally, I'm not a fan of the stuff as it's prone to getting damaged on gaming bases. However, it comes in a variety of shades and textures and can be used to create really wonderful flowering plants. Glue it in place and then add a drop of paint to the ends of the lichen and VOILA! Instant flowers.

Clumping Foliage

Clumping Foliage is very useful for creating shrubs and bushes. It usually comes in a smaller range of colors (normally greens), but with a bit of digging online, you can find some browns and reds for your fall forests. This is another product that can just be glued in place without the need for paint.

Coarse Turf

Coarse Turf, which is the yellow material on the sample base, also comes in a variety of colors and allows you to create textured, thicker grass. I'm a big fan of Coarse Turf in yellows and browns for creating arid climates.

Fine Turf

Fine Turf is very similar to Static Grass but is a much finer, slightly denser material. Applied over a thin layer of glue it will create a very thin layer of grass. Applied in layers, or over putty, it can be used to create short clumping grasses and looks great on hills.


Slate comes in a variety of grades and can be used with or without having to paint it. Fine slate makes a decent rubble, and coarse slate (as in the photo) makes a very realistic rock... mostly on account of it being a real rock. Slate can also be drilled through with your pin vice to help hold models in place.

And a few more...

Whether you're using craft, hobby or planting sand, it all has similar properties. It's usually a mix of medium, fine and very fine material that comes in tans and browns. It can be applied with or without paint and makes decent rubble and gravel.

Cork can be purchased in sheets or broken up bits and is usually used to create rocks. Although not as realistic as Slate or Talus, it has the benefit of being light weight, paintable and easy to carve into the desired shape.

Textured Pastes
Texture Pastes are common among artists, but don't make their way into the hobby world very often. You can find sand, crackle (or antique - which makes a nice desert terrain), lava and a whole host of other textures at most art shops. Check out the painting section and you'll see small tubs of Texture Pastes. These can be applied for the desired effect and then painted.

You can find basing materials and kits online or at your local hobby store from these retailers:

Games Workshop
Secret Weapon
Skull Crafts
Woodland Scenics

And there you have it, basic basing materials "in a nutshell." I'm happy to go into more detail on any of these, if you guys have any questions. This is just a small sample of the stuff out there we can use to base our models and sometimes you don't even need to paint your base after using this stuff.

Ron, From the WarpIf you've got any questions about something in this post, shoot me a comment and I'll be glad to answer. Make sure to share your hobby tips and thoughts in the comments below!


  1. Nice overview of the typical basing materials.

    One other site that I've used to order from in the past is: http://www.sceneryexpress.com/default.asp They tend to have every color flocking material that I've ever needed. Anyway, I thought your readers might like that link too.

  2. Also you can get slate by the train stations... So if you see Castle Cary train station with no slate blame me.

  3. @thereandblogagain: Thanks for the resource, that looks like a great site. Of course the last thing I need is more basing materials :)

    @Derina: I hadn't thought about train stations. Before I was buying broken slate by the kilo I used to buy $0.75 slate tile from the hardware store and break it with a hammer.

  4. Had to ask a glue question to create more work for you I guess. Is all white glue some form of PVA glue? I know elmers and school glue are, but do you or does anyone know if the craft and tacky glues usually sold in craft stores just thicker versions of pva glue?

  5. @Scherdy: The short answer to your question is yes. Most hobby and craft glue is PVA and you can find it in different consistencies. "Elmer's" craft glue is much different than their wood glue. Both are PVA. I actually have four types of PVA within reach of my workbench.

  6. Keep working, great job! I honestly appreciate your time that you have put to write this post.


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