This post came about in two ways really, first because of the new Dark Eldar models and second, by way of a Tactical Squad I am working on for a friend of mine.
How do Dark Eldar figure into basing you ask?
Easy, with the new models and level of detail, I think it's time I look at my basing techniques and adjust them accordingly. The new models (and I'm sure all the new models to follow as well) will have more and finer details. If I just keep applying sand and painting it, it won't be long before my bases start to detract from my models.
And the Tactical Squad?
They are the first unit I am using my new method on. It's a perfect fit since my Client gave me one resin base and asked if I could match the squad to it. Now there's always the resin route and I'll be the first to admit there are some absolutely stunning resin bases out there.
But... in the event you don't want to drop the cash on enough resin bases to cover your entire army, you're left with making your own.
I started out like most people do I'm sure. With the GW Sand. It works, don't get me wrong, but I'm looking for more now.
I quickly moved on to scavenging my own supplies from around my neighborhood. After it would rain, I would wait until the next day when everything was dry and then go collect what had washed down from the parking lots around my house. It had a variety of sizes which is important. This was a step up for me. The only downside is no control over the material and the sizes I picked up. Sometimes the pieces were just too big to even look right in the 40k world.
The variety of sizes is important if you're looking for that natural appearance to your basing. Will it be the end of the world if you don't have it? No, but like I said before, I'm shooting for that extra touch now.
So what's a hobbyist to do then?
We want variety, we want natural appearance and we'd like it to NOT cost and arm and leg. Well it's possible, but comes with a bit of work.
Many, many moons ago, I picked up this bag of Fine Ballast from a local hobby store. It's actually for model railroading. Woodland Scenics makes it and I'm sure you can pick up a bag like this for under five bucks and it should last an eternity. I dug it out of my closest and came up with a plan.
I figured I would use a combination of bits, my newly rediscovered fine ballast and some GW sand to get the look I want on my bases.
And here's what I did:
First, I put down any bits I want like skulls, wire, bits of sprue, etc. Those are the big elements.
Second comes the smaller things like shell casings, smaller pieces of junk, etc.
Third is applying the fine ballast. Using white (PVA) glue, I paint the white glue in place and then dip the base into the ballast.
Fourth and final is the addition of the GW sand. Is is considerably larger (in scale) than the fine ballast and so it adds some variety to the base. And, even more importantly, I can control it's application. Just a little bit of white glue again where I want the GW sand to go (right on top of the fine ballast) and I'm all set. I just sprinkle the GW sand on top and shake away any excess.
Perfect. But like all things I work on, there's always a hitch.
In this case, I now need to pin my model to the base since I created a fairly uneven surface texture and there's no way I'm going to get my model to stand (and stay) on this without some help.
For me, it's a fair trade off, at the cost of a little bit more time and having to pin my models to their bases, I can create the world I want, control the scale and application of all the elements on my bases and end up with a much better looking base overall.
And then I figured I would paint my "test" base up to see how it would turn out. Not too bad and just right for fine tuning my new Deathwing bases.
Make sure to check out these posts as they might help:
Making your models stand on TOP of the basing material