Saturday, 2 February 2013

Making A Winter Themed Display Base

Good Afternoon All!

The vast majority of the miniatures that I paint are used mainly as cool ornamentation that get scattered around my house. That said if I ever paint an entire unit I tend to build a display base for said unit to tie all the models together, creating a single ornament out of multiple miniatures. This fits quite well into my OCD that requires everything to be neat, ordered and tidy in certain aspects of my life, miniature painting and display being one of them! For my current project (Chaos Chosen form the Dark Vengeance box set) I decided that I wanted to base them in a rocky, snow covered landscape. I also wanted to have a go at making a tutorial just to see how it would turn out and to remind myself how I did things in the months to come. Maybe it can even help someone else to boot, who knows!

Anyway, here goes nothing...

Making A Winter Themed Display Base

Step 1: Gather Your Materials!

When making this type  base I use the materials that I regularly use to build my scenic bases for single miniatures;

I use small cuts of pine wood and whittle them into shapes that resemble rocky outcrops. For this base I wanted it to be multi tiered hence the three different sizes of wood that I have. 

The saw and the craft knife allow me to make large changes to the over all structure of the wood or small details such as the shaping of the rock face. 

I have a fine grained piece of sand paper that will allow me to smooth out any of the edges of the base and to create gradual inclines in the wood.

And lastly I have a pencil and a ruler to rule out where I want the main cuts of the wood to be. This stops me just sawing willy nilly and ruining lots of wood due to being over zealous with the changes I make!

Step 2: Whittle!

Using the craft knife you can see that for each of the pieces of wood I have whittled a rock effect into its sides. This provides me with the multi tiered look I was going for and also makes the wood look like a rocky outcrop rising out of the lower piece of wood. The best tip I can give for this is work with the grain of the wood. It's very easy to strip away pieces of wood when you work in this way. If you try to cut against the grain you'll find it much harder to cut and you won't get as good an effect as it will start to splinter!

You can see that I have also begun to mark out where the bases for each of the members of the squad are going to be on the main base. The reason for this will become apparent in the next step.

Step 3: Basing Material

Now you can see why I added the base markers! I have covered all of the base in a basing material that I make from all of the off cuts from my cutting board mixed with sand and PVA glue (Thanks Adam for this ingenious idea!). This mixture ends up being really varied in texture and dries rock hard after about 24 hours. I have also used some slightly larger rocks from a GW basing kit (any rocks from a garden will do) and some of the off cuts from the wood in the previous step. I find it really useful to keep all of this kind of stuff as you never know when you'll need some pieces of wood for a base your making!

Leave this all to dry for at least 24 hours and then on to step 4.

Step 4: Undercoat

Undercoating the entire thing has a few benefits. Firstly any paint you use to paint the base will apply easier as with models but secondly it also adds a further layer of sealant to basing material. The last thing you want is to create an awesome looking base and then it all crumbles because it wasn't properly sealed. I under coated this one with Grey Gesso as it runs really easily into all of the nooks and crannies on a base and then I washed it with Badab Black wash to give it some depth.

Step 5: Dry Brushing and Glazing

In this step I have dry brushed the entire model using an old GW paint called Shadow Grey (not sure of the new paints name) and then highlighted with Rakarth Flesh (previously Dheneb Stone). This creates the stone effect that I will be using for the lowest areas of the base. Once all of the paint was dry I then added various washes to the lowest areas of the base to create a more interesting stone effect. I mostly used more Badab Black and Agrax Earthshade for this. I have also used a Chestnut Ink (not sure GW do this anymore) on the pieces of wood. As the wood was already dry brushed with the stone effect this wash just gave the wood a brown finish meaning I didn't have to highlight the wood again!

Step 6: Let it Snow! 

Stage 1

I deal with snow in two stages. The first stage being the more compacted snow that has been laying there for a while. For this I use GW's new basing paint Mourn Mountain Snow. I have liberally painted this in random areas across the base. I had a look at a few real world examples of this kind of landscape and found that the snow mostly sits in recesses, presumably where its less windy? This is exactly how I directed my stage 1 snow.

Stage 2

It's actually a little hard to see in this pic but I have now added the freshly lain snow on top of the compacted snow to add more depth to the effect. I added PVA glue to the already white ares of the base and then sprinkled some snow flock on top. I then sprayed the entire thing using an aerosol varnish. I did this without shaking off any of the lose flock off the base as this tends to settle quite naturally and provides more natural snow cover on the rocky parts of the base. The varnish seals this onto the base. I have also added a few patches of grass using the wasteland tuft from the same GW basing kit as the snow and the rocks.


And heres some shots of the finished base!

And some shots with (really) old Blood Angels for scale purposes. 
(I painted these up about 13 years ago I reckon. Not bad, but certainly not good....)

All in all I think the base turned out really well! I just hope that I can paint up the Chosen to a decent standard so they look good displayed upon it.....

So what do you guys think? Any feedback is always welcome especially about the tutorial as it's the first one that I have ever tried to do!



  1. I'm totally doing this for the movement trays! So cool.

  2. Cheers bro. Making bases is just too damn fun. If I had a decent sized house I would have a room of gaming tables! As it is I'm relegated to the corner of a room :/


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