Tutorial: Making Forest Bases

Basing models is a matter of personal preference. Whether you like lava worlds, ash wastes, space hulks, or woodlands, there are tons of great basing materials and tutorials out there. I prefer my models to look in synch on most boards, and so I developed a hodge-podge strategy to basing that ties in with multiple themes. My bases include mud, rocks, grass, fallen logs, rocks, snow, and random bits from other battles. As such, I like to think my army looks good on forested terrain, open grasslands, and snow terrain—though I’m really going for a late-autumn theme where the grass is dying, the leaves are falling, and small patches of snow dot the landscape.

Of course, the fact that I use Geo-hex almost exclusively for the terrain at my house had something to do with my decision.

Well, since I finished my Ironclad, and he needed a base, I thought I’d do up a bunch. Since I was already going through the motions, I figured I’d snap off a couple of pictures and maybe write up a tutorial as well. So, here goes: my first tutorial…

Step 1: Gathering Resources

Required Tools (medium)

Since I use so many resources in a single base, it naturally takes me a bit of time. I’d rather not spend all that time for just one base though, so when I get to making them, I like to make them in batches of 40-50. The materials I use are as follows:

  • Golden Gel medium: Extra Course Pumice Gel
  • Arm & Hammer Baking Soda
  • Woodland Scenics Static Grass Flock (Burnt Grass & Light Green)
  • Hudson & Allen Studio’s “Foliage” (this is really just crap fallen from birch trees, dyed green)
  • Elmer’s Glue
  • Static Grass Applicator
  • Delta Ceramics Paint (any paint will work, I just use cheap craft-paint for large projects)
  • Sticks & Twigs
  • Slate (an $8 piece of slate from Home Depot is more than enough slate for an entire army)
  • Acrylic Black & Brown Paint
  • Duro Superglue
  • Hobby Knife
  • Plastic Bases
  • Armory Black Primer

Step 2: Cleaning the Bases

This is really a simple step. I take each base off the sprue and clean up the edges with a hobby knife ‘til smooth.

Step 3: This Rocks

Well, technically, step three is to smash the slate into smaller slates and them affix them to the base. To make big rocks into little rocks, I use a marvel of technology known as a hammer.

making slate (medium)

Nothing fancy here, just a bit of brute strength and a nice open area to work in. Of course, when working with any sorts of flying debris, you’ll want to wear eye protection, but once you’re safe, just go to town on your slate tile until you have enough bitz to satisfy you. Then, you probably should wash them off (I don’t), and then just superglue the chunks of rock to the bases.

Now, one thing to mention is that when I attach the base to the model, I drill a hole through the base and poke a pin through to secure the model. Because of this, I have to be mindful of the slate (since it’s not a great material to drill a hole through. Keeping this in mind, I tend to put little pieces of slate to the outside of the base or (in the case of models with a wide stance), I can sometimes get by with putting a piece in the middle of the base.

Bases-Slate (medium)
Step 4: Getting Wood

Again, nothing fancy here, just small sticks found from outside. Ok, what you’re really looking at is a package of Woodland Scenic’s “Fallen Logs” or something to that effect. I ordered them when I was getting prepared to do my first batch of bases because they were very cheap. Unfortunately, when they came I was dismayed to found that I had ordered a pack of sticks. Despite the fact that I was duped, they did turn out rather well on the bases. Of course, you can save yourself a few bucks by gathering your own “fallen logs” and gluing them to bases with superglue as well.

Typically I don’t like to mix the log bases with the rocks because they get rather busy and, more importantly, reduce the footprint of where I can put models. On larger bases, I’d say it’s fine to mix them—but for smaller bases, you probably want to keep it simple.

Bases-Wood (medium)

Step 5: Give a Hoot; Pollute!

Now’s the part to add a little something to make the bases stand out, and it really can be anything. Most of the time, I use parts of skeletons, or small bitz from vehicles to simulate debris strewn across the battlefield. This time I opted to throw in a few zombie bitz as well.

To ensure my models aren’t cluttered, I like to leave about 25% of all of my bases with neither rock, nor wood, nor litter on them. Not every place can have something sticking out of it, right?

Bases-Bone (medium)

Step 6: Primer

Forgive the washed-out picture, but black on black doesn’t come out real well. Again, nothing fancy here, but Armory Black Primer. I don’t worry about getting a great coat, as these things will have so much paint and crap glued to them, that it’ll be hard to notice any defects in the finish product.

Bases-Primed (medium)

Step 7: Mudding it Up

Now comes the messy part. This is the step where you get to use the Pumice Gel. I s’pose now would be a good time to mention that the gel comes in a variety of grains (and colors, I believe), but I advise on the “extra course” and white. The coarseness determines the size of the rocks left behind once dried. Essentially pumice-gel is a vat of slow-drying Elmer’s glue filled with rocks. Once it dries the majority of the “glue” drains away and leaves the rocks behind.

Bases-Rocks (medium)

This isn’t much different than scattering ballast on the model and painting it accordingly, but I prefer this method because I combine three steps in one. Instead of painting a muddy base-coat, gluing the ballast, and then painting that ballast, I get to do it all in one fell swoop—with the added benefit of having some residual “glue” to look like mud on the bases.

At this point I mix in the acrylic paints of brown and a bit of black to achieve the appropriate mud colored texture (keep in mind that a small bit of black goes a LONG way at this point). Mix it up really well, and then use a spatula to scrape it onto the bases.

Bases-Rocks2 (medium)
Don’t feel compelled to cover the base with the mixture—as there are still a lot of steps left. I would say a good rule of thumb is that you’d want about half of the base to be covered in rocks.

I do believe you’re supposed to wait 24 hours for this to dry, but I really just give it about 1 hour. At that point it’s tacky, but you can work around it. I’m super impatient though, so for perfect bases, you’ll likely want to wait it out.

Bases-Rocks3 (medium)

Step 8: Painting Slate

At this stage, I start going over the bases and painting the gubbinz I added earlier—in the same order. Slate is great because it’s just a mixture of two colors. Again, I use the cheap model paint, and start with a dark slate-grey. This is the base cover-up, so any spots that I missed with the primer are coated with this—but on the whole, I apply this with a wetbrush technique. I’m not looking to cover up the black completely, but more like 95% coverage.

After that, I mix the slate grey with a lighter gray, and drybrush around the edges. Once that’s done, I go with a lighter drybrush of just the light-gray. Finally a very fine white drybrush is applied to the highest edges.

And then we have something like this:

Bases-Rockspaint (medium)

Step 9: Painting Wood

Painting the wood/logs is about the same as the slate above, except I use a dark brown and a light brown. The only real difference is that the meat of the log (typically on either end), I like to hit with a bleached bone drybrush to show contrast. Typically the insides of a tree are significantly lighter than it’s bark. That’s the effect I’m trying to achieve at this stage.

Bases-Woodpaint (medium)

Step 10: Painting Litter

This all depends on what you throw onto the base. I paint bone with coats of snakebite leather, bleached bone, brown wash, & skull white. Likewise, I pain flesh with various flesh tones, and like to mix in red and/or purple washes to bring it out. Purple works especially good for sickly tones (such as in the decaying corpses).

Bases-Bonepaint (medium)

Step 11: Adding Grass

If I haven’t already scared away the modeling purists by using superglue, this step will surely do it. Guess what I use to make the grass stick to the base? Yup, Duro superglue again. I just go over each base and liberally apply the glue to any flat areas that didn’t get hit with rocks in step #7 above. Once I have a few bases glued up, I use my static grass applicator to blow the grass onto the base.

Most people don’t have an applicator, but it’s not necessary. It’s just a plastic container that you can use to try to create static electricity. The theory is that the static will make the grass stand on end and look more lifelike. The same effect could be achieved with magnets, or by rubbing your socks on the carpet. I just got suckered into paying $3 for an applicator one day, and I use it because I have it. Does it work? I think so, but you can judge for yourselves…

Bases-Staticgrass (medium)

Step 12: Adding Leaves

Again with the superglue! Just small drops here and there, and then I mash the base into a lid filled with leaves. I blow off any extra and repeat as necessary on other bases. I find that the leaves look best where they stand out: on top of rocks and fallen logs always looks good to me. I also stick them in the grass, but I think most of the time the effect is lost when I do that.

Bases-Leaves (medium)

Step 13: Let it Snow!

Snow is a tutorial I stole from a CMON write-up that I can’t seem to find right now. Essentially, you just mix Elmer’s glue, Baking Soda, & water until you get a spreadable mix, then apply it to the bases.

making snow (medium)

I try not to spread it around too much, thinking it looks best if it goes on naturally. Then again, my snow bases are nowhere near as cool as others you see around the net. So, if I were you, I’d take their advice, and not mine. 🙂

By now we have bases that look something like this.

Bases-Snow (medium)

Step 14: Finishing Touches

Painting edges & sealing. I prefer to paint my bases black (though I don’t know why). If you made any messes earlier in the stages, you can touch them up, but since my bases are the same color as the primer, most of the time I don’t need to do any touch-ups. At this point, I simply use a Matt Finish and the bases are ready to be used.

Finished Product (medium)

It’s not the simplest technique—nor is it the most amazing end product, but I’m happy with the result vs. effort involved. Hopefully you are too!


8 comments on “Tutorial: Making Forest Bases

    • Sorry about that. I migrated the blog from another hosting company and domain name, so all of my old posts have broken links. The images are still there, but you just have to know how to get to them. I went ahead and fixed all of the images/links in this post though, so you should be able to go back and see them now.

    • Thanks for the compliment. It should be noted though that Bob’s not crazy, the pictures were indeed broken. See my response to him for more details, but the short story is, they’re fixed now (for this post at least). If you guys dig up another post with broken links and want it fixed, let me know.

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