15 March 2015

Miniature basing tutorial - highland bases step by step

This tutorial was made to show you how I made bases for one of our armies for Song of Blade and Heroes.
You can find polish version here

Please notice that this is not a guide for professionals who make outstanding scenic bases. It’s rather for wargamers who are looking for some tips and inspirations to make good looking simple bases for their vast armies. I hope that at least some of you will find that article to be interesting and useful.

According to the story we designed for Knights of Drakenborg army their seat is located on the broad highlands so I tried to represent that theme on the army's bases. My first principle was to make something different from usual simple grey stones but still cohesive and fitting the theme of the army. On the second hand I knew that I need to make at least 60 bases and I cannot spend much time on every single one of them.
Let’s start with list of materials that i have used to prepare those highland bases:

  • 20 mm bases and masking tape (1)
  • dried broccoli (2)
  • fine-grained stones (3)
  • epoxy putty: green stuff or miliput (4)
  • bark (5)
  • sand
  • cyanoacrylate glue
  • PVA glue
  • acrylic paints (Games Workshop, Privateer, Vallejo)
  • isopropanol
  • pigments in 3 different colors
  • scissors, modeling knife, brushes

Basic sculpt and primer

1. I usually start with getting rid of a hole that manufacturers put into bases. I use masking tape and modelling knife. It's simple. Just look at above photo and you will get the idea.

2. Next stage is more complicated. Use aforementioned materials and try to make something on the bases. It should be more interesting than "glue some sand on the base" but also you need to remember that you should not overdo it. It's the miniature itself which is the main actor on the table and you have at least 20 miniatures and bases to make. Take a look at the photos. I present some obvious applications and techniques like imitating stone with bark or using epoxy putty to make simple tile patterns (use a stone to make some texture in that case). I really like to use dried broccoli as it really good imitates old, knock down trees. It takes about 2-3 weeks to prepare a broccoli but the effect is worth it. 

Remember to wait until everything you glued to the base is dried enough before priming.

3. I cover everything with black primer. Next I drybrushed light grey on every base to make some preshading. 

You can also use an airbrush to speed up the work. Using this tool I skip drybrush phase. I apply basic stone color on primed bases without preshading.

4. The next stage of the process is an application of a basic color to the stones. I use Heavy Warmgrey from Valejo Game Colour range. It has unusual pink grey color which fulfil my first principle not to paint everything with simple shades of grey.

5. I make shading using separate layers of different diluted washes: brown, red and purple (Seraphim Sephia, Ogryn Flesh, Leviathan Purple). In the crevices I apply mix of aforementioned washes and black paint.

6. First highlight is made using mix of Heavy Warmgrey and yellow. The second highland is a mix of Heavy Warmgrey and white.  

7. The final highlight is a pure white paint drybrushed very lightly on the stones.

8. You can achieve interesting effect by glazing cold tones (blue for example) to the stones/tiles.
You can see this effect in beneath photo.

9. Optionally you can also paint some cracks on the larger stones or tiles.

In my opinion stones are properly painted after finishing this stage. There is always a place for improvements but remember that we have at least 20 bases to paint. In that case I had about 50. :) I will use dry pigments in next stages so my precious paintjob would not be cost-effective in the end.

10. Now it’s time to paint those parts of the bases which imitate the earth. As a basic color I use the darkest brown I have in my ressources. In next phase I highlight it with Terra Earth and Balor Brown (you can see this colors in the photo beneath). You can overdo last highlight with some bone colour (Ushabti Bone from GW or Ivory from P3) if you have dry pigments and you plan to use it in next stage. This extreme highlight will be covered and toned down with pigments. 

Optionally you can add more different shades to the soil. I prefer to use thin layers of dark green, in that case - Castellan Green.

11. The last part to paint are knock down trees. As always you can use whatever color you like :) but I suggest to paint those using different shades of browns than you used to paint the soil. I have also tried to use black and greys and trees looked quite nice too. I know I could paint the trees better but pigments and quantity of bases will cover any imperfections beneath a high level illusion. :)

12. At that moment I usually attach painted miniatures to the bases. In case of plastic models I simply use cyanoacrylate glue. It’s not uncommon for me to pin every model to make the connection more durable. In case of metal model pining is a must.

There is often a problem with excess of the glue which make shiny spots on the finished base. Use matt varnish to get rid of it. You can also glue some static grass or tuft in that spots. 

13. In order to finish the base and give it more depth I use pigments mostly those made by Vallejo. In that particular case I use 3 different shades but generally only earth brown would be sufficient. Start with the lightest color and use the darkest one at the end of the process. Try not to cover everything with pigments and apply your strongest color only to deepest spots at the base.

I use two methods of applying pigments. In case of making bases for gaming I apply the pigments mixed with water and then after they dry I use small drops of isopropanol or white spirit to harden everything. After the isopropanol is fully evaporated I paint the sides of the bases in black and then using airbrush I cover everything with varnish. 

 Pigments have been placed...

and hardened.

Another technique is to apply the pigments directly from the jar. Once again I use several different colors but I don't use anything to harden the pigment. That technique makes the models look more natural but it is obvious that its rather for those miniatures that are place in the cabinet.

14. The last step of finishing the bases is to add some artificial vegetation. I prefer to use two or three different static grasses and/or tufts.  

In that project I also used some fragmented green sponge to imitate the moss. In certain spots I glued several birch seeds and dried oregano. I am certain that at least some of you would make it better but in my opinion the final effect is sufficient. 

As always it’s a good idea to take some inspirations from the nature. I also recommend to take a look at the works made by Honour Guard, one of my favourite artists. He makes some outstanding natural looking scenic bases. You can see his gallery on facebook here.

We are also there. ;) If you like this tutorial share it with your friends.

Till the next time.


  1. Splendid minis, and a very inspiring post - thanks for sharing! Greetings!

    1. Thank you RMacedo. I appreciate your comment.

  2. Creative and beautiful job!

  3. Thank you for the very detailed tutorial.


    1. I appreciate you like it Tony! Thanks for visiting our blog.

  4. Splendid!!
    Those bases look really unique... fantastic job!


    1. Thank you Tiago. It was my intention to make them a little diferent than usual.

  5. Watching in 2018... Still good job :)


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