The Basics of Basing – Part 1

I am in the middle of basing about (25) space marines and thought I would discuss my methodology toward basing. Model basing, that last step before a model is complete, is often hastily completed the night before the big game or upcoming tournament. But bases can be so much more then just the bit of plastic to hold up your model, it has endless narrative scope. Coherent basing across a battle force can establish the setting, such as a the rust coloured desert they are battling over or could depict their frost covered home world/plane.

Example of Different Basing Schemes

At its most basic, basing can provide the backdrop for a model, complimenting the colours/textures, at their worst they can be an ugly distraction from the model.

Bases typically have up to (4) aspects:

  1. Textured material which covers the majority or all of the base i.e. grass, gravel, modeling paste…
  2. Additional items of interest i.e. skulls, large rocks, building debris, plants…
  3. Paint/highlights for textured material, if required
  4. Painted edge colour of base, usually a solid colour.

For most tournaments at minimum a base should have #1 and #4 with extra painting points usually award for additional detail.

Basic bases – Green flock and green edging


When I start a new army I usually have some idea of a basing style related to the faction lore, or a narrative theme I want to explore. Sometimes I find basing can feel limiting if you are trying to either add to an existing force or want to field a new force alongside another. This can direct you down a path where all of the bases look the same. I would recommend choosing a basing material/colour to compliment/contrast with your models. It is best not to place a red model on a red base or it can be lost and just appear as a red blob from a distance. If you need to use that red Martian landscape for your Admech Martian Forge World army, maybe try adding some bright highlights on the base or some white skulls or steel coloured wreckage to break up an all red base.

Martian Forge World Basing

Some tournaments seem to require the all basing be consistent. This is easy to judge and usually creates a consistent look, though it may not be thematically correct if your army is drawn from many factions/worlds such as Drukarri, chaos daemons or Freeblade Knights. These could each have their own distinct basing styles as they are probably painted a variety of different colours and would probably be best with different basing colours.

Base Edge Colour

One way I try and tie different factions together is to have a common colour for the base edging, such as black or brown, even if the actual basing material is differ between friendly factions. If you are going with black I would recommend actually painting the edge black instead of just leaving the shiny black plastic. I find there is always overpaint on my base edges such that I need to paint anyway.

Ice World Basing

Pre-textured bases

These are a great way to create a coherent force with interesting textures without too much work. I have used the Sector Imperialis bases for my Deathguard army. I find that painting these on the sprue works best then attaching the models afterwards. They come in a variety of sizes, 25mm, 32mm, and 40mm so for other base sizes, 50mm, 60mm, etc…. I needed to build my own to make them look similar. In the image below the 50mm base in the lower left was created using cut up pieces of textured styrene sheet and coarse modeling paste in order to create a similar appearance to the others. A skull was added for a bit more interest.

Basing Materiel

There are a wide variety of basing mediums available, from railroad ballast gravel, sand, and grassy flock to paint on options such as Games Workshop’s Martian Ironcrust, Astrogranite and Stirland Mud technical paints. I have tried many basing materials over the years. My early attempts involved gluing (clean) kitty litter to look like gravel, but eventually transitioned to actual scale railroad ballast gravel, after struggling with kitty litter which swelled up during painting. The gravel worked well though I found I needed to mix together a range of different sizes to create a more realistic look. In the Image (1) below bases #1 and #2 are both examples of a fine railroad ballast gravel. Base #3 uses grassy flock, typical of what is used for railroad terrain.

I found that while these basing materials were sufficient they were very flat looking and lacked any change in height or depth. I changed to predominately using a variety of modeling pastes, specifically Reeves – Image 2, but there are many equivalent products. The two main varieties ones are a smooth paste, which was used to make the blue icy bases, Image 1 – #5 and both bases in Image 3. The second variety is a Coarse Modeling paste used for Bases #4 and #6 in Image 1 The coarse paste has the same base as the regular paste but includes a homogeneous sized sand to give it a gritty appearance. Both of these modeling pastes are thick and need to be applied with a small spatula or equivalent tool and are rigid enough to form divets and peaks to create 3D effects. These allow you to create much more dramatic basing then the flat looking gravel and green flock.

The modelling pastes have a similar consistency to the GW texture technical paints such as Stirland mud or Astrogranite. The main difference is that the modeling pastes are white in colour and need to be painted after being applied. Alternatively you can mix in other coloured paints or other gravel material if you want to create other effects. I find the GW technical texture paints to be flat colours and I would need to apply additional paints/washes and highlights anyways so it isnt a huge time saver. The other main advantage of the modeling paste is the price, 200ml of paste costing about the same as a 24ml bottle of texture paint, Image 2.


Basing material can be as basic or complex as you like, but hopefully is an opportunity to add some additional narrative about your models. Where are they from, what trials have they endured and overcome. Below are my marine Suppressors. I wanted to try and set the scene of frozen planet home to megafauna in which there are the derelict remains of a former Imperial colonies, similar to the planet of Hishrea in the Argovon Sector – Pariah Nexus. The white modeling paste will be get painted a glacial blue like my other bases.

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