Order of Operations - Bases

Saturday, July 27, 2013


I recently completed assembling my 1850 list that I'm planning to run at NOVA next month. Typically, I'll prime a model or unit immediately after the glue is dry, but recently the heat and humidity have made that impossible. During this time I've been able to take a long look at my assembly line process (since this is pretty much all I've been able to accomplish) and right off the bat I see where I could change things up to be more efficient and save myself a bunch of time later on in the painting process.


The hardest part is the first step and that's making some decisions early on how you want the army to look. You don't have to decide every last detail up front, especially if you're unsure which paint scheme you want (which I'm always wavering on) and these often require some prototyping and simply trying things out. What I'm mainly talking about here is bases. If you can decide where you want your army to be fighting (i.e. wilderness, jungle, war-torn city scape, alien planet, on a spaceship, etc.) this will go a long way in helping you finalize what your army will look like.

Sadly, I didn't learn how important basing was to the overall look of a model until I was on my 3rd army. It was always an afterthought to me as I was more interested in the actual model itself and I entered the hobby in a time where nearly all bases looked like this:

Remember that? We've come a long way since then and even GW has gotten into sculpting more intricate base designs over the years. The style of your bases help to set the stage (forge the narrative) and honestly they make or break the overall appearance of your army. I've seen some very nicely painted models get overshadowed by some horribly flocked bases -- you know it when you see it, you can't even focus on all the great details of the model because the shoddy base distracts and draws the attention away. On the flipside, mediocre painted models atop nice looking bases will still look great on the tabletop (and typically score higher in appearance judging). The base should draw you in and make you want to look closer at the details on the model; the colors of that backdrop should compliment the paint scheme of the army.

I'm not an expert in art or color theory but there are pleanty of hobbyists out there who are and offer some amazing tutorials on how they plan & execute some truly amazing bases:

The great James Wappel, whose work never ceases to amaze and inspire!
If you need ideas/inspiration, there's James Wappel, Jawaballs, Goatboy, and Dave Taylor to name a few, all of whom have their own unique styles and their work speaks for itself. Now if you're like me and barely have time to paint models, you may feel like you'll never have the extra time to design and paint such intricate bases for an entire army. That's where Dragon Forge and many other specialty base/hobby supply shops come in (there's a ton of vendors out there with more and more starting up all the time). If you decide on a theme or setting for your army early on, these resources will be extremely helpful in building in that cohesive look & feel and providing that finishing touch that takes your army's appearance to the next level.

Anyway, getting back to the point, it's a good idea to figure out your base style/theme before you assemble and prime the model -- unless of course you paint the entire model before attaching it to a base, which I understand is a great idea, I just haven't made the transition to that technique yet; I find it helpful during assembly to have the legs attached to the actual base for finding the best pose and balance of the model. Obviously a base like the one above requires more planning and more steps involved to achieve such a high level of quality (and the outcome is totally worth the extra effort). However, given that my models are already glued to their bases and I only have a month left to finish painting the army (and practice with it!) I need to set my expectations appropriately. I'm not aiming to have the most amazing intricate bases ever, but something quick and easy that will look nice and complement the models (and look like I put in more effort than the old-school flock and forget it method).

There's nothing wrong with painting the bases after you've painted the model (up until now, I've always done it this way) but you do have to be careful not to get paint, glue or whatever else intended for the base on the actual model itself. This slows the process down and can cause a lot of headaches if you inadvertently mess up your finished paint job (this is why the pros paint models and bases separately). While I've been uncertain about the paint scheme I want for my Dark Eldar, I've pretty much known from the get go how I wanted the bases to look and what materials I would use. It should have occurred to me sooner, but didn't until this past heat wave... why hadn't I been glueing sand/rocks/ruble to the bases before priming the model? I know I'm going to need the material primed black before applying gray or brown/tan, so why wouldn't I get this out of the way at the same time as spraying the model black?

There's always going to be exceptions to this rule; my Necrons for instance were based with a shiny/glossy black sand and I didn't want to lose that effect by painting over it. But in the case of my Dark Eldar, it makes perfect sense to glue the basing materials before I spray the primer. Luckily, most of the painting I've done so far has gone into the transport vehicles instead of the infantry, which I can still go back and add to the bases then prime again without spraying over any other paint. Not the case with these Scourge/Swooping Hawks, but better late than never.


Sheesh, that was a long post for something that was probably obvious to everyone but me! Alright, time to get back to work. T - 5 weeks and counting...