Friday, September 9, 2011

Painting for Tournaments, Part 2: Basic Basing Principles

[This article is part of the Painting for Tournaments article series.]

We are back for a second installment of my Painting for Tournaments articles series.  In my last article, I talked about How Not to Paint.  This basically encompassed some egregious errors that I have seen made in tournament settings. Today, I thought I would talk a bit about basing an army and how doing it well can greatly improve your painting score at tournaments.

Before we get into basing though, I have to make something apparent. Painting for better scores in tournaments does not mean golden daemon painting level for each model.  It actually doesn't mean that level of painting for any of your models.  I have found that the best way to get solid paint scores in a tournament is to paint for the tabletop, paint for coherency, and paint to make your army "pop".*  If you can accomplish these three things, generally you will do well.  If you want to go above and beyond that, then feel free to do so,.  Generally those people capable of going above and beyond and who do so are the ones who win "best army" and such.

*I have bolded and underlined this statement because it will be the premise around which I do my articles and any tutorials they possess. 

On to the bases.  As mentioned there are some terrible sins committed when basing an army, but there are easy ways to fix them or to insure that you never make them.


I am going to start with coherency because basing is probably the easiest way to provide coherency for your army.  It's simple really. 

Base all of  your models in the same way. 

Earth shattering, I know.  That is how you build in coherency for your army.  Think of a Chaos Marine army.  You can represent multiple factions in a single army and those factions will probably have different colors (Nurgle green, Khorne red, etc.).  However, if you base every model in the same way, the army will look cohesive. 

There are a few ways to make this happen.  The easiest, but most expensive route is to buy resin bases.  There are quite a few resin base manufacturers out there.  I really like Dragon Forge.  Dragon Forge bases are strong, well detailed, and require little to no prep work to start painting, though I would recommend a good washing to insure paint sticks and you will probably want to pin your models on.  Resin bases yield a solid theme via their design and when painted consistently will yield nice results across the board.  Below is a picture of some High Elf models I did awhile back that have resin bases.  It really makes them look solid. 

Our next option is to base the models ourselves.  This is the far cheaper option but can be fairly labor intensive.  I have a few simple rules for basing your army.  The first follows the old adage, "Keep it simple, stupid." Easy enough.  Keep your theme simple. It makes it easier to get an army based well. That leads to the next rule, keep it consistent.  Don't try a lot of different basing details as they generally tend to make your army look a bit "everywhere" and they also make it harder to keep consistency across the army. My Templar Wolves are a good example of a simple, homemade, consistent bases.

Tabletop and Pop

These two elements can generally accomplished together. Painting for the tabletop simply means painting models in a way that makes them look good on the tabletop at arms length.  This is surprisingly easy to do with just a bit of effort.  Making models pop requires a bit of color theory and a willingness to pick out details.  That said, let's apply that to basing.

First, basing doesn't require a ton of painting expertise, but will possibly require several layers and shades of paint.  I generally do 2-3 colors depending on how many elements there are on a base.  For instance, my Sanguinary Guard below. 

There are actually two elements to these bases, each requiring two shades of coloring each, the rock and the ground.  For the rock, I basecoated in adeptus battlegrey and then drybrushed a highlight of astronomican grey.  It took no time at all.  For the ground I base coated in scorched brown and highlighted with Reaper weathered stone.  I then add a different shade similar to the ground color on the edging.  In this case, I chose calthan brown (love this color, it does so much well).  The bases take no time and even if I do quite a few together it only takes a short period of time.  They are simple, easy to reproduce, and are certainly of tabletop quality.

This leads to the final element, "pop".  We can see those models in our mind that really pop and just look good.  We want to accomplish this from the base up.  The easiest way to do so is to use color theory to help you out.  There are a few key things we want to accomplish with bases so that models pop.  1) We want to make sure our colors complement or at least don't clash, and 2) we want to balance warm (red is a good example) and cool (blue is a good example) colors.  If we do these things correctly, we will have a model that looks good on it's base and pops, but at the same time doesn't get lost or washed out by the base. 

To help, I am going to base a Chaos Sorceror model I am currently working on. 

As you can see, I am starting simple.  This is simply sand glued on to the base using wood glue.  I think it holds a bit better than PVA.
Now I have added a quick basecoat of scorched brown and also the striping around the edge with calthan brown.  Notice that I didn't completely cover the base with scorched brown.  There are plenty of little patches of color variation either where the paint was a bit more watered down or I didn't cover the sand all the way.  This is totally cool.  When was the last time you saw ground that was completely the same color? Notice though that the horse is brown.  He is a bit lost in the base.  We don't want this.  We want the model to "pop off" of the base.  That means we need to add some additional colors to make it stands out.

The next step is to drybrush a lighter color over the basecoat.  I did so with Reaper weathered stone to give a kind of ashy look.  Notice how the horse already stands out a bit more.  Unfortunately, the grey against the colors in the model washes it out. 
Enter our last step.  The addition of grass flock adds some bright color that is slightly warmer than the model with it's purple and grey.  Now we have a based model.  The base is simple, easily reproducible, and makes the model stand out and not get lost.  When done across the entire army, we will have an army that looks like it is together on the same field of battle and will stand out well on the tabletop. 

So, that wraps it up for this article.  How many of you are simply blown away by this?  Hopefully, not many.  This isn't earth shattering stuff.  It's simple, easy to do, and will help you make your army look better.  In my next article, I am going to take a look at painting an actual model for a tournament setting.  It should be fun. 

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GMort. said...

Nice Article. I must admit that I'm very lazy when it comes to bases. Sand and a couple of layers of dry-brush is all I usually can be bothered to do unfortunately.

Masked Thespian said...

Regarding basing coherency: how far is it okay to go with regard to variation?

For example, I'm working on an army that specialises in boarding actions, so the entire army is going to be based as if aboard a ship (which may look a bit naff when they're on grassland, but it's a themed army so I'm not too fussed about that).

My plan is to have each squad based as if aboard a starship, but for each squad to have a different type of basing. So one squad might have single diamondplate, another might have double diamondplate, another might have circular holes in the floor, others might have diamond-shaped holes.

Overall, they should look like they're on a ship, though each squad is, itself, themed to have a single type of flooring.

Do you think that's reasonable, or should I stick with a single type of flooring for the entire army?

Dave said...

Masked, Thespian. That is a totally valid questions and a totally awesome way to base your army. You gave me a great idea for a quick post, so stay tuned for a response.

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