Friday 14 January 2011

Red Planet basing

I've always had problems with painting realistic bases. Some have worked others I've been ultimately disappointed by and there's nothing worse than having a cool looking model spoiled by a shoddy base. When I was painting my Empire WFB army in uni I only put model railway gravel down. I remember distinctly congratulating myself for this decision because they looked neat and didn't require any extra painting, figures painted, gravel on, job done [I must photograph those figures...].

Of course doing a red planet means that I could have got red oxide model railway gravel to do the same. They also come in a variety of grades, small, medium and large. Having a mix is really useful as discussed when  I bought myself that bag of sharp sand. In the end cost won and having painted the, slightly thinned] £1 Vermillion acrylic art paint on the sand I fretted about how I was going to make it work. Lets bring my old 'friends' - my Son's Rippers to illustrate my concerns

As you can see the Vermillion matched perfectly our Red Planet terrain base map. The slightly thinned paint allowing the natural tones of the sand and lava stones to show through. I'd also fretted about the base edges as the pigment in the Vermillion was quite thin, successive coats, even on a white undercoat didn't work. I asked the manager in my local GW store if I could try some Mechrite Red on the edge and I was blown away. If I'd have left the Vermillion it would have been patchy in places and would have blended near invisibly with the board but the darker Mechrite makes them stand out so much and yet still works because it's tonally similar to the boards shadows, as you can see. At any rate most GW basses are green with a brown border so having the sides a different colour clearly works or they wouldn't have been doing it this way since I was a lad. The finish was certainly an improvement, so I bought a pot there and then [good sales technique on behalf of the manager there].

So all my bases were now Vermillion and Mechrite red but that little voice was telling me leaving it plain was not good. I needed to add shading and highlights regardless of how long this may take. The other voice was telling me to leave well enough alone before I messed them all up. I cut some strips of hardboard and added sand and tried four or five different versions to get to my happy place. Bearing in mind I was dealing with the same issues with hills and craters for the rest of the scenery, this was a major deal breaker. Eventually I ended up with a recipe I was happy with. More importantly I reasoned that although the Vermillion matched my print out I may not always be using that for our battlefield. If I have to paint one then surely that will match the base so it's better to match something I can control in the future instead of something I may discard.

My recipe ended up so simple I'm quite surprised it took me so long to get it right. After the Vermillion I used a Badab Black wash, I'd tried, Devlan Mud and also thinned Chaos Black, and thinned Chestnut Brown craft paint [cheaper than the washes] and decided Badab Black worked best and as I hadn't used it much in the rest of the army I had more than the Devlan Mud left so it was not the cheapest option but the second best. A quick dry brush with the Vermilion brought back some of the colour, then adding some bronzed flesh and a very light drybrush on some of the bigger stones and edges lifted the texture just that little bit.

Finally, the masterstroke was some Bonewhite stones. Picking out the odd one scattered here and there really made the base 'pop'. In some ways I now find the bases even more interesting to look at than the model! That may be completely wrong but I love looking at all the texture. It's not extremely difficult to do either, the graded sharp sand pretty much presents which little stone to make Bonewhite and all you need is a bit of patience and a steady hand and job done. Admittedly I then had to go back and touch up all the little mistakes my drybrushing made but overall, after many hours I was ecstatic with the results and satisfied I'd ignored the lazy little voice.

So lets bring back my old friend - Broodlord in a Body Warmer so you can see the difference, not to mention the highlighted talons versus plain black ones. I think it was the right decision in both instances. Hope you give Red Planet basing a go.


  1. Looks great mate! I thought i'd covered every base type going, from cityscape to desert!

    Turns out I hadnt!!

  2. Brilliant, models are definitely improved by good bases and this is a great example.

    Nice work.

  3. I have a Blood Angles project that I have to do red planet basing on. How odd is it that I find this while I'm building the models.

    Nice work.
    Ron, From the Warp

  4. Thanks guys I hope Red Planet basing get's bigger, I've noticed both the Southport and Manchester GW have recently painted up some Red Planet battle fields, maybe they're in fasion. I also saw a cool darker red base on theis Necron Tomb Stalker on ebay

  5. I know this post was a few years ago but have to put my two peneth in.

    First off I wish I had found this blog a year or so ago as I also went down the red planet route (or martian as I call it) for my Scythes of the Emperor SM's, I struggled alot to start with it was either too bright or pink anything but martian, the colour I had in my minds eye was from that old 90's film Total Recall, I think I finally got there in the end all be it a different route to you, I kept it quite simple... PVA/sand, basecoat, drybrush and then a wash of Reikland Fleshshade (has a redish tone to it) to dull things back down plus add shade, Im happy with how it looks.

    I do like the fact that the sides of your bases are red, I left mine black but after seeing yours i may have to change them ha, I'll see, also the way you have picked out the odd rock/stone and painted it different really makes your bases pop, I'll give that a go as well.

    Anyhow I've waffled enough so I'll leave it there, Im new to this blog but I'll be tuning in from now on, great stuff!.

    1. Funnily enough I have an update for this coming out soon but I'm glad you found it. GW used to have a page on their old website with tips on how to do any kind of planet basing, it's gone now, I miss the more hobby orientated articles, there was a cool one on Black Templar honour badge kitbashing, that was really cool.

      The red base edges was a good thing for me, it helped ground the model on my terrain mat, which can be downloaded in my downloads section. Having black edges just didn't work. There are some I've which do work with black edges, it makes them more 'display-worthy' if you catch my drift, but mine needed to be more realistic and 'game-worthy'.

      I'll be following your blog too, hope you find other stuff of interest, check the freebies and downloads, plent of red planet themed buildings and pre-printed templates too that may help if you need extra terrain. Check out the Ferron Fire Firs too, yellow trees just look awesome on a red planet.