Article updated: 2020.10.09
For this article I've gathered the several ways you can base your miniatures, and the several philosophies regarding basing.
For further information on miniature base types:
- Games Nexus: Base types for miniature basing: A list of miniature base types to base your miniatures
- Basing miniatures - Miniature hobby guide
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As most miniatures won't stand in themselves, some kind of basing is usually needed.
Basing for gaming: The main purpose of the base is that the figure would stand on the table. It doesn't really matter what kind of base you use.
Scenic basing: Miniature modellers prefer to use scenic basing, mostly grassy bases. This might come from Games Workshop guidelines.
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Put a bit of putty or self adhesive glue under the legs of the model and it will stand.
- You don't have to worry about the base.
- Most wargaming systems require you the use of some kind of base. So even if you don't glue your mini on one, you might need to prepare some for gaming purposes.
- Most miniatures are not perfectly balanced, so they can topple during games, even if the glue would hold.
- Most glue won't hold the miniatures perfectly.
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There are some base types you can use:
A blank base is a base that is not textured, usually a flat plastic base.
Blank base colour types: You have several choices.
- Transparent: You can see through the base to reveal the terrain that's under the miniature.
- Non-transparent: You can't see through these bases.
- Dark: A plain dark base.
- Coloured: A plain base that is painted in the chosen colour.
Markings: As your base is blank, you can use markings on the side or the top of the base. These can be engraved or painted on. Markings can include army signs, squad markings, or anything you fancy.
Blank transparent base
You use a transparent base to help your miniature stand.
- You can use it on any kind of terrain, and it will look okay.
- Most transparent bases glare, so it can detract from the effect of transparency. If you use matte varnish on them, it will reduce the transparency.
Blank dark base
A plain, dark (black or dark brown) base.
- It doesn't require effort, as most companies sell black bases.
- It's enough for gaming purposes.
- It will look out of place on every kind of terrain.
The flat base is painted with colours to look like a scenic base.
- It looks okay on the terrain it is designed for.
- It can be easier to do it, or more cost effective than scenic bases, but still look better than blank bases.
- It will look out of place on every kind of terrain.
Flat base - Resources
Sorastro's Painting: Sorastro's Zombicide: Black Plague Painting Guide - The Zombies: Tutorial video about painting flat bases with a medieval brick road or dungeon stones pattern.
You texture and paint the base for a terrain type you've chosen. A simple scenic base differs from a diorama base in the amount of scenery - on a scenic base there's usually a couple of small rocks, or some tufts of grass, just to give a semblence of terrain. Gaming companies sell plastic bases with scenic textures, that you only need to paint.
When you create a scenic base, you need to decide:
1) Miniature first: Glue the miniature on the base, and create the scenic base around it.
2) Scenic base first: Create scenic bases, and glue miniatures on them after they are finished.
Scenic base types: You have to decide what kind of terrain will you emulate.
- Bare ground basing: You paint it brown, and texture the base like it's barren ground. You might also add small rocks on the base. Unless it's a sandy desert or a tropical rainforest, it won't look that much out of place as a grassy ground base. It won't look that good in urban environment though.
- Specific terrain base: You paint it and put scenery on it to reflect the look of a specific terrain (grassy ground, arctic tundra, urban pavement, etc). It will look out of place in every other environment, and it can even look out of place in that specific environment, if the look of the base doesn't fit the look of table.
- Home ground: The terrain on the base looks like the home of the miniature. Elves have forest ground, sand people have sand, urban humans have city streets, sailors have wooden boards on the base, etc.
- Battle ground: The terrain on the base depicts the terrain where the imagined battle takes place. It could be any kind of terrain you imagine.
- Model specific ground: The terrain is chosen to make the miniature look the best, or to reflect the character of the model. It might be totally different for every model in the same squad, or for every squad in the same army, if that would look good individually.
- It will look good on the same type of terrain.
- Bare ground basing could look okay in almost every terrain, except in buildings.
- The more distinct the base terrain is, the more out of place will it look on every other kind of terrain. The choice of bare ground can be better.
- If you glue your miniature before creating the scenic base, you might damage the paintjob. If you create the scenic base first, then glue the mini on it, it might not look that nice.
Scenic basing miniatures with a slottabase: If you are using miniatures with slottabase, gluing the miniature first and spreading the scenery around it is the easy choice, otherwise you'll have some additional work covering the slot after you add your model. Another way is to clip the slottabase tab around the feet of the miniature, glue the pieces you've cut off into the slot, leaving a place for the tab that remains on the feet of the miniature. This will make it easier to insert the model into the scenic base if you decide to create the scenic base first.
For a mostly flat scenery (flat ice, grasses, pavement, sand), you can push the tab fully into the slot. For a more varied scenery (rocks, uneven ground), I recommend you to glue the model into the slot slightly higher, so you can arrange the scenic components in a way that the model looks like stepping on them, and not plowing through the scenery.
Scenic base side types: You have to decide what do you do with the sides of the base.
- Dark side: Paint it dark (black or dark brown). It will make the base stand out of the terrain so it will detract from the terrain effect. It's easier to see the base of the miniature. Most plastic bases come in black colour, so you can leave it unpainted to achieve this effect.
- Terrain colour: Paint it with a similar colour you use for the base. It will blend in more with the terrain. It will make it harder to see the base of the mini (this can be a problem in games).
- Textured side: Texture it with the same method you do the top of the base. It will look better on photographs. It will make it harder to see the base of the mini (this can be a problem in games). The sides will chip off slowly unless you protect it very well.
- Game-specific colour: Some games require you to use coloured bases. If you make terrain bases, the sides can still remain coloured.
If you are worried that the base will look out of place on any terrain, create a set of bases for every kind of terrain you can imagine, and make them removable (with pins, for example) so you can use the appropriate type.
Scenic diorama base
You choose a terrain type and create a little diorama on the base, as if the base were part of a scenic terrain, with additional parts, like large rocks, bushes, trees, barrels, parts of buildings, vehicle wrecks or casualty figures. You have the same choices for the top and side of your base as with any scenic base.
- It will look very good on the same type of terrain.
- It will look out of place (or even stupid) on every other kind of terrain.
- The fact that the diorama parts move around the battlefield can be strange for some people.
Scenic base - Resources
Anthony Karl Erdelji (for Brookhurst Hobbies): Basing Your Miniatures: Tutorial article about scenic basing. (2020.04.15: The article is offline.)
Atom Smasher (for Tabletop Minions): Basing Before Painting - Uncle Atom's Pro Tips: Tutorial video about basing models before painting them.
Dale Platt (from Realm of Warhammer 40k): Basing Your Miniatures (the basics): Tutorial article about scenic basing.
Chris Brantley (from Fanaticus): Guide to Flocking Bases: Tutorial article about scenic basing. (2020.04.15: The article is offline.)
ginga360: Miniature basing tutorial: Tutorial video about scenic basing.
Jonathan Faulkes (for The Kings of War Resource): It’s all about the (multi)base: Tutorial article about what to do to create nice scenic bases.
Litko: Miniature Basing and Tray Finishing Tutorial: Tutorial article about mounting miniatures on bases, then creating scenic bases. (2020.04.15: The article is offline.)
Luke (for Geek Gaming Scenics): YOU’RE Using Miniature Bases All Wrong: Tutorial video about gluing slottabase miniatures slightly above the base to fit the scenery pieces under the model.
Miniac: Episode 09: Basing: Tutorial video.
www.how-to-paint-miniatures.com: Basing Your Miniatures: Tutorial article about scenic basing.
Xenite (from Little Green Monsters – Xenite's Miniatures Page): Making scenic bases for miniatures: Tutorial article about using clay to add textured bases.
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There are two kinds of basing by the number of miniatures on them:
You put one miniature on every single base.
You put more than one miniature on a base.
Some games use masses of miniatures to represent the troops. As the miniatures move together, it's usually more efficient to use a single base to make their movements easier.
Multibasing vehicles is usually used for small scale (1:100-1:300) wargames.
Multibase - Resources
Luke (from Bad Deployment): Making Multibases: Tutorial article. (2020.04.04: The website is offline.)
Same article archived on Archive.org (2016.04.01)
Peter Dunn (from Fields of Blood): LOVE Multibasing - Lycan Horde: Article about multibasing, with showcase photos.
Richard Heath (Yith) (from Yith's Wargaming Blog): Kings of War Army Storage: Tutorial article about multibasing your minis, using magnets and magnetic tape.
Tim (from Tim's Miniature Wargaming Blog): Basing: Informative article about basing.
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Although most wargames have rules for basing miniatures, basing vehicles is usually up to the individual tastes.
Basing vehicles - Resources
Zirrian (from Plastic Fantastic): Basing tanks (in Hungarian): Article about the pros and cons of basing vehicles. (2020.04.15: The website is offline.)
Matt (Papa Bear)(from Breakthrough Assault): Basing Your Vehicles: Article about basing vehicles. (2020.04.15: The images are missing.)
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Additional options for every kind of base
Colour markers: You can use different colours to show game-related signs. You could use colours to differentiate between your squads, or in different types of units that wear the same uniform (it can be especially important if you are going for a realistic look, where the leaders of the squad look just like the others and don't wear a red hat).
- Coloured base sides: You can paint a colour on the side of the base or you can mark just a part of it. Useful to show:
- the front point of the figure
- the shooting arc of the figure / sides / back
- Coloured flags: You can glue little flags on your bases, or drill holes and insert flag poles when needed.
Text: You can write text on the sides of the base, or on the top of any kind of blank base.
- Names: You can write the name or number of the squad, or the name of the specific miniature.
- Game data: Adding game related data on the miniature itself can help speed up play as you and your opponent don't need to check it in the roster sheets or rulebooks.
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What is the most important for you?
Every wargaming ruleset has guidelines (or strict rules) what kind of bases you have to use. That means, if you are using your miniatures for gaming, you'll probably need a base. Also, as different rulesets could require different bases, you either need separate miniatures for different games, or you need removable bases, so you can use the same figure with different bases. Magnetising the figure and your bases can be useful for that.
If you'd like to take photos of individual miniatures, scenic bases will look better. If you'd like to take photos of large armies on gaming boards, use bases that will look good on that board. If you only use your miniatures for taking photos, you might not even need a base, you could just use temporary measures for your figures to stand (pin, glue putty, self-adhesive glue).
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What do you think of these miniature painting design concepts of basing? What is your take on this? What are your experiences? Do you have questions about these concepts? Tell us in the comments!