Basing 101 : Broken Ground

Realistic basing is easy and inexpensive and really adds to your model.
Often many of the basic basing techniques and material are improperly applied and can really ruin an otherwise great looking mini.

In this article I will show you the techniques and material that I use to make my most common bases.

I call this "Broken Ground", it can be used to represent many different types of terrain, such as dirt, stone, desert and more. By changing the paint colors and adding details, it is also a great foundation for more complex basing like snow, woodland and swamp. It is a great start for a base for your miniature and can be used to represent many battlefields.

Here's what you will need;

A model and base
PVA or white glue
small slate chips
paint and drybrush
black wash
static grass, short

1. Build your model and attach to base with super glue, make sure you do all the build up work to the model and prep it for paint including removing mold lines and seam filling.

2. Glue small size slate chips to base with superglue. I am using a single stone, but you may add more to make a rocky base, but don't go overboard. I use slate because I like the longer flatter stones, when glued down they give the look that they are in the ground and not sitting on top of it.

3. Using PVA or white glue, and a toothpick spread the glue around to cover the rest of the base.

4. Dunk the base into the sand mix. I like real sand from outside, I have found a great spot with some coarse sand that I like best. It has small particles and some slightly larger bits here and there. The particles should be very small like table salt to look realistic, avoid model railroad ballast as it is all the same size and too uniform.

5. Primer the model, this will lock down the sand.

At this time I paint the miniature.

6. Paint the base with 3 graduating coats.

I start with a sloppy drybrush of Graveyard Earth.

then a drybrush of Kommando Khaki

and finished with drybrush of Bleached Bone.

7. A wash of Badab Black to add some depth and blend the highlights.

8. Then I cleanup the edge of the base with black paint.

9. I use a small dab or two of PVA/White glue and some static grass. I like using pale green or dead looking tan grass, and I place it in small clumps or next to the base of a slate chip rock. You could also use snow flocking instead of the static grass using larger dabs of glue.

And that is pretty much it.

An inexpensive way to make your own slate stones is to buy a 1 foot by 1 foot slate flooring tile from your local do it yourself building depot, I got mine from Home Depot for about 3 bucks, and bust it up into small pieces with a hammer.

Thats a single tile in the box which is shoebox size and the chips will need more hammer work to get them small enough for basing.

In the UK you can buy bags of chipped slate for garden use, but I haven't found a source yet in the US.

As for static grass, I like to buy the giant model railroad shaker jugs, a huge 32oz for 10 bucks.

As a bonus for all of you that have read this far, and without advertising in the title, I will randomly select from the comments 3 readers to send a custom basing set with a supply of my special secret sand mix, some slate stones, static grass, and my secret formula basing wash.

All you have to do is comment on this post and write a review of the basing set after you use it. ( in email form or on your own blog)

Hope you enjoy!



  1. I use a similar basing method for dirt base under grassy bases too, only with finer sand, and I paint the rocks (I usually use one bigger, and a few smaller)gray. For the ground I go for a more brownish hue, and liberally apply static grass and turf, but always in patches.

  2. Good tutorial, I 'Ard Coat my gravel before the painting stage - find it locks the gravel and sand in place better than paint would. I'm a desert/scrub theme, Calthan Brown, drybrushed with Kommando Khaki and Bleached Bone. Rims, Calthan Brown - foundation paints are so forgiving - hide anything.

  3. Sounds simple enough. Any suggestions for basing models that are already painted? Does skipping the spray step really have an effect on the integrity of the sand?

  4. Nice write up! Like Chris, my minis are already painted before I get to the basing stage. It is tougher to keep their feet clean but sometimes the dusty drybrush helps them look like they are in the base, rather than on top. When I base paint the sand, I mix in a sizable amount of white glue. It locks the sand together. In fact, I had sand come off a base at one point, but it came off as a whole piece, like carpet. That was my bad for not getting it locked down to the base, but the sand was set.

  5. This is hilarious, I just today explained this very technique to a guy over on the Bolter & Chainsword. If I had known you'd do such a good writeup, I would have just pointed him here :)

    It really is a great technique.
    One thing to mention, if you have to drill into the slate for any reason, use a small drillbit that's meant for masonry, otherwise it'll ruin a regular bit.

  6. I follow almost an identical method to yours, John! The only difference is that I hand-base coat my models with Black gesso. Seems to work fairly well in keep the sandy bits in place.

    Good stuff. Thanks for the tut.

  7. great article John, I like the idea about using a piece of slate to create variation on the ground.

    In short another great job done.

  8. Brillint tute! Just the thing to jumpstart the swampy bases for my New Zealand - themed colony world I.G in the New Year.

  9. That looks nice and simple. Do you ever use things like Andrea's Earth Pigments or MIG's pigments instead of paint?

  10. Great tutorial!

    I'm trying to figure out (inexpensive) swampy-looking mud basses for my guys right now.

    I've avoided the big rocks, and instead I've been using small, broken-up bits of cork, covered in the ground-up walnut shells from (Galeforce 9), then I cover the whole mess in white glue to hold the particles in place & soften the edges. Seems to suit my Nurgle army, but I'm just stuck on colours to paint the bases now.

    Side-note: do you mix more than one colour of static grass together for a more "natural" look?

  11. great tip. especially sourcing slate from a tile. I've been scouring landscape companies for years trying to find a cheap supply. You've solved that problem for me, now I feel rather silly. Bring on the rocky bases!

  12. Excellent basing article ...

    I have used sand box sand from Home Depot with some nice results for the 15mm basing.

    I have also had some decent finds at the beach .... shells and such found on a nice walk(s) with the wife helps with together time as well as item finding for the hobby !

  13. A solid return to the basics of basing. Your tutroial is well explained. I tend to apply my basing after everything else is completely painted.


  14. So far I've only been using basic GW sand, and have never messed with static grass. Eventually, I'll have to give that a shot. I've tried using rocks before, but it's usually what I can find. The slate flooring tile is a very good idea.

  15. that's a very good idea, you see I'm doing a winter themed game board and I kinda want some snow bases so I put baking soda now don't get me wrong that works! it's just they all look the same!
    this "broken Ground method" will help a ton!

  16. I Personally use cast / smashed plaster sections instead of slate.

    This allows me to make a few different surface textures, such as a very smooth one I use as broken concrete and a brick texture for broken walls.

    Alright, slate might be quicker, but once you've made a batch of plaster it lasts for ages.

  17. :forehead slap: I never even thought about going and getting a slate tile from HD. Good idea!

  18. this nearly identical to the style of basing i do. Glue down a couple of rocks/bits withsuper then flock the rest with PVA seems to hold everything together nicely.

    Great little write up, cheers.