Thursday, March 29, 2012

Modeling & Painting: Graveyard Bases

As I move along with my "bat blitz," I thought it the perfect opportunity to talk about the basing scheme I use for my Vampire Counts, and show you my process.

Before I get to that, I'll point out that earlier this week I added a new gallery page featuring some of my commission work. If that is something you're interested in, drop me an email. The gallery contains some nice miniatures that don't necessarily fit into any of the other "army" categories. Check it out!

Graveyard Bases

Basing is one of the (regrettably) often overlooked aspects of a model, but even simple basing can make a model with a mediocre paint job look top notch:

Using a cohesive basing scheme can give an army a more unified appearance, tell a story, or make a character model stand out from the rank-and-file troopers.

For my undead legions, I use a graveyard theme– Tombstones, skulls, and rising skeletons. I try to incorporate something of this on every model's base, whether it's just a skull or small tombstone. In larger infantry and cavalry blocks, it's not necessary for every single model, but I balance these details throughout the unit.

On models like Dire Wolves or Fell Bats, where I can't really incorporate the black and red uniform colors or the flaming skull motif, the basing becomes an important element to tie them to the rest of the army. My plan to keep the bat swarms aloft, is to pin the bats together and mount the "swarm" atop larger tombstones. The base itself would feature skeletons clawing their way out of graves below the bats making each swarm base a miniature diorama.

Modeling the Bases

To model the bases I used a selection of tombstones from the Garden of Morr, skeleton and zombie plastic sprues, the classic metal GW gravestones, and some of the resin tombstones I mentioned last week. The GW ones were ready to go as-is but the resin stones needed a bit of distressing and detailing. Skeleton shield icons, and small skulls cut from Tomb Kings weapons were added, as was the banner top from the plastic Grave Guard kit. (Note: the black base on the lower left was taken from an Ogre in my old Mordheim warband. Never throw anything away!)

Once the tombstones were in place, and each base's layout planned, I began adding skeletons. Projects like this are a good use for all of the odd parts and weapon arms collecting in your parts bin. When gluing the skeletons in place, I added some sand on the skeletons themselves to represent the earth clinging to them as they rise from their graves.

Painting the Bases

Starting with the ground and skeletons, I give it a slightly thinned basecoat of Battlefield Brown (A). Once this is completely dry, I follow it with a drybrush of Gun Corps Brown (B) and then Snakebite Leather (C). The final drybrushing stage is done with Bleached Bone (D).

On the skeletons only, I brush some Bleached Bone (E) and then give the entire base a wash of Brown Ink, blotting it off of the skeletons with my finger (I don't want them to get too dark; this is mainly to shade their recesses (F). When the wash is completely dry I apply some overbrushed highlights on the skeletons, first with Bleached Bone, then with a mix of Bleached Bone and Menoth White Highlight. These skeletons have been rotting in the filthy earth, so I try to keep them from looking too clean and bright. If need be, I'll go back in with a fine brush and outline the teeth, fingers, and any other recesses that may have filled in with the highlight color (G).

From here, it's on to the tombstones. I begin with a mix of Black and a little Grey to give the stone a solid undercoat (H). From there, I drybrush up with a mix of black, grey, and white, but don't quite take the highlights up to pure white (I). It's worth pointing out that you should avoid the "blue" greys like Shadow Grey, Greatcoat Grey, and use something like Fortress Grey or Codex Grey, otherwise the stones will end up looking too blue when finished. The final stage for the stones is to create weathering by washing Brown ink around their bottoms (J).

To finish things off, I paint the edge of each base with Model Masters Medium Green and then pick out any metal bits on the weapons. Once the paint is dry, they get some patches of static grass (making sure to add some on the dirt patches atop the rising skeletons) and they are done!

Looking at these as they are, the bases would make prefect objective markers or grave counters.

Now I've got about a hundred tiny metal bats to clean and paint...

'Til next time!


  1. These look great. I have a few of these myself, from single base gravestones to 40x40 fillers, mostly to allow me a generic filler to add to units being bolstered during battle, without having to make extra zombies, skeletons etc. They're also great fun to make!

  2. Awesome job on these, Rob. Can't wait to see them with bat swarms attached. Will be looking out for that post.

  3. Found this on vampirecounts. Can't wait to get started! Thanks for sharing.


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