Terrain: Basing Terrain

Ammo Dump - Weathered

I’ve written a couple of posts about terrain, most of which use the same technique for basing, so I thought I’d stick it all in one post.

I might mix things up a little depending on exactly what I’m doing, but these basic steps cover the main points.

For large areas, especially terrain, I use cheap craft paints rather than expensive GW/Vallejo paints. The ones I use are Royal & Langnickel, which I get from Rymans. They’re £1.09 for 59ml, which is less than 2p per ml. Compared to GW’s 20p per ml, it makes it a good choice for covering large areas. The quality is fine too – although not good enough to use for the detail on an expensive mini, it does the job just fine on large areas.

The specific paints I use are –

  • Black – it’s black, nothing more to say!
  • Burnt Sienna – this is a dark reddish brown, maybe similar to a Terracotta/XV-88
  • Grey – this is pretty much Codex Grey/Dawnstone/Cold Grey
  • Almond – this is a creamy colour similar to Ushabti Bone/Bleached Bone

I usually make the base from 3mm hardboard (£3 from B&Q). This is solid enough to give the piece rigidity, but isn’t too heavy and is pretty easy to work with. After cutting to shape with a hacksaw, I sand the edges down to make them smooth and slightly angled in to stop it being such a blunt vertical edge. Mark something out on paper first before marking up and cutting the hardboard. Depending on what you’re doing, you might be able to place the core components of the terrain piece onto the paper template to get a feel for the size. You can use some miniatures as well to make sure there’s space for them.

Once the base board is ready, and you’ve fitted the various terrain pieces to it, you’ll need to give it some texture. I use sand – it’s cheap and readily available, fairly easy to glue down and takes the cheap paint quite well. Simply coat the base in PVA, scatter the sand over it and leave it to dry.

Ammo Dump - Base Coated

I normally undercoat the entire piece in black, but depending on what the terrain piece is, you might not want to do this. If not, you can brush paint the base in black instead.

Ammo Dump

Next I give it a fairly heavy drybrush with burnt sienna (often 2 coats, depending on how it looks).


I follow that up with a drybrush of grey and finally a light drybrush of almond to pick out the highlights.

That’s it, we’re done!

Obviously this is a starting point and you can take this as far you want. Add rubble, ammo clips, discarded weapons, grass, rocks etc, etc. If you want to vary the colour of the base, use various washes, especially at the base of walls, around rocks etc. See my praises for sepia wash – but other dark washes would work too, depending on the look you’re going for.

I choose the burnt sienna/grey combination for two reasons – I’d already started basing my minis with black/grey stands to give them a gravelly type look. So I wanted some consistency with them, but my first few terrain pieces were already primarily grey, so I added the burnt sienna to give a bit more colour variety, whilst still giving a little consistency. You could change these basic steps to work for other colours to suit your own style and needs.

Terrain Base

If you’re not sure, why not experiment. Before I committed to a whole terrain piece I took a small (approx. 1 inch square) piece of form board and tried the colours on there.