How to Base Your Warhammer 40k Models for Better Painting and Gaming


Space Marine Warhammer 40k

How to Base Your Warhammer 40k Models for Better Painting and Gaming

As a warhammer hobbyist with over 20 years of miniature painting and gaming experience, I’ve learned that properly basing your models is one of the most important yet overlooked aspects for enhancing your army. There’s an old warhammer saying that people first notice two things about your models – the face and the base. Beautiful bases not only make models pop but also tell stories and match army themes. However, many new hobbyists find basing intimidating.

In this guide we will cover:

  • Choosing the right basing materials and supplies
  • Using texture paints and drybrushing for quick texturing
  • Gluing models before or after basing
  • Creating rocky urban chaos bases vs natural Loyalist bases
  • Magnetizing bases for changeability
  • Avoiding common pitfalls like overloading



#1 Gather Basing Supplies – Glue, Texture, Flock

The first step is gathering the right basing materials and supplies. Here is what you’ll need:

PVA Glue – Forget superglue. For basing you need the flexibility of white craft glues like PVA. I recommend vallejo or Army Painter basing glue. The longer drying time makes it easier to spread across the base.

Texture Paint or Pumice – Citadel texture paints are ideal but Vallejo pumice works just as well at half the cost. Just scoop it on the base to instantly add cracked earth, rubble etc.

Flock and Tufts – Army Painter battlefield tufts, razorgrass and other minature foliage quickly bring bases to life.

Paints – Have an old drybrush and beater brush ready for texture paints. Also gather terrain-appropriate colors – browns, greys, reds etc.

Extras – Consider cork, sand, model railroad foliage, rocks or other elements to match your army’s theme.

That covers the basics – easy to find and affordable. Let’s move on to quick texturing techniques.


#2 Drybrush Texture Paints

For organic flocked bases, simply coat the base in PVA glue then dip in basing material like Army Painter Battlefield Brown. But I prefer textured urban looks.

Games Workshop texture paints spread on easily with a texture spreader. Allow to fully dry then simply drybrush to bring out details. I use a masculine drybrush and quick featherlike strokes. Be gentle! Then wash black or brown for shading if desired.

Here’s the beauty – in 5 minutes you’ve got great looking texture almost effortlessly! It’s like base in a can. Much faster than hand gluing sand or rocks (though I still suggest glueing larger rocks before texture).

This easy drybrush and texture paint technique works great when preparing models for a tournament or gaming event. Don’t be a noob with just black plastic!

#3 Glue Model Before or After Basing?

I’m often asked if models should be glued to bases before or after basing. My rule of thumb is:

Glue first for simplicity or precarious poses. Use sticky tack if worried model limits basing.

Base first for complex diorama style bases with lots of elements – easier without model in the way.

On our Youtube channel, we have a video showing this process in detail. Generally PVA glue allows some repositioning time if applied first. Be patient and don’t overload. If new to the hobby, I recommend gluing your model first.

Now let’s explore two examples creating rocky urban Chaos bases vs natural organic Loyalist bases.

Warhammer terrain

#4 Create matching Chaos rocky urban bases

For my Chaos space marine army, I want an ominous urban feel on the bases featuring red glows and sinister ruins. This helps support the evil nature of the minis thematically.

First I use a mix of citadel and army painter texture paints for a nonuniform rubble look. Then drybrush intense reds followed by bone. I leave some red on nearby rocks too for a glowing look. Then glue down larger rocks along with battlefield tufts for accents.

The red urban waste perfectly compliments the dark, chaotic models. Basing this way brings everything together!

#5 Soften with natural grassy Loyalist bases

For heroic Imperial armies, an organic natural look better fits the theme. Start with PVA glue and dipped flock following my earlier guidance. For Space Marines, Armageddon Dust texture creates satisfying craters to prime and drybrush.

Use whites, greys and gentle green washes to color. Then apply army painter wasteland tufts, tall grass tufts and battlefield shrubs for a lush scattered look. Some flavorful touches of Razorwire adds action.

The softer neutral earthy tones make righteous figures pop while matching the planet type they’re defending. Plant life contrasts Chaotic decay.

#6 Magnetize bases for changeability

As an advanced option, you can magnetize bases for changeability. Simply glue a magnet in the base and a corresponding magnet to your model’s feet. This allows you to swap between themed bases.

Some use this technique to indicate squad roles or detachments. Others just enjoy customizing models freely. With this magnet trick, your bases transform in seconds!

Note that weight and model contact area impact the connection. Play around with magnet sizes and test balance before fielding magnetized models.

Warhammer 40k Mini

#7 Avoid Overloading Bases

Now a word of advice – don’t go overboard on basing elements. Remember, bases should accent and storytell for models not overpower them. Keep themes consistent but use restraint.

Imagine your models in their natural habitat – what would be around their feet logically? Building intricately crowded dioramas may look amazing for painting contests but hinder gaming playability needing space for dice, templates etc. There’s a balance to strike between detail and functionality.

The best bases compliment both form and function. Support your minis for better immersion and gameplay.

#8 Priming the Bases

Before applying any texture paints or basing materials, it’s crucial to prime your bases. Priming creates a uniform surface that helps subsequent layers adhere better and improves the overall durability of the base. You can use a brush-on or spray primer, depending on your preference and the number of bases you need to prime.

When priming, make sure to cover the entire base evenly, including any hard-to-reach areas or crevices. Allow the primer to dry completely before moving on to the next steps. Black or grey primers are the most common choices, as they provide a neutral base for further painting and texturing.

Color wheel

#9 Using Clear Acrylic Mediums

Clear acrylic mediums, such as gloss or matte varnish, can add an extra level of realism to your bases. These mediums can be used to create various effects, such as:

Wet mud: Mix brown paint with gloss varnish and apply it to the base, creating a shiny, wet appearance. Puddles: Use gloss varnish to create small puddles or pools of water on the base, enhancing the sense of a damp or rainy environment. Blood splatters: Mix red paint with gloss varnish and apply it to the base, creating a glossy, fresh blood effect, perfect for battle-torn scenes.

Experiment with different ratios of paint to varnish to achieve the desired level of glossiness or translucency. Apply these effects sparingly and strategically to avoid overwhelming the base or detracting from the miniature itself.

#10 Creating Custom Water Effects

For bases featuring rivers, lakes, or other bodies of water, you can create stunning custom water effects using clear resin or two-part epoxy. These materials allow you to create transparent, three-dimensional water features that add depth and realism to your bases.

To create water effects:

  1. Build up the banks of the water feature using putty or clay, shaping it to your desired contours.
  2. Paint the riverbed or lake bottom with appropriate colors, such as browns, greens, or blues, depending on the type of water you’re depicting.
  3. Mix the clear resin or two-part epoxy according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  4. Pour the mixture into the prepared water feature, filling it to the desired level.
  5. Allow the resin or epoxy to cure completely, following the recommended drying times.
  6. Once cured, you can add additional details, such as ripples, waves, or foam, using clear acrylic mediums or white paint.

Creating custom water effects requires patience and practice, but the results can be truly stunning, elevating your bases to a whole new level of realism and visual appeal.

Want to try Lava instead? View our Article here for How To Paint Lava Bases On Miniatures


I hope this basing guide gives you confidence to finally base your Warhammer models properly! With a bit of texture paint and base materials, even beginners can achieve great tabletop results fast.

Swords and Brushes has a fantastic video on how to base miniatures!

Don’t be afraid to get creative choosing colors, textures and themes that match armies. Magnetizing allows changeability. But avoid common pitfalls like overloading or mismatching bases across units.



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