Thunderhead Display Base Print
Written by Mike and Ali McVey   

Making the Thunderbase

In No Quarter Magazine three we looked at a display version of the Thunderhead, when you are spending significant amounts of time of miniatures that are going to be the centre piece of you army - you really want them to stand out from the rest of the force. One great way of doing just that is to put them on a scenic base - this not only physically gives them a lift over the rest of the figures, but a scenic base also gives the miniature a context but putting it in a distinct location. So in this case the Thunderhead has been painted with battle damage to make it look like it's been out on campaign for a while - and the battlefield wreckage style base just adds to this feel.

Most people treat the base on a miniature as an afterthought, and quite often all the hard work they have put in on the rest of the figure is let down as a result. It can actually be a very rewarding part of the hobby - once you have got the bug for building scenic bases it's really addictive and can add a whole new level to the miniature painting experience. It can be great fun thinking of new and exciting subjects to tackle - and it's really not as complex as you would think.

As I mentioned earlier, the look we wanted on this one was for the Thunderhead to be making his way though battlefield rubble. The base looks quite complex, but is actually really fairly easy when you break it down into stages. There are just a few things that you will need for this -

  • Plaster of Paris
  • Thick wire (heavy gauge fuse wire is great)
  • A blister box - just like the one your Warmachine miniatures come in!
  • A small natural artist sponge
  • Your normal selection of paints and brushes


The photos below take you stage by stage through the construction and painting process.

The first stage is to make the basic materials that the base is constructed from. Just mix up some Plaster of Paris by following the instructions on the packaging, and carefully pour it into the lid of a blister box - then leave it to dry.

Once the plaster is thoroughly dry you can carefully pop it out of the plastic - it's a good idea to leave it in a warm place for a few hours now, just to make sure it's totally dry, this makes it more brittle and easier to break-up.

The next stage is to prepare the base for the landscaping. In this case we wanted to have the detail break out of the side of the base, so we cut a part of the base away with a jewellers saw.

The first piece of plaster was cut to shape and glued into the hole in the base - the best way to glue it in place is to use plenty of super glue and spray it with accelerator - like Zip Kicker. We also added some putty underneath the base to secure it in place.

The first piece of plaster is cracked and weathered by breaking up the edge with pliers - you can be pretty rough and random about this.

The second layer of plaster is added on top of the first - this was cut to shape before it was glued on. The pieces have been kept large and slab like so you could imagine them being what's left of the walls of a building.

For the third layer, we cracked a corner off the slab and re-attached it with short lengths of fuse wire to make it look like exposed re-bar.

Once the slabs are all glued into place, some additional re-bar and battle damage is added. Plaster is really easy to cut and carve when dry - just use an old sturdy blade for the battle damage and a small drill bit for the bullet holes. We also added a pipe to the middle layer - mainly because it gives the opportunity to add some colour when we come to painting the base.

The last construction stage was to add some sand to cover the exposed top surface of the base - we just painted on some thinned down white glue and covered it with sand.

The slabs are given a base coat of a mid neutral grey - this is applied fairly thin.

This photograph shows the highlights have been built up - we used an artist's sponge for this. Just mix up your highlight colour as usual on your palette and dab the sponge in it (the sponge should be damp, but not wet) - then remove a lot of the paint by dabbing the sponge on a paper towel before you start to apply the colour to the base. Try and build the colour up slowly - you are aiming to add texture to the surface as well as bring the colour up.

Once the highlights are finished we added some weathering - the first stage was to add a rusty brown wash. This was a mix of thinned down Bestial Brown and matt medium. The top surface was carefully wiped with a paper towel to maintain most of the original colour.

The next stage was to add a black wash - this is applied REALLY thin, again with matt medium added. The top of the base was wiped fairly clean as with the brown wash.

Once the washes are dry, the edges of the base were picked out with light grey tones - this helps to re-define the shape of the slabs and brings out the details. These final highlights are applies with a brush rather than a sponge. When you picking out sharp edges like this it's easiest to run the side of the brush along the corner - rather than use the point of the brush.

The re-bar and pipe is picked out with a thinned down Bestial Brown - the inside of the pipe was painted with black to give it depth.

These photograph show the finished base. The final stages were to add some faded lettering to the top slab to give it more of an industrial feel - then over the top of this we added some weathering. This was thinned down Bestial Brown, blended on in patches to look like stains and streaked down from one edge. The last step was to add some green staining round the pipe - this just adds a touch or colour to the otherwise quite neutral base.

The finished and varnished figure is mounted on the base - don't forget to cut away the tabs from the feet and drill some holes before you start painting the figure, it's a total pain having to do this after you have finished the miniature... It's also important to make sure that the feet are totally flat, the miniature just won't have the same visual weight if you can see gaps under the feet. Make sure that you drill the mounting pins good and deep into the base - this is a heavy figure and you don't want it coming un-stuck...


Tip #49
Try to finish painting whole units at a given time. Starting a unit, then finishing it much later, can lead to problems when matching colors.