Monday, January 30

Tutorial - How to Do Lava Bases

Finally I'm back with a new article. It's been a while since I last posted something here, due to a work trip; so I think it's time to write that lava base tutorial which has been in my mind for quite some time now.

As you may remember, when I decided to start collecting a chaos dwarf army, I opted for lava bases and started preparing them even before I had my very first miniatures. Below is a rough guide on how to prepare your own. Be warned though, since it will be pic heavy... kinda...


OK, first, the materials. Here's a list of what you'll need:


- Balsa wood (I use 3mm thick planks)
- Bases (If you don't have bases, you can cut yours from balsa)
- Paints (I use Citadel's Skull White, Chaos Black, Blazing Orange, Fortress Gray, Badab Black and Ogryn Flesh washes, Vallejo's Model Color Red, Game Color Golden Yellow)
- Some gravel
- Hobby stuff like hobby knife, super glue, cutting board, file, PVA glue and a brush

TIP: If you are cutting your own base from balsa, tape each side of the balsa over the cutting line with a scotch tape. This will prevent the balsa from cracking and you'll get neater edges after each cut.


The first work is designing the shape of the base. You wouldn't want the rocky part to cover all of your base, so cut a piece from balsa which is smaller than the base itself. It is possible to let some parts of the rocks to extend; but try not to be generous with that, otherwise you might have a hard time ranking up your troopers.

Once you cut the main rocky piece, it is time to carve it a little. Just improvise and deform the piece of balsa as you see fit: Cut slices over/under it, carve cracks on sides, wear it down from sides with file, anything goes here. You can add more, smaller rocky parts if you want. That will depend on the size of the base you are preparing. If it is a 20/25mm one, probably you won't need it; but if you are doing a bigger one, you will want more rocky parts.

TIP: You can pile up more than one layer of balsa for more elevated position. Even though this would help with ranking up, it would be better to reserve this approach for heroes and command groups or individual monsters.

Prepare as many rocky parts as you need and glue them to their places with super glue. After they are glued, use a sharp edge like the tip of the knife or the file to make some cuts. These cuts will look like some random crack patterns on the rocks and help adding some texture.  Last step before we start painting is adding the gravel. Use small drops of PVA glue here and there and dip the base in gravel box to create patches of gravel on base. You can either add it on the rocky parts or would-be lava surface, it won't matter. I will show how to paint them accordingly.

TIP: Small patches of many graveled area looks the best. Don't overuse PVA glue. It will create bigger graveled areas.

At this point, we are ready to start painting our base. My 50mm base is looking like this:

The design is complete


For basecoat, you have two options to go either black or white. I preferred black only because I had many black spray cans laying around. Feel free to go on with white if you choose to do so.

After spraying it black, paint the lava sections with white. You might want to do two layers of white there for the best coverage. Then, it is time to paint the rocky parts and gravel. I use Fortress Gray for the job. It's best you use drybrush here; but don't worry if you botch it. You can fix it later.

Painting - First touches
After this point, make sure that each layer of paint is fully dried before applying the next color. I start with the Vallejo Golden Yellow for the first layer. Here is the trick on how to apply the paint: Before getting paint on your brush, dip it in water and wet the lava surface with water only. Not too much to spill over from the base; but it must be as wet as possible. This will help the paint diffuse and at the same time, will allow the whites to show from under, to represent the hottest parts of the lava. Below is a picture after applying the yellow:

After the Yellow layer

TIP: Since you need to wait each layer of paint to dry completely, it would be a clever idea to do these bases in batches, like 10 or more at the same time.

Once the yellow is completely dry, we use the same technique again; but this time the color will be Blazing Orange.

After the Orange layer
TIP: The predominant color in lava should be orange, so if you want to "fix" some part of the lava that you don't like, use orange, but as diluted as possible.

You should see the glimpse of the final product by now, right? Well, we are almost there, just a few more steps. This time, we will use Vallejo Red. The technique is the same; but we won't be applying red everywhere. The parts with red will indicate the parts where the lava has started to "cool off", so you should only apply it to the parts where the lava meets the rocks, gravel and whatever is floating in the lava.

After the Red layer
Finally, as the last step, I use Badab Black wash to represent the parts that "cooled off" completely. Wash all the parts you painted red with Badab Black. You can be more liberal with washing the gravel at this step for a more molten look. I also washed the rocky parts here to bring out the shadows more.

Washed with Badab Black
Time to drybrush the rocks and gravel one more now. Since we are about to wrap this up, try not to botch this time. After the drybrush, line highlight the edges of the rocks.

Rocks highlighted
Normally, you can call it a base; but i like my lava bases shinier. Hence I go for one more highlight with Skull White. This time I highlight the edges of the base as well as the edges of the rocks and also, some parts of the gravel.

After the highlight is done, paint the edges of the base with black, or whatever color you use for it. Simple housekeeping job. As a final touch, my good friend Mr. Lee suggested that I wash the lava parts with Ogryn Flesh for a better blending and also for some glows.

Now fellas, it is time to lean back and be proud of the work you've done:

Phew... This one has been the longest article on my blog. Hope that you didn't get bored throughout and that it helps you in your projects.


Mr. Lee said... [Reply]

Yawn... sorry.. fell asleep halfway through due to the length of the article.. ;).. JK.. good article.. will put it to use when I paint up and do up this K'Daai Destroyer commission coming my way.. :)

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