Painting and ModellingTabletop Gaming

Tutorial: Making Plaster Bases

Time for another…

So I’ll be going to Gencon in a month or so, and this might be my only time TO Gencon Indy. It’s the only time that I know I’ll be able to compete on the international stage when it comes to painting my favourite set of minis; Warmachine. I hope that at least I will get past the first round of judging, and maybe even get an honourable mention (or GASP top 3)! Unfortunately, there’s only time to probably finish 1 submission in 1 category. I’ll also be trying to polish up the techniques I know, but in this article I will be dabbling into something I’ve never tried before. Wish me luck!

A major part of a model is its base, and there are many different ways of making them really ‘pop’. Flock, static grass, twigs and wood chips for natural bases, or found objects like cogs etc for urban bases. Milliput/Greenstuff is always a good material for the painters who like to sculpt their own bases. In this article however I’ll be trying to sculpt some bases using plaster.

Plasters like Hydrocal (8,000 psi hardness) and Merlin’s Magic (14,000 psi hardness) would be much more preferable mediums to carve items with, purely due to durability and hardness, but as time was of the essence I went and got normal plaster of paris (5,000 psi hardness) to cast my items.

Casting Plaster

Hirst Arts has some great tutorials on how to cast plaster from actual molds, but since we’ll be carving out our own bases here’s how I did it. By the way, Privateer Press’ blister packs are perfect replacements for a mixing up and flat tray to pour the plaster in: it’s roughly 1/4″ deep, giving us a good plaster thickness for our basing (and I suppose scenery) needs. Notice I’m using the front part of the blister pack as the mixing area.

I mixed about 2 parts plaster to 1 part water before mixing thoroughly, but I recommend that you follow the Hirst Art method of gauging how much plaster to add to the water (see the mixing and pouring section), it should be more accurate.

I then greased up the back part of the blister pack (that’s acting as the ‘mold’) with vaseline to make sure that I’d be able to pop out the plaster easily.

Pour out the plaster and smooth it over with an ice cream stick.

When it hardens it should look something like this…

Pop it out…

And we can proceed with carving!

Carving the Plaster

Before we start carving the plaster we need to know that kind of design we want. Which means some dry runs on paper before transferring the designs onto the plaster itself. Here I used a pencil to mark in the designs. I realised how soft Plaster of Paris is when I noticed that my nail and even a soft pencil could scratch lines into the plaster. This is why I recommend using a harder plaster… But beggars can’t be choosers, and if you’re using plaster of paris just go as delicately as possible. >.>;;

Next up start carving into the plaster. Here I have some sculpting tools but honestly and hard pick should do. I think even a paperclip, drillbit or even a pen would probably be a suitable substitute. Don’t expect to use your pen to write even again, though.

Here you can see the carved plaster and the 3d effect it’s got going on now.

Next up is breaking up the plaster. It’s important that the plaster break where you want it to (and not like split the important bits in half), so I recommend scoring into the plaster, so there are lines of weakness for the plaster to fracture around.

After that is done, I use my sculpting tool to clean up the edges and details to make it look like broken rock and…

Tadah! All that’s left is to undercoat your bases and then paint! I strongly recommend a good mix of black paint, some water and a significant amount of white/wood glue. This forms a semi-protective layer over your plaster which makes it that bit more durable; very important if you intend to use these models in games.

I hope you found this tutorial tutorial useful! If you have any questions or request for additional tutorials just fire away! =)


Singapore’s resident Press Ganger, that is, the man to go to for Privateer Press’ WARMACHINE, and HORDES. Kakita also dabbles in Games Workshop’s WARHAMMER FANTASY and WARHAMMER 40K lines.

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