Quick 'n' Cheap Urban Bases

Headologist and I are still preparing for our Necromunda campaign next month, which means I'm in a marathon of building and painting to get the gangs and terrain ready.  The last post was about my Cawdor gang, and I touched on the cheap bases I made.  With 20-30 models required for all the participants, anything that saves time and money is welcome.

I'll do a quick tutorial here, pitching at a fairly basic step-by-step level for newer players too, so you Longbeards excuse anything that seems a bit basic.

1.  Take your model before painting.

Find some string mesh.  You can get it from
raft shops, I used an old pencilcase like this one

3.  Cut out small, irregular shapes of netting.
4.  Lay it across the model 'dry', and arrange it how you want it to look
Resist the temptation to use multiple strands to cover the base entirely.
It's better to leave blank areas and have it look like one piece of mesh.

5.  Snip any overhangs off - as above,
resist the urge to reuse these bits.

6.  Superglue the mesh into place.  If you use medium or thick
grade glue, then the surface tension should do all the work.
It'll be pulled across the base, nucleating around the string areas,
and the tension (should) keep it from spilling down the sides of the base.
If in doubt - use a small drop and see how it goes.

7.  Then, dunk some areas of the base into sand.  Careful, as the entire top
of the base is gluey.  Focus on the blank bits of the base, leaving the mesh
showing through.  But don't make it too neat - the next two photos show
what it looks like 'in progress'.

If you get lots of excess sand on there, then shake it, you get individual grains
spreading out and making it look like gravel or rubble.
Run your finger round the edge to get rid of any overspill.

8.  Watch out for a large buildup of sand underneath the slot
in the base, where glue will have leaked through.  If you let it dry
like this it means the model won't stand up - use a bit
of sprue to scrape off the excess and keep the underside flat.

9.  And just paint!  I did a grey drybrush of the base, then a targeted silver drybrush of the metal mesh bits. You can see the slotta base through  the mesh but it doesn't  matter very much, just looks like ordinary urban detritus.  Can anyone guess what  the model is?  It's going to be my next post ...
And there we are.  As I say most of you are probably familiar with something similar to this but maybe there is one other out there, scandalised as I am about the cost of scenic bases.  Anyway, back to normal painting now and that mystery unit will be my next post...

The Colonel


  1. Nicely done and explained Colonel.

    1. Thanks Francis - I didn't want to make it too Billy basics but hopefully this means even some newer modellers would get it.

  2. A super tutorial sir, I have 3 cheap bags of railway ballast ready for the bases and I've been saving the various off-cuts from terrain building, particularly the wire mesh. I really like the round/hex shape of that pencil case material, great spot.

    1. I saw it in my corner shop, Mr Patel wanted to know why I was buying six pencil cases, and he didn't believe me.

      Unfortunately it's GW sand, at about £54 a pound. I like to think that somewhere there's a beach where GW employees just load sand up into bags and ship it to be boxed as expensive modelling sand. I like sand because it's quite fine, and scale-wise that looks more like grit/pebbles, whereas modelling grit looks like 28mm boulders.

    2. Haha, I did basically get accused of being an axe murderer in Boyes after buying various hacksaws and drill bits for scenery buidling. And spray paint.

      Very true indeed, two of the bags are sand (fine buff and medium buff apparently) and the other is proper grey ballast, the plan is to mix them up a little and see how that turns out.

  3. "Nucleating" - possibly my favourite new word of the week.

    Nice and simple tutorial - Step 8 always gets me when I use superglue on my base rather than PVA or wood glue.

    1. Yes - to be honest it got me for the first three models and I didn't notice until it had already dried, so I had to file it all off.

      On a semi-serious note, at school we did a fairly lengthy A-Level module on water and liquids, which included a section on surface tension. There's a point at which water and water-based liquids start behaving very oddly and you can do all sorts of funky things with them because of that surface tension. Using inks a lot, I find it very relavent as a modeller.

  4. Like it, Like it very much. Might well try this out on my Eisenkern. Thankyou sir.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it sir - hope it works out for you too.

  5. I dig it - quick, simple and the end result looks great! I had to chuckle at the 'bottom of the base rubble' - I am constantly scraping that off my bases... :)

    If I may make a recommendation, I find it's worthwhile to get 3-4 different grades/sizes of ballast/sand and mix them together (with a predominance of small, some medium and a little bit of large), which ends up looking a bit more naturalistic once it's painted.

    Great basing tips - I need to get some of that netting stuff for my own basing box. Thanks for sharing!

    1. You know what - I was thinking exactly the same after what Kieran said. Even if it's just a few boulders or something, that could really work. I'll stick to this for continuity purposes but my upcoming project might well try that. Thanks for the tip.

  6. arrr... Adeptus Arbite!
    Cheers for the tutorial. I was unclear on what mesh your were talking about before.

    1. Well done that man! Hope that clears it up, glad you enjoyed.

  7. Great way of making urban bases, but when can we see the rest of the Arbite attached to those legs in the last pic?


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