Tutorial: Rock Bases

Crafting a Rock Base
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Primed and base coat of black.
First primed, then painted black over just the rocks.
ince I didn't photograph each stage of colour layering with the bark base, I've done so here with a different base. This one was made with green stuff and small pieces of gravel. This particular base will eventually be used for the Epic Creation Hoary Hunter, so will be covered with snow. The horse from the Hoary Hunter will be caught in mid-jump. Naturally, I used green stuff so that I could have a place to drill when I finally mount the miniature.

I use a white base coat, followed by painting the rock portions Chaos Black or Vallejo SS Camo Black #822. Regardless of your colour intent and original material -- rock, cork, bark, green stuff, etc -- basing black on white is a good starting point.

Two heavy drybrushes of grey and brown.
Here's a trick: you can vary the intensity of the rock effect by drybrushing before the previous layer is fully dry. This makes the colours blend together somewhat randomly, which adds to the effect. It's much more noticeable later on, when you're layering shades of light grey over underlying browns.
The first layer of drybrushing will depend on what effect you want to achieve. As stated, we're going with that ever useful "slate" type rock, so we start with a heavy drybrushing of GW Shadow Grey or Vallejo Luftwaffe Blue #816. The second layer should be a contrasting brown of a similar lightness, such as GW Snakebite Leather or Vallejo US Field Drab #873. This will not be quite as heavy as the first, though still strong enough to be visible through subsequent layers.

In general, it's a poor habit to rely on drybrushing for most day-to-day painting tasks. For painting rocks, however, the technique excels. Drybrushing is a real time saver when it comes to this sort of task, and it's a lot tougher to get a similar effect without it. Of course, the one downside is that it's messy and the surrounding area will get hit as well. Therefore, paint your rocks or rock-surfaces first, then move on to the ground and miniature proper.

A lighter drybrush of GW Elf Grey and finally white.
The larger shot shows the last layers of Elf Grey while the inset shows the final dusting of pure white.
What really makes the rock drybrush technique successful comes in the final stages. At this point, we're using progressively lighter shades of grey and brown such as GW Elf Grey and GW Graveyard Earth. We're also using progressively lighter drybrushing.

Though the lightest of greys (and perhaps white) are essential to the dusty rock look, it's easy to overdo it. Only hit the upper most surfaces with these light colours, leaving the rest of the rock its "natural" colour.

And just like that, we're done. The basic technique consists of at least three shades of grey (deep, medium, light/white) and two shades of brown (medium and light). This is really all you need for most miniature projects.
The finished base (minus snow).
To finish up, GW Scorched Brown was used for the base, highlighted with GW Graveyard Earth and then a mix of Graveyard Earth and GW Bleached Bone. The static grass is Woodland Scenics Harvest Gold FL 632, though this, too, has been highlighted with a little Bleached Bone.
Of course, you can take it further, such as alternating between even more shades of grey and brown. This unfortunately doesn't really add an appreciable amount to the stone's appearance as too many layers will simply become lost in each other. It may be useful for display pieces, but if you really want to add another step, use a wash.

Mix a deep green such as GW Catachan Green or Vallejo Extra Dark Green #896 with a touch of black and thin it down heavily -- a ratio of one part paint to three or four parts water works well. A wash of this consistency applied over slate-coloured stone works to bring out some of those deeper blue greys that we started with, while muting some of the harsher transistions of drybrushing.

This is precisely what I did with the bark base we started with on this tutorial. In fact, let's take another look at that base, shall we?

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