Tutorial: Sculpting your own Dungeon Bases

Hi again everyone. It’s been a little while since the Blood Bowl leak blitz in late August, and I know I haven’t posted since then. Feel free to blame a combination of procrastination, interest in other hobby-projects and life generally being a bit of a bummer (to put it lightly!).

Anyway, you may have seen something online about a Heroquest reboot, and got quite excited at the idea of a modern-era re-imagining of a dungeoncrawler classic. I grew up on classic 90’s Warhammer Quest and the idea of getting the chance to own and play another classic of that time filled me with nostalgia. Anyway, long story short – can’t buy the new Heroquest anyway in the UK and I think it’s redesign looks super generic anyway. Hard pass.

Gotta do something with that nostalgia-driven inspiration, so I sculpted some dungeon bases. Although for this tutorial I have used a 25mm round base, the technique can be used on larger bases or even *whispers* square and rectangular bases should you really wish to nail that old-school look.

TOOL CHECKLIST

Milliput – I have used both the standard Yellow-Grey and White Superfine, although you could just use the standard Yellow-Grey if you so wish. I mainly used the Superfine to bulk out the putty, since I bought it for gap-filling, but had limited success with it alone.

Clay Shapers – I use silicon-headed ones for all my sculpting. There are lots of different tip-shapes you can get, but I use just three for all my needs: pointed tip, flat-chisel and an angular-chisel. If I had more sense I would have taken a picture of them, but I am lazy.

Fine-grit Sandpaper – the gradient you need isn’t particularly relevant, it’s more about having a large enough piece to smooth down the top and sides of the base in the last step. You could just use a standard file, but I like how smooth the final finish is with fine-grit sandpaper.

You’ll also need the following;

Steel Ruler

Modelling Knife

Plastic base(s) – I have used a Citadel 25mm round base for this tutorial.

THE STEPS

Mix your putty – I used varying mixture ratios as I’ve been making these, but have found that a right 2:1 mix of stanrd Yellow-Grey Milliput to White Superfine Milliput is a good balance. When I mix the two parts of the Yellow-Grey one, I add a smidge more grey than yellow to make the overall putty firmer when set. Then I mix the Superfine together, then add that to the Yellow-Grey and mix again thoroughly.

If you don’t mix the putty well enough at this stage, future-you will regret it! Although we are very much aiming for recreating the look of chipped and crumbling stone, we don’t want our actual bases to do so when handled!

1 Slap that putty down onto your base and smooth down the top using a wet flat surface you don’t mind the high chance of getting milliput all over. You’re aiming for around 2mm thickness, which is slightly shallower than the 3mm high base I’m using.

2 Using your knife, cut off the excess putty around the edges, so that it roughly follows the angle of the base rim. At this stage I also use a wet fingertip to smooth out any rough edges where you had just cut the excess putty away.

3 Placing the steel ruler gently over the putty and begin to draw guidelines for where you want your flagstones to be. As a rule of thumb, I always aim to have the full width of at least one “row” of flagstones, placing that initial flagstone off-centre. Then, it’s a case of plotting where the other flagstones will go. You have the option of either going for a more standardised “brickwork” layout, or you could (like I have done for this base) mix up the flagstones so some are parallel and others are perpendicular (turned 90 degrees).

4 Start defining the gaps in-between the flagstones using your flat-headed chisel clay shaper (mine snuck into the step photo). The putty is still going to be very malleable at this stage, so not particularly easy to manipulate without accidentally smudging another bit. Therefore we are just concentrating on defining the major gaps at this stage. Don’t forget to carry on marking out the edges of the flagstones where they go over to the edge of the base itself!

5 Now using the round-tipped clay shaper, start to carefully define the small cracks, chips and general wear-and-tear in the flagstones. As for how you should place your cracks, chips and damage, unless you are like me and practically have the original Warhammer Quest dungeon tiles burned into their psyche – use reference images, both from various dungeon board pieces and tiles as well as real-life examples of worn stonework. I also try to get a good balance between smooth, well-defined and sharp edges in contrast to the more worn, chipped and sometimes downright broken sections. I also try not to go too mad at this stage when adding damage to the stonework, as these will be redefined and even added to later on when the putty has dried.

6 Give the putty 30 minutes or so to set a bit more, which will make this stage so much easier. This step is really just readjusting the work you did previously; smoothing out areas you want to remain so, especially around the edges of the base. I also break out the angled-chisel clay shaper to add some variety, so one or two of the deeper cracks have smoothed out on one edge. This is also a good time to start rounding out a couple of the edges of the flagstones using the round-tipped clay shaper, although I will deliberately leave some corners a sharp right-angle.

7 Wait until the putty is completely dry (overnight is preferable just to make sure). Now the satisfying part, sanding down the top and edges of the base with the fine-grit sandpaper, using a flat surface. I will also use the end of my much-used modelling file to redefine the main gaps in-between flagstones, as well as the cracks and chipping. I also use a cheap Dremel tool to occasionally add some texture around the edges of a flagstone tor two.

FINISHED RESULTS

After this step, you’re done and should have something along the lines of the picture below, which is just an artsier angle of the bases shown in step 7 above. You can see even though I have repeated the same steps for each one, I placed the flagstones in slightly different configurations. Combined with the differing patterns of chips and cracks has made each individual base consistent in look, but subtly different from the others. I’ve even done one for a slightly larger 28.5mm round base (my favourite base size) on the right-hand side of the picture below.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

There you go folks, some good ol’ home-made dungeon bases for your dungeon-crawling project needs. Are these easy to do? Fairly. Are they quick to do? Not particularly, as I was knocking one out in around 90-120 minutes (excluding drying times) but as always batch-making will help speed things up a little.

I certainly wouldn’t recommend doing this for an army-scale project (unless you can do half-a-dozen then can upload and print off a bunch with a 3D printer). This tutorial really works best for either skirmish-sized projects, or even better for when you want to do a bunch of dungeon crawler monsters and make the bases as you paint up a small batch of them.

Hopefully I will get one of the many half-painted minis sat on my desk completed soon, so I can post it here.

Until next time,

Daniel / Circus of Paint

3 thoughts on “Tutorial: Sculpting your own Dungeon Bases

  1. Those turned out beautifully. Thanks for the tutorial. I’ve been looking at some stone dungeon bases lately. I’m not sure exactly what approach I’m going to take.
    I did buy a green stuff roller to play with, so I’ll be doing some experimenting. I have to say of all the ones I’ve seen out there so far, yours looks the nicest!

    Liked by 1 person

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