Marbling Battletech Bases

    I’ve gotten a lot of requests from people to do some kind of tutorial on how I do the bases on my Battletech miniatures. “Marbling” they call it, and I like the term. I tried to make a video on my process but my phone ate it, so here’s the next best thing: a written tutorial.

I’m a writer anyway, so this is definitely the easiest way for me to do this. I’ve done YouTube videos before, but my overall video production quality tends to be just north of potato, so why not play to my strengths? I’ve never seen myself as much of a painter, but I guess if you do something long enough, you get good enough that people want to know your method. I can work with that.

To start, I use a minimum of three different shades of brown paint, and sometimes as many as seven different shades, with a bit of green thrown in there to make the land look less lifeless. I use a couple of frayed, worn out old paintbrushes and some Apple Barrel Acrylics I picked up used at thrift stores as my tools of the trade. The colors I tend to favor most are Espresso (dark brown), Terra Cotta (orange brown) and Mocha (tan.) Occasionally I get crazy and mix some Maple (also dark brown, but with a little red), Chocolate (more red than Maple) or just plain old primary brown in there as well. The important thing is that you have a dark base color, a medium intermediate color and a light highlight color. An example of what my palette typically looks like is below. I literally get the paint right out of the lids.

You can do icy bases this way too. For those, I actually work backward. I use white as my base, gray as my intermediate color and sky blue for my highlights.

The key is not necessarily the paint that you use, it's how you use it.

You can even use this technique on bases that you've textured with sand, rocks or other things as well. 

To show you how this is achieved in steps, I painted some 3d printed helicopter flight bases I made in CAD and photographed them in stages as I went.

First, we start by applying our base color (in this case, the dark brown.) Don't hold back! Just slop it on there like you've just discovered Warhammer 40K and you're painting your first space marine. Use the most worn out brush you have and just slop that paint on there until it looks like the worst nightmares of every gas station bathroom attendant.

Don't even let it dry between steps. Don't clean the brush. Paint like you don't care. 

Get some big globs of your intermediate color (in this case, orange brown) and just slop those bad boys on there willy-nilly.

Next, we're going to get artistic. Take that brush that most respectable artists would have thrown in the trash and use the scattered tips of the bristles to drag the paint around. You'll be dragging the intermediate color (orange brown) through the base color (dark brown) to create strirations and gradients. They're hard to see in a photograph at this stage, but trust me, the magic is coming!

Just don't press too hard or mix too much or you'll get a loblolly of uniform brown. Stipple and work the paint around using only the tips of your brush. Feather touch. You got this!

Now comes the tricky part. Get your highlight color (in this case, Mocha) and dip only the tips of your worn out brush in it. Make sure everything is still wet and dirty. Nature isn't neat and tidy.

So once you've got the tan on the tips of your brush bristles, just kind of randomly streak it through the wet paint you've already applied. Go light, super light, and give some of your streaks a little curve. You're just drawing sloppy, organic lines on the base at this point.

Final clean-up can be pretty delicate. Mix the paint up just a little with some light streaking and stippling to break up the clarity of some of those highlight lines. Since all the paint is still wet, you'll get variations of color where they mix. Also, it's going to look kind of garbagy at this point, but wait until it dries!

Oh, and use MATTE paint! Don't use gloss or satin!

Here's the final result with my helicopters. As you can see, I also did a similar marbling on the "sky" portion of the flight base by using primary blue as the base, sky blue as the intermediate and white as the highlight.

Below, you will see some other examples of units I painted up with marbled bases. If you do texturing using sand, aquarium gravel, tufts, etc. you can still marble right over the top of them using the same method. 


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