Since the release of Rogue One, Scarif Base has become one of my all-time favorite locales in the Star Wars universe. Not only does it set the scene for some of my favorite characters’ heroics (I am one with the Force, and the Force is with me!), but it’s absolutely beautiful to boot.
And, fortunately for us, the quick transition from shrubbery to sand to water makes for some excellent basing for our miniatures.
In this post, I’m going to walk you step-by-step through the process of creating a beautiful Scarif base, including how to do those tricky water effects.
Here’s a list of all the products I’ll be using:
- The Beach:
- Vallejo Desert Sand Texture
- Citadel Seraphim Sepia
- White paint (any brand)
- Army Painter Swamp Tufts
- Hobby/craft sand
- The Water:
- Vallejo Water Effects Atlantic Blue
- Vallejo Foam Effect
- Two shades of blue paint (any brand), one light and one dark
Obviously you can improvise if you don’t have certain components.
Creating the Foundation
To begin preparing your Scarif base, you’ll want to make sure your miniature is positioned in such a way that you have easy access to a little more than half of the base’s surface area. Ideally, the mini will be off to one side. Once you get some practice you might use some advanced techniques to make it appear as if your mini is running through the tide, but for now let’s keep them close to one edge as if they’re running parallel to the shore.
Pick an imaginary line across the base (ideally, close to your mini’s feet) for your shore. On the opposite side of the base from your mini’s feet, across that line, paint a very thin layer of dark blue to give the effect that the water bed has dropped off. Make it nice and watered down so that you can feather it gently and blend it into the lighter blue color. This will all be very important to selling the Scarif beach illusion.
Next, paint the side of your base whatever color you want and let it dry. Because the water texture is going to be a glossy effect, we’ll want to spray our matte protector (like Tamiya Dullcote) over the model now so that it doesn’t ruin the water texture.
While this will leave some other parts of your base unprotected, they should see less handling than the mini and sides of the base anyway. Ultimately this will work in our favor.
We’ll start with the Vallejo Desert Sand texture. Using an applicator tool, layer this very lightly around your miniature’s feet, and up to your imaginary shoreline. Be sure to cover up any remaining blue on the edges of the base.
Along the shoreline, use a flat edge on your applicator to fade the sand effect down so that it’s as close as flush to possible. Let this dry completely before applying the water effect.
Once the sand texture is dry, begin to apply your water texture from the shoreline to the other edge of the base. Because we painted on the shaded water effect, you can apply this evenly over the open surface of your base. It goes on opaque but dries mostly transparent.
To make the waves, I’m borrowing an excellent trick that I learned from this video. While the water effect is still drying, press the edge of a coffee stirrer or toothpick on a line parallel to the shore, and pull it up. If you’ve put enough water texture on your base you should see a slight crest form as you pull away. Do it two or three or four times at different lengths (and with the occasional curve thrown in), depending on how much room you have, to create a flawless wave effect.
This, too, will take some time to dry. Be sure it is completely set before moving on to the next step.
Next, we’ll do a bit of detailing to maximize the depths and highlights of our base.
Take some Seraphim Sepia and apply it generously to the desert sand texture. Ultimately this will be covered up by craft sand, so perfection isn’t paramount here. We just want to have a nice, rich shadow that can be seen through any gaps in the sand later on.
For maximum realism, don’t go all the way across with the foam like I did in this image. It looks just a bit off, and I had to practice the technique a few times to get it right (see my unit leader below, which I’m much happier with). Leave a gap or an incomplete line here and there.
When applying to the waves, less is more. Feather the foam onto the tops of the waves and just a hint of it behind them. Then, add a nice thick line of foam to the point where the water meets the sand texture. Be generous here, and feel free to make it a little sloppy and uneven.
Depending on how you want your water to look, you could also try dry brushing some of the foam effect or just white paint over the flatter surfaces of water. This would give more of a foamy tide effect than a defined wave effect, but that may be the aesthetic you’re looking for!
Feel free to practice beforehand. I painted a blue square on some cardboard and practice my waves and foam application there before applying it to my mini. Seeing how the products dry and stick can be extremely helpful for the final product.
As a final touch, we’re going to spruce up the sandy shore part of our base.
First, we’ll thin down some PVA glue in a bit of water, and brush it generously over the dried and painted sand texture. Immediately sprinkle an equally generous helping of craft/hobby sand over the thinned glue, then give your mini a bit of a shake to help any excess sand all off.
After the sand has set, take one or two of the swamp tufts and superglue them wherever you have space on your model. You can either glue them right next to each other to create a hedge effect, or you can glue them separately to give a sparse vegetation feel.
Give the edge of your base another coat of paint to cover up any scuffs or bleed-overs that happened during the rest of the process, and voila! You’ve got a completed Scarif Base base, and you’re ready to steal the Death Star plans for the Rebellion (or keep them safe from meddlesome terrorists – I suppose that’s your call).
I hope that you found this helpful. If you’ve got any other tips, tricks, or suggestions leave them in the comments below.
Good luck, Commanders!