Here's a quick tutorial on how I put together my desert bases for the recent Tatooine models from Jabba's Realm.
First up here are the materials I used. We have two paints from Games Workshop, they are Agrellan Earth from the technical range and Armageddon Dunes from the Texture range.
Then we also have a selection of basing elements. We have some grass tufts, I think these are GW but other varieties are available. I have some brass plate which I've prepainted, it is from Hasslefree and a pot of sand. This sand is from a beach in Whitstable and has lots of nice sized grains and stones but feel free to use whatever you have to hand.
Firstly, prime your base and allow the base coat a goodly amount of time to dry, I did not do this. You want to paint your base in a darkish brown for the best effect as this will be the colour that shows through the cracked earth.
Once your base coat has dried apply the Agrellan Earth to all the low-lying areas of the base. This paint will crack as it dries, the thicker you layer the paint the bigger the cracks. I wanted fairly small cracks so I applied a fairly thin layer, for the examples above I applied a thicker layer.
This base is going to be for Jabba the Hutt, who can be removed from the base, making painting easier. If you cannot remove your model you will need to pay special attention to the area around the models feet and use a small brush to keep the paint neat. Next I want to build up some height to the base. This is where the Armageddon Dunes comes in. This is a thick texture paint, just scoop it out of the pot and apply it where you want it. You can build up large lumps or spread it thinly to give texture. Once it is dry you can dry brush it if you wish to add further highlights (I didn't bother).
Again, if you are adding this around the feet of your model, keep a small brush on hand to poke it carefully around the mini and avoid ruining your paint work. While my paint was still wet I added the plating (which I just cut to the right size with scissors) and my grass tufts. I don't bother with glue, just push them into the wet paint and let that dry around them.
Finally, I took a pinch of my sand and sprinkled it across the base, concentrating on the mounds of sand. You don't want to sprinkle too much on the agrellan earth as this can obscure the cracked details. What we're attempting here is simply a natural highlight, adding texture and variance.
Finally I added Jabba back to the base just to check he would still fit and that I hadn't accidentally placed any stones or other items underneath him.
Allow the base to cure overnight. If you wish you might want to seal the base with a coat of clear varnish, I recommend a matt finish, although I don't usually bother. I also painted the edge of the base to hide any paint that may have gone astray. And that's it.
Remember you can exaggerate the cracks by putting a thicker layer of Agrellan Earth onto the base. You could further highlight the base with a quick drybrush if desired.
Until next time, have fun painting.