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I am about to start a SM army. I used to collect them a few years ago, and back then, I just used to paint the bases goblin green, with standard flock on. Looking back at old WD mags, that used to be the standards. Looking around at the moment, it seems that it is more common to paint the rim of the base brown and then put the green modelling flock on top. Have the all green bases been phased out now? Would I be laughed at if I fielded an army with them?
I don't think people would laugh.. Personally I don't like the green bases. Just don't like them. Green doesn't fit on bases. I leave mine with black rims. That looks best I think. Brown works too but black for the win.
I find it looks nicer with a darker base colour like graveyard earth, scorched brown or for Cities of Death black/grey.
Then you make a more interesting with maybe gravel/sand and some static grass and stones.
It is my opinion that the hobby has matured and new things are always being tried (the envelope constantly being pushed). Now we are in an era of the scenic base where a painter tries to capture a moment in time and builds a base from the ground up to reflect the environment that the figure is in.
Personally I think it is more rewarding as a whole to build a scenic environment for your figures. Why neglect the base when you have struggled so hard to get a good looking figure. Think of the base as an extension of your figure rather than an afterthought. Plan the way you want your bases to look even before you start building them. This will lend to more creative and interesting choices.
As for the sides of the base - I personally prefer black. I find that it grounds the figure better than using a color. It is more of a personal preference than anything else.
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When it came down to deciding how my bases would look, I searched several weeks for an appropriate scheme, found a few and tryed them on test models. All failed for one reason: They did not fit the board itself. Now I always paint my bases according to the boards I'll be playing on mostly.
If you play mainly on the normal light green grass, I'd suggest to paint them either green in the same tone as the grass is - which is hard to match in my expericence - or paint them brownish in a tone of brown that matches both the vegetation on your models and that on the table. For example my marines' bases - mostly grass covered bases - are painted in a lighter brown than are my Lizardmen who head from a muddier jungle terrain. If you use brown make sure you use static grass over the standard flock, too.
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