How to Make a Cracked Earth Base: Simple and Quick

  • By: Richard
  • Date: September 14, 2021
  • Time to read: 10 min.

If you have been looking for a cracked earth base to use in your miniature world, then this post will be perfect for you. It includes detailed instructions on making a cracked earth surface using materials that are easy and inexpensive to find at the craft store.

Cracked Earth Texture

Cracked Earth Base

Find a Flat Object to Serve as The Foundation

Find a round object to serve as the base of your cracked earth texture. Cracks in the soil will radiate from a central point, so a round object allows you to place them more naturally on the surface of your base. A jar or small plate works well for this purpose.

To make sure that the cracks are perfectly circular and evenly spaced around your circle, use a compass to draw concentric circles where you want each crack to appear on the top of your jar.

Cracks should be created every half inch all around until you have covered an area about six inches across with lines radiating out from the center point (the bottom of your glass). The number of lines drawn depends entirely on how many different levels/layers you would like in your terrain piece; if there are only two, draw in every other line.

Cover it in Sand and Glue

Fill your jar with sand and glue it to the top of the bottle. Use a clear drying craft adhesive such as Elmer’s or Aleene’s Tacky Glue, available at any crafts store.

Paint Cracks in Cracked Earth Texture

Paint the cracks in your jar with acrylic paint. You can add other colors to add interest if you like, but this is not necessary.

Add a Thin Layer of Soil And Add Paint on Top

Mix up some gray acrylic craft paint with powdered tempera or watercolor to add volume. You can add as much colorant as you need to make the consistency thick enough so that it is easy to work with but not too runny, which will ruin your texture’s ability to hold together well. Add more pigment until the mixture has the desired darkness level for your taste; remember that darker colors indicate depth in miniature terrain pieces.

Pour this mixture into your jar an inch at a time, allowing each new addition to dried earth completely before adding another one. If necessary, use a paper towel dampened with clean water (not dripping wet) to wipe off excess from various parts of your texture.

Drybrush Cracked Earth Texture with Sand Color of your Choice

Finally, we will give our cracked earth texture a nice tan color by dry brush it using sand as the primary color and black as secondary (or vice versa if you would like more contrast).

The concept behind this is that we want the cracks in our terrain piece to stand out; they should be lighter than their surrounding soil but darker than any grass or vegetation growing on top of them.

A dry brush means applying paint very lightly. Some of the base coat shows through for variation; if applied too heavily, everything becomes flat and homogenous, which detracts from one’s ability to see where objects are placed atop your table. Use an old gift card or credit card to apply the paint, and turn it as you pull away from your terrain piece so that each layer of drybrush is slightly different.

The Cracked Earth Terrain Piece Can Be Used For:

  • Grass growing up through cracks in a city sidewalk (post-apocalyptic)
  • A rambling garden path or outdoor patio complete with cracked earth for plants to grow out of (fantasy/medieval)
  • Cracks formed by earthquakes; can be used underneath roads, sidewalks, etc., which have been destroyed and need repair (modern-day).
  • Cracks formed by erosion; can be placed on top of an exposed cliff face (fantasy/medieval) or desert mesa (sci-fi).
  • Cracks formed by tidal erosion; can be placed on top of an exposed coastline or riverbank (medieval/fantasy)
  • The expansion and contraction of soil cause cracking due to extreme temperatures. This method can also be used for roads, sidewalks, etc., which have been destroyed but replaced with new pavement over time. Works well in sci-fi settings where buildings are made of metal or other materials not typically associated with real-world construction methods.

Add Rocks, Dirt, and Grass Around the Edge of The Base to Make an Earthy Look That isn’t Too Barren.

  • Add rocks and dirt to the inside as well.
  • Drybrushing is a great way to add depth and detail without making it look too busy or cluttered.
  • Use your imagination! You can do many things with this terrain piece, so don’t be afraid of experimenting and seeing what works best for your favorite table-top game system.
  • Make cracks every half inch all around until you have covered an area about six inches across with lines radiating out from the center point (the bottom of your glass). The number of lines drawn depends entirely on how many different levels/layers you would like in your terrain piece; if there are only two, draw in every other line. Cover it in sand and glue. Fill your container with sand.
  • Add a dark brown or black base coat to the cracks, and allow it to dry completely before moving on.
  • Drybrush cracked earth texture using the tan color of your choice (we used Sandstone Color). Drybrushing can be done by applying paint lightly so that some of the base coat shows through for variation; if applied too heavily, everything becomes flat and homogenous, which detracts from one’s ability to see where objects are placed atop your table. Use an old gift card or credit card to apply the paint, and turn it as you pull away from your terrain piece so that each layer is slightly different. Finally, we will give our cracked earth texture a nice tan color by dry brushing it using sandstone color.
  • Apply a coat of matte varnish to your Cracked Earth Terrain Piece and allow it to dry.
  • Grass growing up through cracks in a city sidewalk (post-apocalyptic) A rambling garden path or outdoor patio complete with cracked earth for plants to grow out of (fantasy/medieval) Cracks formed by earthquakes; can be used underneath roads, sidewalks, etc. which have been destroyed and need repair (modern-day). Cracks formed by erosion; can be placed on top of an exposed cliff face (fantasy/medieval) or desert mesa (sci-fi).
  • The expansion and contraction of soil cause cracking due to extreme temperatures. This method can also be used for roads, sidewalks, etc., which have been destroyed but replaced with new pavement over time. Works well in sci-fi settings where buildings are made of metal or other materials not typically associated with real-world construction methods.
  • Cracked Earth Texture is a great base surface because it allows you to place small rocks, seashells, plants, or trees growing out from between cracks without having them sink into your terrain piece as they would if placed directly atop dunes or grassy fields. Cracked Earth Texture is also an excellent base for full-sized trees because it provides a medium in which roots can grow and expand without disrupting the terrain piece itself.

Set Up Your Miniature Scene Inside The Base!

You can use any medium to create your scene. You will need a base, soil or sand (or other media), foliage and trees, water effects, rocks/pebbles for dry areas, flowers/grass tufts if appropriate, and any other mediums or items you might desire.

  • Add soil medium to the base, making sure it covers all of the support material underneath.
  • Create ridges in your soil medium using a toothpick for cracks/crevasses (like shown below)
  • You can enhance this effect by adding a darker medium around the edges or in the cracks to give a deeper look.
  • Add texture/depth by pressing foliage and other items into the soil medium before it dries.
  • Use fine stones or rocks for dry areas, larger rocks for more rugged terrain, and add water effects if necessary (as shown below) to create flowing rivers.
  • Once your base is completed, you can paint it to your desired effect (as shown below)
  • You can also use ink or other water effects for a stained glass look
  • Let the base dry completely before painting on top of it. Then set up your scene inside! The more detail you add at this stage, the better. It’s easy to add a miniature or two and more items as you go.
  • Once your scene is complete, glue the base to a piece of foam core board for support. Then place it on top of a larger base with scenery (like trees) that can be glued down as well if desired.
  • If there are any exposed wires from wiring your LEDs, you can conceal them using model railroad ballast or similar material to give the appearance of rocks.
  • You are now ready for battle! The Cracked Earth base gives your armies a sense of impending doom as they approach the battlefields below! Make sure to check back next week when we release our Kickstarter campaign and go into full detail on making this base set up.

Making Textured, Cracked Earth Miniature Bases from Coffee Grounds

In this episode, I experiment with using dried coffee grounds and black paint as a texture paste for basing gaming miniatures. Anyone who paints minis knows that the specialty textures sold at hobby stores are absurdly expensive–this technique costs next to nothing!

How do You Make a Desert Base For Miniatures?

  1. Get your materials together. You will need a base of some kind (I like to use dollar store bases or larger), sand, glue, paintbrush, and primer.
  2. Take the base out of the package, clean it off with water if needed and dry thoroughly before you prime it with white spray paint so that when you add color, later on, the colors are vibrant instead of muted by shadows created from colored clay under them in step four.
  3. Mix a small amount of glue and water until it is the consistency of paint. If you use dollar store bases, just put some on top of them to give your base texture before adding sand because these are usually very smooth surfaces. Otherwise, apply evenly across the bottom surface area with a brush for good bonding power between layers in step four.
  4. Add sand! I like my sands mixtures quite rough so that they look more natural but use however much you desire as long as it covers all areas except where you want grass or other plants growing later on (e.g., around trees). You may also add rocks if desired at this point by making another out of white glue and sculpting it into shape if you like.
  5. Paint your base with a color similar to the sand or rock for best blending and make sure not to paint over all of the sand/rocks because we want some uncovered in step six (unless your goal was total coverage).
  6. Add some more sand and rocks (if desired) to make your scene complete. Allow this layer to dry thoroughly before using it on the tabletop or adding miniatures!

FAQs

How do you make a cracked earth base?

A cracked earth base can be created with a few things- Flour, water, salt, and red paint. Paint the ground in squiggles. After it has dried for about 12 hours, spray it with water or have someone walk on it for 10 minutes. Then sprinkle flour over the areas that you want to crack into crevices (use your hands). Wait another twelve hours and viola! You now have an authentic-looking cracked earth effect!

How do you paint lava base?

  1. Paint base coat white.
  2. Mud the surface with Vallejo brown ink wash diluted with water, allow drying.
  3. Sprinkle modeling sand or age powder over wet paint, so the particles stick to the surface.
Note:
all of this must be done in a well-ventilated area away from children and pets, as these materials emit hazardous fumes. Read labels before using any cleaning chemicals!

How do you make a wasteland base for miniatures?

I like to make mine in a way that is easy, inexpensive and very quick.

  1. First off, you will want some base for your miniatures, so they don’t fall over on the table. I recommend using bases from Games Workshop or Mantic because both have great options already prepped at affordable prices.
  2. Make sure you prime it before painting! You can use black gesso or paint white primer directly on top of the green plastic. That’s fine too!
  3. Now take some watered-down acrylic craft paints (they’re cheaper) and do two coats until it looks how you’d like especially if working with dark colors such as blue-gray, browns, etc. Let dry between each coat for an hour minimum.
  4. The last step is to paint on some crackle medium. This can be bought at most art stores and comes in a tube-like toothpaste (or mayo). It’s easy to use; squeeze out about the size of a quarter onto your paper plate or something else that you don’t care about because it will get messy.
  5. Then take an old brush with stiff bristles and dip it into the water until no more bubbles are forming (blow on the tip of the bristles if necessary) and then dip the wet end directly into your craft paint which we prepped earlier. Mix, so they blend well but not too runny, as seen below.

And now you have yourself a cracked earth base!

Conclusion

The Cracked Earth Texture is a great way to add some variety and texture to your miniature scenes. It’s also an easy project that can give you hours of entertainment for little cost! What are some other things you use in your crafts projects?

Richard

Hi! I'm Richard Baker, a miniature painter who has been painting for about ten years. My website is packed with great advice that I've learned from both books and personal experience on building and painting miniatures.

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