Thursday, 18 June 2009

Basing: a step-by-step guide

Hi again,

I've always been of the opinion that good basing is essential to good looking miniatures; improving the look of even an average paint job, and pulling an army together into a cohesive whole. Conversely, well painted figures can be let down by poor basing.

Over the years I've tried various basing techniques, with varying degrees of success and an inability to settle on one method. If I break it down I guess what I've been striving for is something that:

i) Is relatively quick, and easy to do.
ii) Uses cheap, readily available materials.
iii) (Perhaps most importantly) looks good.
iv) Ties in with my terrain collection.

I feel that my current method meets all criteria outlined above.


PVA Glue (Elmers Glue in the US I believe)
Sand - I use builders sharp sand, dried and sieved to remove the larger bits of gravel.
Coarser gravel/Modelling rubble (I'm currently using some Talus modelling rubble but will use the gravel sieved out of the Sharp sand once this is finished)
Static grass/hairy Grass - I use 2 lengths: Javis Scenics Spring Mix and Noch's longer variety (I can't remeber the exact name)
Broom Bristles - for reeds or dry grass (with 25mm figures)
Scenic scatter/foliage clumps - for bushes. mine is from Woodland Scenics I think.
Paint - Black, White (I use Daler Rowney System 3 Artists Acrylic) and Games Workshop's Graveyard Earth and Bleached Bone.
All Purpose Adhesive
Super Glue

This may seem like a lot of stuff, but it is all relatively inexpensive and once bought, will last a long time and enable you to texture the bases of hundreds of figures. Of course, it's not all absolutely necessary - you could use just one length of Static grass for example.

One more thing before I start, whilst this technique works well on my pre-cut 2.5mm MDF bases, it's not quite so effective with card bases which have a tendency to warp after a while. IMO buying, or making, wooden bases is well worth the little extra effort/cost.

Once you've painted and varnished your miniatures attach them to your base using a good, strong All Purpose Glue (I use UHU). It's a good idea to glue any clumps of reeds to your base at this point using the same glue.

I'll get round to doing a small article on making reed sections but for now here's a quick "how to". I tend to make them in large batches, doing enough for 50 - 60 bases at a time. Basically, I gather a small bundle of natural broom bristles between my fingers (1.5 - 2cm lengths work well with 25mm miniatures) and cut them from the broom. Next, using my Hot Glue gun, I apply a small blob of glue to one end of the bundle, dip my finger into cold water and quickly tap the glue blob flat at the bottom before setting it to one side to dry. (Be careful when doing this as the glue gets VERY hot). Once this has dried you can glue it on to your base. Although the reeds look good "as is" I tend to give them a quick drybrush with Bleached Bone when I'm painting the bases.

With reeds I find that "less is more", and stick to 1 or 2 per base, and then not on every base..

Anyway, once the figures are firmly attached to the base cover the entire base with slightly diluted PVA glue (a 4:1 mix of PVA to water works well) and sprinkle some of your coarser gravel on to 1 or 2 areas on the base, gently pressing it down with your finger. Next, dip the base into your box of sand, tap it to shake off any excess and set it aside to dry. It should look something like this:

Once the PVA is completely dry (I do a few bases at once and leave them overnight) paint the entire base with well diluted black paint. Leave this to dry. Wait for the black paint to dry fully then drybrush the base fairly heavily with the Graveyard Earth colour. Set this aside to dry.

Now, using a bit less paint, drybrush the entire base with Bleached Bone.

You can, after this stage, go right on to applying your static grass, but I prefer to give the entire base a very light drybrush with white paint, concentrating on larger boulders and the edges of the bases for definition. It's barely noticeable in the photograph I took so I haven't included it..

Apply 2-3 patches of barely diluted PVA glue to the base, and sprinkle on the longer of your static grass, pressing it down gently with your finger. After a few minutes turn the base upside down and tap off the excess. Add a few more small patches of the PVA and sprinkle on your shorter static grass, repeating the process above.

You could finish at this point, but I generally add some patches of bush to add some more interest. Tear off a small clump of your chosen foliage and apply a small amount of superglue, before pressing it firmly on to the base (tweezers might be handy here).

Below are some images of the completed Dwarf Organ Gun

Thanks for reading...

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