Today we’re going to be discussing something a little different. We’ve spent the past 9 articles discussing various techniques to use on your miniatures. In this article we will be changing our focus and forgetting about the miniature entirely.
Every single miniature in your collection comes with a base. This helps your miniature stand, is used for in-game measuring and rules, and can be an opportunity for some nice scenery effects. I’ve seen plenty of beautiful miniatures, were people have spent lots of time painting them and then completely ignored the base. While sometimes less is more, I personally feel our bases need love too.
The techniques I will be showing you are in fact quite simple. To start, you will need:
• different types of sand or ballast
• white glue
• modeling flock/static grass
• cork board
• an old beat up paintbrush
• various shades of brown paint
• black grey paints
• an ivory paint
First off, let’s discuss the sand. I have 2 different types of sand that I use on all my bases, the first is a more varied rocky type that I took from the ‘beach’ at my cottage. There is actually very little of what you might recognize as beach ‘sand’, as it is all broken and shattered quartz that has been ground up by the lake over the eons. It has a lot of texture and a lot of character. I prefer this for rugged and more untamed types of scenery.
The second type I use is your run of the mill park sand. This is a much more uniform sand, and doesn’t have quite as many chunks and large pieces. This works well for smooth terrain, soft grasslands or deserts.
If you do not have any place nearby to dig up buckets of sand like this; your local hobby shop will carry railroad ‘ballast’, sands and fine gravels for railroad sets. They are usually sold in one grade per package however, so you will want to buy several different kinds and mix some of it together.
Pour a bit of your white glue into a shallow container, and mix a ratio with 1/3 (or less) water. Using that old beat of paintbrush, stir the water and paint together. You want to thin the glue, but not to a super thin watery consistency. It will be harder to bond the sand to the base if the glue is too diluted. I purchased a large 4L jug of white glue from the local hardware store for a little over $20. While this isn’t he cheapest way to buy glue, if you have a lot of miniatures to base, or plan on doing terrain projects, you may wish to consider investing in a jug like this. I have had it for around 5 years and it’s still half full; even after basing hundreds of miniatures, and basing an entire 4’ x 8’ game table!
Now that the glue is mixed, it’s time to do the bases.
1. Using your beat up old brush, apply some of the glue in the recessed section of the base. You may need to do this in several tries.
2. Shove the glue covered base into the sand, and bury it completely.
3. Wait a bit, and then take the base out, and while tipping it slightly, shake off any excess sand. Leave it to dry over night before you begin to paint.
For the heavier grade sand, the technique is basically the same, with a minor change. Instead of burying the sand I will pinch a bit of it in my fingertips and drop it over the base until it is buried. Make sure to get a good variety of the rocks on the base, but be mindful of where your miniature’s feet will be placed. You don’t want to have giant rocks in a place where they will interfere with the model.
The third technique uses cork board like the stuff found on peg boards. I found this in a dollar store; a 12” square for $1. That will do a good number of bases for you!
1. Snap off a piece of the cork, in a shape that will fit into the recess of your base.
2. Snap off a smaller piece, and pinch the edges with your fingernails, and snap off smaller chunks of the cork. Getting rid of the hard straight edge gives it a more natural look.
3. Glue this second piece down on top of the first and you have a rocky outcropping! Add some sand around the base of the rock to hide the edge and finish the base.
Painting the Bases
1. Now that the base is dry, give the sanded area a coat of a medium cinnamon brown.
2. Take an ivory or bone, and dry brush over the sanded area, picking out the more prominent edges.
3. Taking the base brown again, clean up the edge of the base, and paint around the frame.
1. Taking a dark brown, and a base coat over the sand.
2. Taking your medium brown again, add a drybrush over all of the sand on the base.
3. With a third lighter brown, drybrush on only a few sections of the most prominent chunks to draw attention to them. Take your dark brown base and frame the edge of the base.
2. Using a dark grey, dry brush the entire surface of the rock and sand.
3. Now, with a lighter grey, dry brush the very edges of the rock and highest points of the sand to give some focal points. Take the black, and clean up the frame of the base as you have done on the others.
Allow the paints to thoroughly dry before continuing on to the next step.
ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO FLOCK:
Adding the Scenics Effects
Scenery effects are available at pretty much every hobby shop. In particular, ones that sell model trains will have a greater variety. They come in different types, static grasses, clump foliage, flock, and long grasses. I have collected wide range of flocks and static grasses over the years that are suitable for nearly every type of terrain. Feel free to mix and match, and by all means go and see what is out there! There are some amazing products that will bring your miniatures’ base to life.
For our bases today, I’m using a snow flock, dead yellow static grass, spring green static grass and a green long grass. Static grasses are small pieces of fiber that ideally gain a static charge when shaking and stand upright mimicking real grass blades.
First, we’ll start out with our desert base.
1. To start, shake the tub of grass vigorously. Dump a fair amount of the dead yellow grass into the lid or another suitably sized container.
2. Take some thinned white glue and with that old brush, dab it onto the bases in a few places. Leave some space in between the glued spots to make patches of grass.
3. Flip the base upside-down and press it into the static grass. Lifting it out, tap of the sides of the base to knock any of the extra grass back into the tub.
1. Add a blob of your glue on the base, you don’t need to thin the glue out for this. In fact, thicker is better. Open the pack of long grass and tap the bottom till some of the strands begin coming out. Pull on some to make uneven lengths, then holding the tips with your fingers, cut at the desired length with a pair of scissors.
2. Holding the strands bunched up in your fingers, press the cut off bottoms into the blob of glue on your base. Let is set for a few minutes.
3. Using a knife, pin or sculpting tool, push vertically into the strands and spread them out slightly away from the glued base. This gives the clump of long grass a more natural branching out appearance.
This is a much easier and quicker technique. Basically, take a bit of glue on your brush and spread some glue on the raised areas and edges of the rocky outcropping and base (almost like you are drybrushing it with the glue). Once this is done, press it into the snow flock. If you want the snow to appear brighter and thicker, try using white paint, and before it’s dry, press it into the flock. You can also use gloss varnishes or water effects as the adhesive agent to mimic melting snow and slush.
Have fun experimenting!