Monday, 17 June 2013

Basing basics. And some advanced things.

OK, as my first real contribution I will be going through some basic and advanced basing techniques with supporting pictures where I am able. I will go through this step by step, by the end you should be able to produce a cohesive look to your models with a few more advanced techniques for centerpiece models. I will assume that the reader has no prior knowledge of basing.

Man'o War Demolition Corps on snowy 'tundra' bases




Essential things you will need:
  • Sand- I use medium / fine sand from my local model store, its about £3 for a massive bag and lasts for ages. You can use sand from the beach or construction sand but make sure you bake it first to remove any organic material.
  • Ballast- different from sand, I use Gale Force 9 'basing grit', this adds some larger rocks to the base and breaks up the surface a little.
  • Glue- I use wood glue, its a bit stronger than standard PVA and is a bit thicker, which is perfect for what we need. You may also need super glue for some things.
  • Paints- Entirely up to you, I typically use browns or greys but my Eldar are based on a red Mars-style desert.
  • Brushes- the higher quality the better, I recommend using Army Painter's series of brushes, better than GWs brushes and won't break the bank like a W&N, you will need a medium sized brush and a drybrush at minimum.
Optional things you can use
  • Bits- The spares you get from models can add great character to bases, Space Marine helmets, spare pistols, even twisted bits of sprue have their uses.
  • Rocks- Small rocks from your garden work well on larger bases to add a bit of variety, make sure you get really small ones though. A small rock often looks very big next to a 28mm scale mini!
  • Wire- Useful for all sorts of things, picture wire is best as it is easy to manipulate and will hold its shape relatively well.
  • Foamcore board- I use this for building small structures on larger bases, you can use thick cardboard but it doesn't work as well. If you're wondering, foamcore is a layer of foam between two layers of card, it's light and strong.
  • Knives- I use a scalpel and a box-cutter, mainly used for manipulating the above, make sure the blade is sharp and that you cut away from your body!
  • Polyfilla- this fulfils a variety of uses, I will go into more detail on this when I talk about my Tau Riptide base.
  • Milliput- I use the yellow-grey variant of this, its a binary putty that is easy to mould and shape and is used to build up smaller bases, fill holes and can also be used to create a stamp mould, but I won't go into that here, it's complicated and deserves its own article.
  • Flock- comes in different grades and colours, you'll want a mixture like Woodland Scenics 'spring mix' I made the mistake of using one colour for my Flames of War infantry and it looks like they're fighting on a golf course!
  • Modelling snow- this stuff is a fine white powder that is supposed to simulate snow
  • Static grass- not the same as flock, this is longer and will stand up by itself- makes patches of longer grass, used subtley will make a base really pop.
  • Water compound- This stuff is a resinous compound that sets with a high gloss finish and looks like still water
A basic base
The simplest way you can base a miniature is to simply use sand, follow this sequence and you'll have a tabletop quality base very quickly:
  • Before you prime your model, glue your model to its base using polymer cement for plastic models and superglue for resin and metal. Make sure your glue is dry before proceeding, if your model has a slottabase and there is a gap left over, simply cover it with masking tape or glue some toilet paper over it.
  • Paint a layer of wood glue over the base, being careful to avoid the models feet and base edges.
  • Immerse the base in a small container full of sand, making sure the base surface is completely coated, at this stage you can wipe off any overspill on the sides of the base and the models feet, make sure its dry before proceeding.
 A mix of sand and ballast are glued to the base
  • OK, now you want to prime your model using your prefered method, typically this will be a spray primer, you'll want to batch prime things to get the most use out of your can.
  • Paint your model. This is completely optional, you can do the base first, but I do the model first.
  • Paint the base colour onto the base, for this example I used Vallejo 'Earth' and allow to dry. Batch paint these to save time.
The base is given a few thinned down coats of Vallejo 'Earth'
  • Drybrush with a slightly lighter colour, to do this load your drybrush and wipe almost all the paint off it and draw the brush over the surface of the sand, the texture should pick up the paint. For this example I used Games Workshop's Bronzed Flesh. Allow to dry. Repeat this step with progressively lighter colours, in this example I used GW's Elf Flesh and Screaming Skull.
 Progressively lighter colours are drybrushed over the ballast
  • Tidy up the edge of the base using the base colour used in step 6. You can also paint the edge black as I have done with my Eldar for a different look. This one is up to you.
  • While the base will work like this, at this stage you can add some small patches of woodglue and add some flock and / or static grass to give it some variety. 
  Snow paste and static grass can be added for more variety
A more advanced base
Once you have some experience with the above you can start to experiment with some more advanced techniques and spend a little more time getting things to look right, in this example we will explore using modelling snow and add some barbed wire coils, things like this really add a sense of narrative to a model:
  1. Using milliput form some small undulations in the bases surface, this works better on a larger base, you can skip this stage for smaller bases. Milliput is soluable in water so use your finger dipped in water to smooth over the surface, keep lining up your model with the base to make sure it sits naturally.
  2. Take some picture wire and wrap it around a paintbrush to form a tight coil and cut it to the length you need, press this into the milliput so about 3/4 is visible.
  3. Line up your model and drill a pin into the model's foot using a pin vice, I recommend using 0.7mm brass rod and glue it into place and lightly press it into the surface of the base and drill a coresponding hole. glue your model to the base using superglue.
  4. Paint a layer of wood glue over the base, being careful to avoid the models feet and base edges.
  5. Sprinkle one or two pieces of ballast onto the base and reposition them using the tip of a file to space them out.
  6. Immerse the base in a small container full of sand, making sure the base surface is completely coated, at this stage you can wipe off any overspill on the sides of the base and the models feet, make sure its dry before proceeding.
  7. Prime your model.
  8. Paint the base colour onto the base, for this example I used Vallejo 'Earth' and allow to dry. Batch paint these to save time.
  9. As before, drybrush with a slightly lighter colours, for this example I used Games Workshop's Bronzed Flesh, Elf Flesh and Screaming Skull. You'll also want to drybrush the wire coil with a metallic colour like GWs Boltgun Metal. Make sure this is 100% dry before proceeding.
  10. Now you want to create a 'snow-paste', to do this you want to mix some modelling snow, wood glue and a drop of white paint. Its impossible to give you an exact ratio for this, you'll need to experiment. The consistency to aim for is one that you can pile up against base features, but not so stiff you can't work with it. Using an old brush you want to pile this on in patches where snow would naturally lie. Once this is done, dust the base with modelling snow, this will coat the top of the mix and look like freshly fallen snow.
  11. You can also add some brown flock or static grass in isolated spots once the previous step is dry.
  12. Tidy up the edge of the base using the base colour or the colour of your choosing.
A Space Marine, bits of sprue, a rock and a bolter make for a
thematic urban base for this Ork Killa Kan

So there you have it, a comprehensive guide to different styles of basing, this is by no means definitive, experiment! I will finish by saying that narrative is important when finishing off a base as it gives motion and 'story' to a model that a 'basic base' can't. There are few things more depressing than a well painted model sat on a half-arsed base.

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