Thursday, 3 February 2011

Basing basics

A few people have asked how I do my basing, so here's a pictorial demonstration.

It's the same way that I've approach it, on a number of armies of different periods (the exception being Biblicals) for at least the last 25 years. It's a process I've just got accustomed to using and there are really no 'dark arts' that are going to be exposed in showing this step-thru. So, if you're happy with your own approach, you may want to stop reading right now! What I'm sure about is that are probably quicker and better methods out there, but this one works for me and as I need all my figures to blend with my terrain and 'hang together' as a coherent group, it'll be the technique I carry on with for now.

So first up the figures are attached to the base. This is always with Superglue gel. For this basing I've used plasticard, which I've cut to required size, as in this case. Recently I've switched to thin mdf pre-cuts. The main thing is that the material is warp-free and I've not experienced any issues with my basing method. The plasticard is scored lightly, with an nail file, to give the glue something to grip to. The figure bases are then blended and landscaped. Here I've used pre-mixed tile grout with about 10% PVA woodglue added for adhesion. I've also used Polyfilla mix or similiar. Where I know that painting the base will be difficult to access, for instance on more crowded base, I have added the paint that I use to shade the base to pre-colour the grout mix, as this helps at a later stage.

When dry, I add a mix of stones and gravel in the areas that'll not be grassed over. Firstly a few larger stones are glued with mix of 4 parts PVA and 1 part water, then a sprinkling of smaller ones and finally sand. This is Games Workshop sand, but from a tub I purchased a year or so ago. I purchased a new one only last week and they've changed supplier and the new mix is too much fine in my opinion; it sinks into the glue and loses definition, which means highlighting it later is ineffective. So I've got some Hornby model railway fine gravel to try out instead.

Again, when fully dried and fixed, it's all painted in a base colour. This is GW 'Graveyard Earth', which I've recently switched to, only on the basis that I can get it locally. For years I'd used Humbrol 'Dark Earth' in either enamel or acrylic - the former being a little more hard wearing. Both are a very similiar colour, which when the base is finished you'd be hard pushed to tell apart.

Now a fun stage - drybrushing the base - when it seems to 'come alive' a bit more. I build up three layers of highlights, using Pelikan Plaka 'Yellow Brown' and any acrylic white; initially in a 80:20 ratio, then a 50:50 one and finally, just trying to pick out the larger and more prominent stones in a 20:80 mix. The base is now ready for adding vegetation.

Static grass is glued where needed with a 50:50 mix of PVA and water. When dry I then drybrush it, to lighten the colour. I use Plaka 'Yellow Ochre', which is a tip I got from Kev Dallimore is one of his first published painting articles and which seems odd at the time, as it's quite a bright tone to add to the grass, but for me it works and gives a summer-tone to the bases (if it is a wintery feel you need, I'd probaly skip this step and leave the grass as is).

Final step, to add some foliage. These days the easiest and most effective are pre-made Silfor tufts (here the 6mm high ones) which come in differing shades - and the flowering plants are recommended too. I superglue these on. Gone are the previous solutions of sisal string coloured with green fabric dyes or cutting and glueing bunches of Woodland Scenic rushes. I also add small cut down pieces from a K&M tree for variety.

I'll post pictures of the finished base soon, as I have boxes and other artillery-related items to add on, as well as a small artillery command base to compliment it.


  1. Pretty much as I usually do Simon but with different tones used to highlight.

    Still, an excellent step-by-step- very informative and perhaps more importantly with good quality pics too.


  2. Thanks for the excellent tutorial!



  3. Good tutorial, I often find that basing gets a bit overlooked in a lot of the commercial tutorials available. I have certainly learned a lot more from articles such as this and as you say there are no dark secrets, it's just more a matter of knowing what materials to use and where you can get yor hands on them; Silflor tufts were probably my best 'find' of 2010, they really are great!

    In this instance will the artillery piece be loose to allow variation or will it be glued into place when ready?


  4. Lovely tutorial, thank you.


  5. Great little tutorial - a good method to follow that achieves outstanding results!