Thursday, April 28, 2016

Living Battlefields: Add Life To Your Base.

We have all seen a wide assortment of based miniatures over time, ranging from just black primer to intricate dioramas.  These more advanced bases can look challenging to create, but with a little time and care (and some affordable materials) we can give our models interesting landscapes upon which to stand.  With a few easy steps you can take even the most simply painted model and bring it to life.
I always build my base from the ground up up around a fully painted miniature (some will argue to base first,) giving it a layered appearance.  I will discuss each layer briefly, however full tutorials on specific techniques may follow.  This tutorial will focus more on materials and basic techniques to inspire your own creations!

Citadel Astrogrante, Nuln Oil, and Celestra Grey (and a Necron head).

1) Textured Earth (or Mars, etc).

After priming the base, the first thing we want is a textured ground of dirt, rock, ash, etc.  The simplest way to do this is with Citadel Texture paints.  These are basically very thick paints with coarse material already mixed in, and they come in variety of colors and textures.  My favorite is Stirland Mud, which is Brown and gritty, especially if you are going to move on and add grass effects.  If you want a quick and easy grass, however, use Lustrian Undergrowth.  I use Astrogranite for my Space Marines to give the base a burnt wasteland or urban rubble look.  Whichever you use, take two more steps to make it pop!

First apply a liberal coating of your favorite color-appropriate wash, and then dry-brush with a complementary color that is lighter than the texture.  This will really highlight the texture. 
Now, you have a nice shaded and highlighted base with texture.  In other words, ground.  I used to stop here and was happy, but I have found that when you start adding more on top of the ground it makes a world of difference.

There are many other methods to create the ground, the most common being the application of sand, cat litter (unused!) or model railroad ballast to the base.  These all start with coating a primed and painted base in watered down PVA glue, then sliding it into a tub of your material and letting it set.  Knock and blow off the excess.  Ballast even comes in a variety of colors and coarseness.  I would also, after it sets, dab some very thing glue/water mix in top to seal it in. 

2)  Turf or Short Grass

Here we start to add some interest to our base.  Similar to above with the ballast, you are going to want to apply watered down glue to the base. 

TIP:  Don't cover the whole base!  Leave some random exposed earth, or try applying the flock sparingly.

Now, dip the base into a container of flocking.  This step will be using fine particles of colored sawdust or foam usually sold as "Turf" or just "flocking".  Be careful, though, as flocking is a general term for all sorts of ground cover supplies.
So you have dipped the base in, Now remove it after a while and tap it off.  Instant short grass!  But who mows a battlefield!?

Citadel Stirland Mud, Summer Turf, and Burnt Grass static grass.  There are rocks, coming up in step 4!

3) Long Grass

Okay, this is the step that I feel seperates the men from the boys; or those with and without a delicate hand.  Static grass!  This stuff is fine synthetic fibers that will stand up on the base like real grass.  There are electric applicator gizmos that actually ionize the fibers, but I have a simpler method. 

Tipthis comes in different colors and lengths, mix and match for a more natural look.
First, apply superglue where you want the grass to be.  I apply this on top of the turf, either in clump or covering about 80% of it.  You don't want to cover it all because you are going for the look of mixed lengths of flora.

Now, using tweezers, drop big clumps on top of the glue.  Use a lot more than you think you need, it won't all stick.  Do not push down on it or it won't stand up!  Push it around a little from the sides, about a millimeter in several directions.  Now, after about 5 seconds have passed, tap it off into a piece of card or paper to save the excess.  Now gently blow on it from the side, rotating the model, and it will stand up! 

Tip:  Don't blow towards your drop pile or you will have this stuff everywhere.  Don't sneeze or cough on it either, and turn off any fans.

A mixture of ground and coarse clay cat litter, Citadel XV-88, Agrax Earthshade, and Tallarn Sand.

4)  Rocks
I actually do this step before the grass because there is paint involved, but I decided to get the turf mentioned first.  This is pretty easy and there are a lot of options.  I usually just put a small rock or two in a base that is about the size of the model's foot.  In some situations larger rocks may be approoriate, or even huge ones with the model on top!

You can use a lot of stuff here, but here are my favorites:  for gravel or skree, fine or medium ballast or crushed clay cat litter (in clusters or patchs).  For medium sized field rocks small aquarium gravel, coarse clay cat litter, or coarse ballast (individually or small groups).  Larger rocks have a lot of options, from tree bark and cut cork board to actual rocks.

For all of these, you want to color the rock.  I usually do a light grey.  First prime black, then overbrush with a dark grey, leaving the black in the recesses.  Next dry brush with light grey.  Finally you could apply a black ink wash and another dry brush to really accent some texture.  Or, go for some brown for that desert look, like the guys above (mix of crushed and coarse clay cat litter.)

Brown medium ballast, summer turf, burnt grass static grass, golden wheat field grass, and light green clump foliage.

5)  Advanced Flora

If you have done the four steps above, you should have a fine looking grassy field under your mini, maybe even a little rocky one.  Or maybe we did a textured alien landscape.  Either way, you can bring it up a notch with some plants.  There is a lot out there to pick from. 

Longer grass stalks are a pain to make but look great using Field Grass from Woodland Scenics.  This is very fine colored fibers.  What I do is put a small dab of PVA glue on was paper, dip in a clump of the fibers, then cut to length.  Let the glue get thick but not dry, then stick onto the base with a dot of superglue.  Move it around a little to get it to spread out with a hobby knife, and after it is set use some scissors to give it a little trim and make the top uneven (i pull fibers away from the stalk with a knife and then cut.)  

Tip:  You can also get pre-made grass clumps, but they can tend to be a bit expensive for a very limited number of pieces.  With the field grass, you can make quite a bit!

Fighting in Normandy?  Try some clump foliage made for model railroads.  Tear off little pieces and apply to the base for a thick moss.  Use larger pieces or stack them up for bushes and hedges. 

Are we still wondering what to do with that alien landscape?  Get some aquarium plants and trim off some small shoots or fronds and glue them into the base (these may require a stem and some drilling to get them to stick, perhaps with a bit of got glue under the base).

Citadel Stirland Mud, summer turf, burnt grass static grass, and the rocks are a mix of cat litter pieces and aquarium gravel.

After Action Report

There we have it.  The sky really is the limit, and the only bounds are your imagination and dedication.  Mix it up some and use materials of different lengths, shapes, and colors.  This will all give your model a more natural look.  Need inspiration?  Go outside and find some un-mowed grass or underbrush and just see how many different plants you find.  Look at the different shapes and colors.  How are they spread out or clumped together?

Then, I would say take a trip to a store that has model railroad supplies and see what strikes your fancy, and don't forget to pick up some glue!  

Happy hobbying and happy wargaming everybody!

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