Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Zen and the Art of Figure Basing


Forty year old Gilder 'specials' recently re-based.

I have been inundated with requests for advice on how to do 'Gilderesque' basing (well..OK, only two, but that's major traffic by the standards of this blog), so, gentlemen - stand by your palette knives.  Disclaimer first - a lot of people do this better than me, and you won't find any original ideas herein.

Ingredients
  • Sand (you don't want any grit or stones, i sieve mine through a tea strainer).
  • PVA (the good stuff like UniBond, don't waste your time with watery kids glue or Wilcos own brand).
  • Filler (either powder or ready mixed).
  • Paint (doh!).
  • Grit, small stones, cork chips, etc.
  • A coir broom head (or a model railway long grass type product if you're feeling flash).
An all earth base seems to work for these engineers.

The Process

  1. Plant any long grass first. Ahead of time i chop clumps of bristles off the broom head and dunk one end in PVA, left for half an hour you then have a clump of grass ready to stick to your base. The wife finds it hilarious when i stick my fingers together, so i try to oblige by attaching the long grass clumps to the base with superglue.
  2. Apply any patches of bare earth next. If using powder filler i'd recommend mixing your filler with brown paint and PVA, rather than water (less likely to chip, and if it does you won't get an nasty white spot glaring at you). These days i use Wilcos ready mixed 'knot a problem' brown wood filler which comes in a pleasing mid brown, and is dirt cheap. Apply the filler in a thin layer with a palette knife, sculpting tool, or similar, and leave plenty of texture - don't flatten it out.
  3. Next place a few small stones into the filler before it dries; a wash of PVA is also a good idea to make sure they're not going to shift later. For some reason these stones look better on the earth areas than on the grass, but don't take my word for it....
  4. Leave to set. I base coat the earth areas next, although you could leave this til later.
  5. Apply a sand and PVA mix to the rest of the base - this is your (not long) grass. You want a fairly dry mix that resembles damp sand. Apply with your trusty blade and fluff it up a bit if it seems too flat. You may be able to save painting time later by adding a fairly bright grass green to the sand and glue mix.
  6. Paint. Choice of colours is always a personal preference, although i'd always recommend erring on the side of lighter and brighter. For what it's worth my recipe is Humbrol Grass Green (matt 80) dry brushed with Pale Yellow (matt 81) for the sand/grass; a chocolate brown emulsion, drybrushed with Humbrol Sand (matt 63) with a further highlight of sand and white for the earth areas; and then sand, drybrushed with a sand/white mix for any stones. 

Dan Morgan is unimpressed - 'If it's Cowpens then my base should look frosty'.

It can be hard to define exactly what 'looks right', but odd numbers of stones, clumps of grass, etc. always seem to look better than even (does nature do even numbers?), shorter (knee high?) 'long' grass seems to look better than 'long' long grass, and i wouldn't put areas of bare earth on every base you do....but then you may also want to try a few 'all earth' bases too.

So there we have it, i've managed to make a very simple process seem far too complicated....

And if in any doubt have a look at examples by someone who really knows what they are doing, such as John Ray , Doug Mason or Phil Robinson.

I like consistency - so trees, buildings, etc. all get the same basing as the figures.

6 comments:

Conrad Kinch said...

A very thorough tutorial. Thank you very much.

Arriving at what "looks right" is more a process of alchemy than anything else.

The Hobbyist said...

Very many thanks. I have some Hinchliffe ECW figures that I would like to tackle the "shiny way".

Carlo said...

Excellent tutorial Doug.

cheers

Carlo

Phil said...

Fantastic tuto, thanks!

Michael "Reggie" Davis said...

Great write-up and very useful. Thank you.

When did gamers move away from figures on single bases painted plain grass green to this type of scenic base with multiple figures? Was this a Peter Gilder innovation?

David Jarvis said...

Doug, excellent tutorial. I shall 'bookmark' this for future reference!

Dave