Thursday, 24 October 2013

Basing with the Bat - Part II

This is the second part (of three) of my article that was originally published in Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy Issue 64, regarding my approach to basing miniatures.   The first part is here.  All pictures are clickable.

Preparation

Before basing, it is really beneficial to paint the bases of the figures to match the eventual colour of the base; this is much quicker and easier than trying to paint around the feet of the figure in the middle of a clump of miniatures mounted on the base.  At this point, put the magnetic bases on your metal baking tray. The magnetic sheet holds the base flat and will prevent it from warping, as the various layers of basing gunk, paint and glue and are applied. 

Before reaching for the glue, do please take all the time you need to arrange the miniatures on the bases in an aesthetically pleasing manner. Ideally, the layout of the miniatures should tell a story, especially in the case of command stands. Think carefully before positioning items so that they protrude over the edge of the base, such as spears; if these stick out too far, it can be very difficult to rank up the bases, and they will take up more storage space.


I strongly recommend fixing miniatures to their bases with wood glue, rather than superglue, as this makes it relatively easy to re-base at a later date. Wood glue also dries relatively slowly and gives me plenty of time to move the miniatures around to find the most attractive arrangement. However, it is best to leave wood glue to dry for 4 hours or so before going on to the next stage, so if you are in a hurry, it’s not for you!

It’s gunking time!

With the miniatures firmly fixed onto the bases, mix up a batch of basing gunk on a disposable surface (plastic lids from cream or yoghurt pots are handy for this). The gunk mixture will consist of approximately 2 parts dry basing gunk, to one part wood glue, and one part water (or more if needed).  Only make up as much as you need, you can always add a bit more, later, if you run out.  Stir it thoroughly with the palette knife, until it is wet, but not so wet that it will slip off the palette knife, and then start to apply to the base. 


I find it easiest to start in the middle of the base and work outwards, towards the edges.  Build the compound up to the level of the top of the bases on the miniatures. Use the small palette knife to get into tight corners.


At this stage, remember it is essential to let the bases dry, slowly, on a magnetic surface.  For this, I use an old steel baking tray. Make sure that the surface and the underside of the base are smooth and clean, because if the contact isn’t good, it will very likely warp. If desperate, you can speed the drying process by putting it on a radiator or under a lamp, but this can make the compound crack.

Painting the bases

It is very desirable to have a standard colour scheme for all your units across different armies, especially when contingents work in different forces (such as my Greek psiloi, who serve across a number of different armies). To maintain consistency across my collection, I only ever use Games Workshop Steel Legion Drab, Windsor and Newton Buff Titanium and a little peaty brown ink, such as Agrax Earthshade, for shading. Your chosen colours will likely be different ones, but do make a note of what paint range you are using, and keep it consistent!


I roughly dry-brush the Steel Legion Drab base coat over the brown of the base, and then add a highlight with the same paint diluted with 50% Buff Titanium, and finally apply a top highlight consisting of around 25% Drab and 75% Titanium.

After this I seal the base with a wash of Testors Dullcote, into which I mix a tiny bit of brown oil paint.  Sometimes I use a matt acrylic medium, with a very small amount of brown ink mixed in (believe me, less is more, with the ink!)This coat helps to tie the colours of the base together, give it depth, protect against damage, and above all make it matt.  Glossy bases don’t look great!

Once the varnish is dry, the next stage is to apply the Silflor tufts. These come ready made and one can quickly stick them into place I use tweezers to pull them from the plastic sheet and to fit them into place with a small dab of wood glue. I personally find that foliage looks best when I use a variety of different shades and types of tuft, including the weeds and flowers. It is well worth spending some time on this stage; I like to have at least 8 different types of “vegetation” on each base, and have been known to spend a whole evening doing the tufting for a couple of units. I sometimes also apply static grass to the bases, again using wood glue and my trusty Noch puffer bottle. This is also a good time to add twigs, small trees or battlefield debris to the bases.



A worthwhile final stage is to lightly dry-brush the tufts, first with Yellow Ochre and then (optionally) with a thin topcoat of Buff Titanium. This latter gives the bases a dusty appearance that particularly suits an army fighting in a drier climate, and all my Romans and Greeks get this treatment.  


For southern Mediterranean bases, I use more Buff Titanium, drier-looking tufts and leave more of the base exposed.

Since I wrote this, I've introduced one final step; I now paint matt varnish over the tufts and static grass, and any shiny patches of glue on the base.  This is a surprisingly worthwhile additional step; it makes the grass look much more realistic!  Part III, advanced basing, follows tomorrow.
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