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August 18, 2010

Hobby: Improving Our Bases

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Psyberwolfe here to talk about all your base and how to whip them into shape.

So you’ve spent the last month working on your army’s centerpiece or on that painting contest entry and you're ready to work on the base. Then for whatever reason you spend maybe an hour or two on it and call it done. If you have gone to all that effort to turn out a masterpiece figure then why are you spending so little time on completing the job and making the base match the figure?

Oftentimes I spend so much time on the figure that by the time I get to the base I want to be done and so I speed through the basing process. When you’re painting armies, time spent on bases is time not spent on painting the army, so we’ve developed many schemes to make basing an army a quick job. These tricks help give the army a cohesive look in a simple and quick way but are not always appropriate for high quality presentations.

Bases should be thought of in the same terms as the figures which we paint. They are the frame for the story that each figure is telling. The ground is affected by light and shadows in the same way the figure is. Figures should look like they belong on the base, and that the base and the mini are one presentation. Lets look at the the basics of basing. (I'll get around to scenic/dioramic bases in a future article.)

Sand/ Basing Grit

My favorite basing sand is playground sand bought from the hardware store. It has a nice mix of fine to large particles and it comes in large 50 pound sacks. The drawback is the large 50 pound sack, but if you bought a sack you will never run out of basing material again. Ballast from Woodland Scenics works well but it will need to be blended because it is sold by particle size. Ballast comes in many natural colors so if you blend the colors together you can get a very convincing gravel mix.

Flock

I have recently seen a lot of improper use of flock. It starts by with a price conscious gamer finding out about Woodland Scenics and the value of their large shakers of flock and static grass. Many of these large shakers come in a single color, and I have seen just a single color laid down on a base which makes the base look very 2 dimensional. Woodland Scenics makes these single color batches so you can make your own custom blends, or you can use it to lighten and darken their standard blends.

The next item with flock that I have noticed is on display bases where the base has multiple colors of grassy areas against each other. Unless your armies are battling it out on a golf course, you should blend the two shades of flock you are using and blend the transitions zones to make the transitions look more natural. I note that within a given area of wild grasses there will be quick and unblended changes, but on figures it can look a bit jarring.

Static Grass

Dave Taylor's Coldstream Guards. Click the image to get the full size effect
Static grass has been all the rage for the last ten years yet if used improperly can make your figure look like they are standing in a pile of hair. First static grass stands up better if you have it on top of flock. The flock will give it slots to stand up in and will give it the look of some depth. I get this by applying undiluted white glue on the base dipping it in my flock, and then immediately applying static grass on top and then blowing across the static grass in multiple directions. The grass looks thick and full this way. Something I have recently discovered is dry brushing a light color of green or yellow at the tips of the static grass really makes it look nice.

I recently learned about a product from a company called Siflor. It is premade buffalo grass that has a self adhesive on it. You peel them from the sheet they come on like a sticker and stick it on to your base. The results are amazing. (For those of you who attended WAR Games Con and saw Dave Taylor’s Cold Stream Guards you will recognize this product.) I think this is going to be the next big product in army basing as more people become aware of it.

Spending a little extra time on your bases will really help those centerpiece models and competition pieces jump right off of the table. As I have spent a little extra time on my bases I found that extra time has really made a difference.

The floor is yours. Let us know your basing tips that get rave reviews.
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