Sunday, August 12, 2018

ED M'S BASIC BASING: HOW TO

It seems to me that in our hobby, varied as it is, basing figures might be the single most universal component, even more so than painting--not all paint their own figures, after all, but all figures must be based. I guess it should come as no surprise, then, that there have been questions about the basing on display in the various and sundry blog reports here.  So, in this post, dear readers, I hope to satisfy the curious and at least engage the incurious, who may still share in this common experience.
WHAT IS THE "STYLE?"
I suppose I should comment on my overall approach, my style. I must admit that I hadn't given it much thought until I received comments on this blog characterizing my basing as "old school" and/or "minimal" (in a positive way, I am gratified to say).  Although I haven't articulated even to myself what my style is, I would agree that it is an "old school" style in that it derives from my beginnings in the hobby, where basing was certainly minimalist--a coat of green paint or maybe some green flock for special units.  Although I certainly admire the artistry of basing effects and styles I see on display elsewhere, my style (or non-style) conceives the base as "framing" for the figures rather than as an object of display in itself.  This minimalist approach comes to the fore, I think, when you have many bases on the table, rendering an overall effect rather than multiple individual effects (if that makes sense).  There is also a tactile and utilitarian component to this basing system: the bases are self-consciously bases, if that makes sense.  I don't try to camoflage function, in other words. Instead, function adds a level of form and appearance. For instance, they have enough heft in feel and look to invite the gamer to handle them as opposed to grasping the figures.  The set-aside space on the back is a distinct palette to display game information. Without further ado, then, here is my process explained.  (In the below, you may clix pix for BIG PIX, as usual).

THE STUFF
Upper Left: My bases are 1/4" (6mm) thick. I am fortunate that I have a friend who has a laser and can provide custom cut bases in this thickness. However, before I had this resource I simply ordered twice the number of standard 1/8" (3mm) thickness wooden bases that I needed for the figures and then glued two of them together to get 1/4" thickness bases. I also affix a self stick magnetic sheet to the bottoms: this helps with storage and adds to the "game piece" feel. Upper Right: I use readily available Woodland Scenics flocking materials for most of my effects. Specifically, the base effect in all of my stands is a combination of Blended Turf, Green Blend (T1349) with a Blended Turf, Earth Blend (T1350) highlight. For command figures, I add a few other effects.  This would begin with the addition of a touch of Yellow Grass (T1343) and might go no further (there are a few examples of simple and more elaborate command bases at the end of this post). 
Upper Left: I put a metal strip on the back of my bases to facilitate labels and markers. For these, I use metal wargame bases (these and my markers will be the subject of another post, dear readers). I spray paint the metal strips using Super Maxx Satin Hunter Green (8979). This household spray paint covers in one step, with no need to prime. As a matter of fact, it doesn't work well with primed metal (I found that out in early usage).  Upper Right: I use brown as a base under the flock and then black for the edges.
As far as other materials,  I use white glue to adhere both the figures and the metal strips to the wood stands.  I use wood filler to eliminate the "step" between the figures and the base, plus to fill out the look of the stand, as needed.  For my "secret ingredient" I use Woodland Scenics Scenic Cement (S191), which is a pre-mixed formulation of white glue and water: no mess, no fuss. 

 STEP 1
Paint a black “U” around the edge of the wood stand to frame the metal strip. Then glue the metal strip to the base.  I find that it’s best that the metal strip be a bit less wide than the base, and also to inset it just a tad from the long edge. This gives it a nice look and also keeps it from being pried-off accidentally. By black framing the area in advance, you don't have to worry about going back and coloring in any bare edging around the metal.  

STEP 2 
Apply the wood filler (or a similar putty) to the bases of the figures. How much you use is a matter of taste. I generally don't fill the entire base, but am instead looking for an effect that makes the figures blend in with the base.  Sometimes that means covering more of the base than others, creating more of  "mound" effect.I generally do like to have the filler be flush with the edge of the metal strip on the back.
Clean up by using a dry towel to wipe the excess off of the metal strip. I have found that a dry towel gives a cleaner line than a wet one, which causes the filler to run onto the metal.
Use a putty knife to smooth down the filler at the edge of the metal strip. This is a rough step, so don't be too concerned about getting it perfect. The next step will take care of that.
Wet the putty knife...
...and go back and finish by applying the wet knife to the wood filler, which will smooth it out. This basing scheme is not about undulations and variations.
The effect when dry.

STEP 3
This step is no doubt familiar to all:  applying the base flock (Green Blended Turf).
Paint over the top of the base with a generous coat of brown, to include the edges around the metal strip. Make sure to clean off any paint on the edges. Drag the base through the flock.

Check for a nice, clean edge before setting aside to dry.


STEP 4
After the paint under the green flock is dry, add Earth Blend highlights.
Using an eyedropper, add Scenic Cement to the base until all the flock is soaked.
Sprinkle Earth Blend to highlight. One trick to keep from having shadows under the figures where no highlight falls is to tip the stand to spread the highlight evenly under them.  
The scenic cement will bond the two applications into a single layer. Once dry, the bonded flock will form a durable crust and also will not shed. The scenic cement causes the green to darken. So the difference between the Earth Blend highlight and the underlying Green will seem less pronounced when just applied (above left) than when dry (above right). So it takes a bit of experimentation to get to know how much to apply to get your imagined outcome.  Of course, there are other combinations of turfs that could be used as well.

STEP 5   (FINIS)
Finish by painting the edges black. One trick I've come up with to manage this potentially messy step is to put my stands on small boxes (Perry figures boxes are ideal). This gives full access to the edges without blacking my digits in the bargain.

GENERAL POINTS
One point of special attention is to make sure that the figures are standing on top of the ground as opposed to sinking into it. This takes care when applying the wood filler and also during flocking. I will usually brush off excess flock around the footgear before applying the Scenic Cement to keep it from creeping up the leg and over the footgear.  After painting the base edges black, I'll do a final touch up by applying dabs of black to bring out the shoes and/or blacken any flock that may be over the shoe if necessary. 

 Two illustrations showing highlight effects in the base scheme. In the Napoleonic unit in the right picture, you can see the effect of letting the brown underpaint come through where the flock is thin or there are small gaps.  
Two command stands with the minimalist addition of Woodland Scenics Yellow Grass Fine Turf (T1343), and Noch Medium Brown Flocking (06520), the latter of which I find to be a very good combination with this palette.
A command stand with a bit more elaborate treatment.  As before, the stand has the addition of the Woodland Scenics Yellow Grass and Noch Medium Brown Flock, with the extra use of Woodland Scenics Fine Brown Ballast and Clump foilage.  The semi-circular tab on the back is made from peel and stick flexible steel sheet.

This concludes my treatise on basing. I hope it's been of interest.

Excelsior!

16 comments:

  1. A great tutorial AND lovely figures! The minimalist approach has much to recommend it. Some painters-wargamers make their bases too busy with stuff, which detracts from the beauty of the model soldiers themselves. I've certainly overdone it with basing materials from time to time.

    Best Regards,

    Stokes

    Best Regards,

    Stokes

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    1. Thanks, Stokes. Inclination and preference combine, I think. My attempts at more involved basing have not gone well--I suspect the fact that it was "going against the grain" of my deep down preference had something to do with it not going well.

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  2. The finished figures are not only attractive but neat, tidy, soldier-like and the labelling is very useful. Great tutorial!

    Of course, "neat & tidy" and "me" have been rather like vinegar and milk since birth! So like myself, my guys often wander through fields that need mowing.

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    1. Wandering through unmowed fields reminds me of my attempts at using static grass (shudder). There is something to be said for sticking with what one knows :)

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  3. I’m looking forward to reading more about the labels. As for basing: I found this to be a nice read and your ‘style ‘ is close to my own, especially for 15/18mm armies.
    I was surprised to read that the bases are 6mm high. As that seems quite thick. Mine are on 3mm of course and people are always grabbing by the figure and not the base (including me) so maybe you’re on to something.
    You’re bases look good and thanks for the tutorial; I liked it. đŸ˜€

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    1. Glad you liked it, Stew. I started doing the thick bases after joining my current gaming group (some years ago, now). It was something of a standard for basing for several game systems. Prior to that, I did 3mm thick basing, basically. The 6mm isn't as clunky as it sounds in practice (and I think if you look at my battle reports, you'll see how the basing looks in action).

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  4. First rate tutorial on your basing process, Ed! I picked up a few tips.

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    1. Thanks, Jonathan. On my "to do" list is to add a content page with pdf versions of this and other "how to" posts that I've done.

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  5. Nice stuff Ed. Funny that there's so many different ways to do this.

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    1. I agree. I'm sure that I have been influenced by what I've seen others do as well.

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  6. An excellent tutorial Ed...
    There is a lot more to ‘the simple ‘ approach than one would initially think.
    I have always believed that you should put as much love and care into your basing as you would into your miniatures...regardless of what finish you are aiming at.

    All the best. Aly

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    1. Good points, Aly. Putting together the tutorial caused me to recognize what was involved with producing a "simple" product. I think it's a good lesson that applies to many forms of investment we have in the hobby.

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  7. Nice,clear basing tutorial although your simple is rather more than just green paint and very precise!
    Best Iain

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    1. Thanks, Iain. Describing a process reveals how much goes into it (which can be surprising). There's an old exercise where you have students write how to make a peanut butter sandwich. And then you bring in bread and peanut butter and have them try to make the sandwiches based on what they actually wrote (with hilarious results).

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