In this blog post I’ll be showing my latest units of 1620s Polish Hussars, and covering how I complete the bases for my figures.
|The latest banner of Hussars gallop from the paining table - TAG and Foundry 28mm|
When I share pictures of my completed figures there are often positive comments about the basing and so I thought some people might be interested to see my basing method. Even if you have a well practiced basing approach already, hopefully there will be some tidbit of interesting / useful information in the seven steps described below.
I paint figures separately and, once they are painted and varnished, add them to the final base. Normally this is 2mm MDF from Warbases. I typically use Bostick adhesive, or something similar, as it is relatively cheap and readily available.
|My cavalry are normally on 60mm deep by 50mm wide bases for two figures.|
Once the figures are on the base, and the glue is dry, the next step is to try and disguise the metal or plastic base the figure is cast with. For this I use filler / spackle. I add a few drops pop water to make the stuff easier to apply, but don’t add too much as the filler will lose its ‘shape’ and will not hide the metal/plastic base. I have found a couple of tools that make this easier. One is from a collection of artist’s plastic palette knives, readily available on Amazon/eBay. I also have the GW basing tool to help me get in to smaller gaps around the figures’ feet (but you can easily use an old brush if you want to). These tools have a bit of flex and are great for applying thick or textured stuff like filler.
|I like these handy tubes of filler as they allow you to use just a small amount of material.|
This is a rough and ready stage. The key thing is to go around the metal / plastic based that the figure is on. No need to cover the whole base as that will be done in a later stage. The more bumps and splodges the better as this helps add an uneven surface to the overall base.
|You can see here how I plaster on the filler.|
|A fairly rough end result is fine.|
(If you accidentally get some filler on the figure then a brush with water on can be used to wash it off.) When the bases have had the filler applied then it is best to give them some time to dry before the next step. An hour or so should do (it doesn’t need to be fully cured, just mostly dry).
|PVA and paint mixed with a small amount of water.|
With the filler on, the next step is add more texture, this time over the whole base, with sand. To fix the sand I use a mixture of PVA, acrylic paint and water. You need to add enough paint so that the PVA ‘whiteness’ has taken on almost the complete colour of the paint. Then add a small amount of water, enough to make the PVA+paint easy enough to apply thickly with a brush, but not too much to over dilute the PVA so it will not hold the sand. My preference for paint colour is Humbrol Matt 29, Dark Earth. Nothing else is quite the same, but it is just a personal preference so you can use what you like. (I have found the Dark Earth works well with the sand I use in the next step.) The PVA and paint mixture is then painted over the whole base quite thickly. I tend to use old brushes for this job. I use a small brush first to go around the figures’ feet, and then a bigger brush to fill in the rest.
|Base with PVA and paint mixture thickly applied.|
On top of this PVA and paint mixture, while it is still wet, I apply sand. I bought a 5Kg (roughly 10lbs) bag of builders’ sharp sand 30+ years ago and I suspect I will never need to buy any more! I sieve the sand (using the kitchen sieve - don’t tell the chief!) to separate it in to a fine sand and bigger bits (see picture below).
|The sieved sharp sand; big bits and fine sand.|
On top of the wet PVA + paint mixture I apply one or two small (one pinch) sprinkles of the larger bits of sand. This gives a bit of variety to the overall texture of the base.
|A small sprinkle of the bigger bits from the sharp sand - just need one or two of these per base.|
With one or two patches of the larger bits added, I then cover the rest of the base in the finer sand. I tend to sprinkle this on by hand, fairly thickly, and then turn the base over and gently tap off any excess sand, which is reclaimed for further basing.
|Whole base covered with the finer sand.|
The figures’ cast on bases should now be disguised / hidden, and the whole base should have a nice rough, realistic texture. The sand provides a subtle variety in colour that works as an accent to the earth / mud coloured paint underneath. The base now needs a good amount of time to dry and I typically leave them overnight to make sure everything is really dry and firm.
Although I like the earth + sand colour, it needs a highlight to add contrast, and also to tie all of the colours together. I have found a single, light dry brush with Vallejo 917 Beige works well.
|Old brushes and kitchen towel to wipe off excess before dry brushing.|
Dry brushing sand is very tough work for a brush and they do not last long in this job. As the sand has provided a colour change from the base earth colour I think a single highlight is fine at this stage.
|Dry brushed base.|
|Whole unit with dry brushed, sand covered bases.|
The final step is my favourite of the basing process, and is when the base comes ‘alive’ with the adding of static grass and tufts. I like to see this as the gardening phase! I use two different colour tones of static grass as a base. One mid-tone, with dull mid-greens, and some lighter browns, and the second a dark-tone with dark greens and dark brown, both using 2mm static grass. I buy small bags of static grass, from all sorts of suppliers, and mix them up myself for the mid colour. I find mixes described as ‘Autumn’ work quite well as they have more muted colours. My mid-tone grass evolves slowly over time as new lumps of static grass are mixed in to the mid-tone container. The dark-tone is more straightforward as I use straight Army Painter Steppe Grass which has a nice variety of colours straight out of the box.
My overall approach for the grass and tufts is variety. Before the use of pasture improvers, such as nitrogen post WW2, natural grass land was incredibly diverse. In the UK it is actually very difficult to find examples of what original, native grassland would have looked like. The mono-culture, bright green fields we are used to seeing nowadays are not representative of what a battlefield would have looked like 100+ years ago. I am therefore aiming for a variety of natural colours and textures in the greenery on the base, but without taking too much from the figures themselves.
|The variety of green stuff for basing - static grass and tufts.|
I also tend to vary the tufts I use. I keep finding new suppliers with interesting colours etc. I use 4mm, 6mm and 10mm tufts. Currently I’m using tufts from:
- Warpainter (available on Amazon)
- World War Scenincs (WWS)
- Green Stuff World
To apply the green stuff I use slightly watered down PVA, added to the sandy base with an old brush.
|PVA and handy large plastic tweezers for applying static grass and tufts.|
First I add the mid tone static grass which will be the largest volume of green cover. I have a careful look at the base first, looking for any areas where the sand mixture doesn’t look so good, or perhaps the figure base is more obvious. I make sure these areas are covered in static grass to cover up any imperfections. I apply random patches of the thinned PVA and then add the mid tone static grass. I add the static grass on thickly and press it in to the PVA with tweezers. I make sure I leave around four nice flat areas to accommodate tufts later. After pressing on the static grass I invert the base and tap firmly with the tweezers on the bottom of the base until the excess is off. This also helps the grass stand-up a bit. (Probably not as much as an electrical static grass applicator would, but I find the tapping method easier.)
|Random patches of PVA for the mid-tone static grass.|
With the mid tone static grass applied I then repeat the process to add a few, smaller patches of the darker tone of static grass next to mid-tone.
|Mid-tone and darker-tone static grasses added.|
There should now be a few spots left without static grass and to some of these I add tufts. I will use a variety of three or four types of tuft for a single unit, with one or maybe two of each type per base. Although the tufts come with sticky bases, I add some PVA to the sandy area before pressing on the tufts with tweezers.
|Base with static grass and tufts added.|
I leave some patches of the highlighted sand showing, including the areas of the larger bits of sand, as this adds to the variety and interest on the base.
|Some patches of sand left showing through the greenery.|
I leave the base for an hour or so for the PVA to start holding the green stuff. I then prune any tufts or static grass that are hanging over the base edges with small scissors. This helps prevent problems with getting bases to sit tidily next to one another.
The final job is to tidy the base edges. These have often become messy with the application of filler, PVA and sand. I like a nice dark brown finish for the base edge and a fast way I have found to do this is Posca paint pens (available in some Hobbycraft stores in the UK or try Amazon).
|A messy base edge and the easy answer!|
|Painted base edge.|
The based unit is now ready to take its place in the growing miniature army. I use this approach for 15mm (perhaps using smaller tufts) as well as 28mm. It is not the quickest method, but I like the end result, and I have honed down the steps over the years to make it is as efficient as possible. (The paint in the PVA was a major step forward!)
Well done if you have got this far! You will now be rewarded with some pictures of the latest figures for my Polish army, all based up. First is the unit of Polish ‘Winged’ Hussars. These are 28mm with riders from The Assault Group (TAG) and Wargames Foundry. The horses are all TAG. Flag and lance pennons from Battle Flag.
Here is another commend base for my ‘Foreign Infantry’. These are from 1898 Miniatures’ Tercio range, except the drummer who is from Horcata Miniatures. Flags are from Flags of War.
Until next time!
Andy @ The Friends of General Haig (FoGH)