Tuesday, 20 September 2011

"Base" of fire


This week I thought we'd look at how I do the basing.  It's something that I usually get asked by the new guys and I know its one aspect that a lot of the chaps at Brighton Warlords seems to hate!

I've experimented with various methods since my first army.  Initially I just stuck the figures on the bases and covered in sand, a direct throwback from my transition from 28mm Games Workshop!

As you can see, it lacks...charm but it is relatively simple and could be easily improved by building the sand up around the figures to blend their individual pedestals in.

After the first two platoons, and on the basis of a few examples on the old Battlefront website, I started experimenting with Poly-filler and have pretty much stuck with it ever since.

Now, there's two camps of thought on using poly-filler:
The first camp just covers the base with poly-filler and then sticks the figures in, relying on the poly-filler to hold it in place.  Benefits?  It's quick and easy.  Downsides?  It can leave the poly-filler sitting away from the figure's pedestal (which can be hidden by other basing materials) and can leave the models susceptible to parting ways with the base over the course of a game!

The second camp, the one I fall into, sticks the figures to the base and then applies the poly-filler around the figures.  This is a lot more time consuming, messy and fiddly but, in my opinion, gives a better finish and certainly gives a stronger bond between model and base.

So, how to do this without going mad?  Let's look at the process:

So, all polyfiller's are equal?  In my experience, no.

  • The mix-yourself stuff can be good but, honestly, I'd rather spend an extra quid or so and not spend half the evening trying to nail the ideal consistency!  
  • The cheap "generic" ready-mix was, on both tubes I ever used, way too liquid and a nightmare to work with.
  • My ideal choice is the branded ready-mix.  A tube goes a long way so I don't see an issue with the extra cost and it always seems to be in a nice, fairly dry, mix that is easy to work with.

Interestingly, I don't advise using the ready-mix  for decorating as it dries too hard and is a bitch to sand down. But I disgress...

I use a few tools when working the filler:

  • Old GW sculpting tool - the one with a knife edge on one end and a scoop like end.
  • A metal pick - perfect for poking between the legs - oo-er!
  • A spare base.  Just to place excess polyfiller off the blade edge till its needed.  

First step, stick all the figures to the base, painted or otherwise.  I prefer doing all this before painting but it should work out okay with painted models with a bot of care.  Now, drop a pea sized dollop of poly-filler on the base, somewhere away from the figures.
Atchung!  Filler!
Now, use the sculpting tool to start working the filler towards the figures, adding more filler to cover.
This, of course, would work well for Eastern Front snow bases :)
The trick to working the poly-filler, especially up to the feet and between the legs, is to keep the tip of the sculpting tool wet, so that the poly-filler doesn't stick to the blade.  You don't want an excessive amount of fluid on there as it makes the polyfiller go very smooth, robbing it of its texture.
Sculpting Tool to the nads - definitely not Cricket!
This should eventually leave you with a base like this.  If you want to add the impression of weight to the figures (such as guns sinking into soil or infantry sinking into soft sand) then you can let the filler partially cover the feet, but for the most part you probably want to avoid submerging the figure too much.
"Wet look" is in this season
As the base starts drying, its possible to disturb the poly-filler with the sculpting tool to add some extra texture.  Another way of making the base more interesting is to add sand in patches for "rocky" areas and the like.  This can be sprinkled on when the polyfiller is wet, but I find it better to use PVA glue once the Poly-Filler is dry.
"And over here we'll add the fuher water feature.  Oh Hans, it will be magnificent!"
Once its all done, its just a case of base coating a suitable earth tone and dry brushing up.  Adding stilfor or static grass can also make the base more interesting as well as hide a multitude of sins...
See!  Multitude of Sins successfully hidden.
Finally, something I'm experimenting with is using the dried up Poly-filler that collects in the cap to create rocky outcrops.  Just break a bit off and stick into the wet polyfiller, especially in an area that's gone too smooth through using a wet tool (oo-er, okay enough of that).
Stone Cold Paul Austen has also done something similar.  He cracked the dried Poly-filler out of the container he uses to mix it and got some very large bits to add flavour to the base.  he was kind enough to let me have some of hos photos to show the technique off.  Cheers Paul!
He does try and claim bullet-proof cover all the time though...
Paul's bunker-busting sniper team

See you next week.

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