Lets Make Bases

My favorite basing technique over the last year or so has been to sculpt a surface directly onto a base prior to attaching the model.  This is similar to other basing techniques that I have written about, but rather than gluing a tall bit of material onto the base, I add details to a thin layer of greenstuff or other 2-part putty.  This technique is a bit (only a bit) more time consuming than gluing on layers of rock, cork, or super-sculpy, but allows for much greater control in the design of the base.  This is also a great way to get a handle on the properties of greenstuff if you are just starting out as a sculptor.

One of the excellent things about putting the time in to really craft your miniature’s bases is that it gives you another way to tell their story to the viewers.  The Eldar that I have been working on are scouring a rusted wasteland of a planet in a region littered by centuries of wreckage and scrap.  Having a distinct idea about the environment that your minis are in can add a lot to the miniature itself.

Here are some of the tools and materials needed for this project. Note that the primary sculpting tool will be a dulled and polished hobby knife blade. This thing is not sharp at all. Its great for creating deep divots or lines in putty.
When I do these bases I like to mix greenstuff, but add some super sculpy to the putty as I mix it. This changes it’s sculpting properties slightly. I only add about 10-20% to the full volume of the putty. So long as the sculpy is less than either the blue or yellow component of the putty, it should set just fine. The resulting mixed putty is slightly softer and stickier. Great for adding the rough type of detail we will need later.
Smooth the putty out across the base. Don’t worry too much about overlap. That will get cut off later. Start breaking up the surface of the putty with some bold lines. The position of these lines will only be determined by experience. Play around with it, find what you like the best. Keep in mind you can always press out the lines and start again if they don’t look the way you like.
Join the lines here and there to create a broken surface, not unlike a dry creek-bed. You could stop here and add some fine sand to get an interesting looking base. With these I kept going…
Using the handle of a clay shaper or paint brush (or whatever you have laying around) press in some indents to break up the smooth surface of the putty. I would alternate the angle that I was using to make a natural and random pattern.
Using the tip of the same handle I created pits in the surface of the putty. This finalized the dry rocky ground look I was going for.
One of the things I like about this form of basing is that you can integrate as much detail as you like. In this case I am trying to capture the feeling of a wreckage strewn wasteland. Here I pressed a bit of a model into the putty to give the impression of some steel emerging from the dusty ground.
Once the putty has fully set, carefully do any edge trimming with a sharp hobby knife blade. This step is optional and I didn’t do it on every base, depending on how much putty was spread around.
Here is an example of a base that has been painted and slightly weathered. The next steps are to paint the base edges and to add weathering powder once the mini is attached. When attaching the mini I do a shallow pin past the plastic of the base. This gives just enough strength to keep the two parts together. I don’t trust the paint to be a good surface to attach the mini to alone.
Here is a finished base with the mini attached.
Here are all the bases for the unit. These took a few hours to do including painting and set time.

 

I like making bases this way, especially if I am working on some other sculpting.  This gives me a way to use spare putty that would otherwise set up and go to waste.  Its also relaxing to work on these as the level of detail needed for them is not very fine.  Of course you could simply purchase some resin bases from one of the many manufactures out there.  If you want your own design or style, this is a great way to go about it.  Feel free to ask any questions in the comment section!

New Tutorial: Sculpting Bird Wings

This tutorial was actually an experiment. It was initially published on Twitter in a series of tweets. It was a struggle to fit the text detail into a tweet after the image was attached, but I believe that the descriptions were effective.

Check out my tutorial on how to sculpt bird wings with greenstuff putty! Click Here!

Base marking in Flames of War

Anyone who has played a handful of games of Flames of War has probably noticed that it is easy to mix up teams between platoons.  The problem is that when you are looking down at your infantry teams, gun teams, and in some cases even tank teams, everything tends to look the same (they are wearing something called a uniform after all).  This can cause issues in the game when you need to remove teams as casualties, determining which platoon has what weapon attachment, or how many teams are in a platoon when it can take it’s defensive fire shots against an assaulting platoon.  Most of these issues come up with infantry companies which have platoons which are deployed interwoven, or simply next door to another platoon.  It can be very easy to mix up which team is with what platoon.

There are loads of ways to mark your units to help alleviate the problems above, and here I am going to show you some of my favorite methods.  The easiest thing to do, and what I tend to do with each of my armies in Flames of War is to come up with a simple marking system for the edges of your bases.  I have seen some people put little dots on the edges of bases with permanent markers, the number of dots showing what unit a team is part of, but I think you can push this method a little farther.  I tend to paint a wide region on the back left side of the base with white paint.  I will put one or more colored dashes to illustrate which platoon the team belongs to.  The colors and number of dashes that you use to mark the teams can vary in any way you find appealing.  For example I will mark my combat platoons with red dashes, but a different number for each platoon.  1st platoon would have 1 red dash, 2nd 2 re dashes, ect.  A weapons platoon would get orange, blue, or other color dashes in the same way.

On the white background, these colored dashes really stand out, and are very easy to read.

Another step that I like to take is to make an additional mark, sometimes on the right side of the base to mark a special unit.  My PAVN Infantry Companies have many RPG teams in them, and it is important to me that I don’t position them incorrectly, or remove them as casualties before I want to.  These teams get an additional mark on the right hand side of the base to help them stand out from the rest of the company.  Teams such as command teams usually don’t get any additional marking as they are pretty easy to identify from a distance based on their base-size.  This method is very easy to do, and makes keeping your teams organized very easy.

US gun team with base marking
This infantry team is part of the 2nd platoon.
The dark blue dash next to the platoon identifier shows that this is a RPG team.

Another method, one favored by my good friend Jason is to give the bases some special detail which will identify them from one another.  His US Paratroopers combat platoons have either pumpkins (made from greenstuff) or tombstones (made from plasticard) which identify them as either 1st or 2nd platoon.  This method, while taking a bit of extra work adds a lot of character, and appeal to a platoon.  At 15mm, the base of an infantry team is effectively half the model, so extra work put into bases is never wasted.  This subtle method can also be used creatively to give an overall theme to your army, much in the way that Jason gave his US paratroopers a Halloween theme.

US Paratroopers (Tombstone Platoon) by Jason Misuinas

The two primary platoons of Jason’s US paratroopers are defined by pumpkins, and tombstones.  These simple thematic devices identify what platoon the team is in while giving the entire army its own flavor.

US Paratroopers (Pumpkin Platoon) by Jason Misuinas
Gasmask wearing Grenadiers by Jason Misuinas

Jason’s Pioneer Grenadiers are a very individualistic unit who’s base really causes them to stand out.  This unit is usually the lone infantry unit supporting his Panzerkompanie, but if he were to add more units, he could apply variations to the basing to both maintain uniformity, and give them some unique trait that he could use to help identify the unit.

One popular method for marking bases that I don’t think is very useful is to put a sticker on the bottom of the miniature’s base.  While marking the unit this way looks nice (because you don’t see the markings unless you look at the bottom of the base), it makes spot identifying the team impossible, and when it comes time to figure out who is who, you need to physically move the team.  This is usually not a big deal, but can occasionally cause troubles.  In a tournament I participated in an opponent needed to make sure that the command team that was between two platoons was his 2iC.  After picking the team up and checking out the bottom of it’s base, he put the team down around an inch closer to a neighboring platoon.  I don’t believe that he was intentionally trying to influence the game, but that fudge could have changed whether both units could link up to provide defensive fire or not.  This method is better than nothing, but not ideal.

Marking your bases is extremely important for your flames of war army.  It will help you keep the army organized, will keep you from forgetting to put teams down (I have forgotten an observer team on occasion), and will help maintain accurate gameplay which your opponent will appreciate.  On that last note, if  you are going to tournaments than this step is critical.  Nothing is quite as frustrating for an opponent in a tournament as when you can’t clearly tell them where platoon boundaries are.  Mark up your teams.  Its good for everyone!  🙂

Sculpting & modeling tips on Twitter


I will be posting quasi-weekly (occasionally I am away from the internet, yup) tips on things that I learned over the years about sculpting, modelling, and general hobby tips.  Follow me on Twitter, and keep an eye out for #SculptingModelingTip on posts.  If you have any questions about these tips, please feel free to message me here, or on Twitter!

Studio McVey & Upcoming Tutorials

Studio McVey Logo

Mike McVey is a name that will be familiar with miniature fanatics from his work with Games Workshop from back in the mid to late 90s. He has since started his own studio with (his wife?) Ali McVey! Their… work… is… sick. As a nascent sculptor I look at the what they create and am very inspired! Their characters are very creative, and beautifully executed. Much of what you see in the miniatures industry (while MUCH better than in any time in the past) lacks a good sense of composition, and design. The McVeys do not suffer from this problem in my opinion. Check it out! [link to Studio McVey]

Coming Soon…

I have received some great subject suggestions from some of the folks on the Heelanhammer SAWC forums for sculpting tutorials! Coming soon will be a series of new sculpting tutorials based on these suggestions. These will be posted in my articles section [Hobby Articles Section] in the not too distant future.