Stone Cold Lead

Figure Painting

Simple but effective basing

I was recently asked if I’d share my basing technique that I’ve been using on my Bretonnians and seeing as I was ready to base up my latest paint job it seemed like a good time to do a tutorial. The bases on these models are nothing out of the ordinary and are actually very simple and straightforward. It’s really all about careful placement of those little grass tufts.

Like a lot of people I use sand to create the base texture but the very first thing I do is paint the surface of the base with the colour I’ll use to paint the sand. I’ve used Vallejo Model Color US Olive Drab here. This is because when the sand is glued in place you’ll be able to see the base surface between the grains. Now even though it’s going to be painted there’ll still be the odd speck that doesn’t get coated and it’s annoying to see those little dots showing through, especially if you got light coloured paint on the base.

Once the painted surface is dry it’s time to coat it with sand. I’m using wood glue at the moment but any white glue is good. Carefully cover the surface of the base and try and avoid getting glue on the model’s feet and legs (or whatever attaches it to the base). I find a cheap size 1 brush is perfectly good for this job. Next get your sand and scatter it over the glue, making sure you’ve got a sheet of paper under the model to catch the excess. Let the sand heap up a little and then tip off the loose material. If you’ve got a bit of sand coated glue somewhere you shouldn’t or it’s riding up the sides of the feet a little then a clean damp brush can be used to tidy up those bits. I also like to run my finger around the edge of the base to clean away any glue and sand and leave a nice neat rim. Then put the model aside for the glue to dry completely. Once dry I give the sand and model a quick dust with a large soft brush to remove any loose bits of sand and dust.

Now it’s time to paint the base colour and again I’m using VMC US Olive Drab. It’s a good idea to thin the paint with water as this’ll help it soak into the sand and give even coverage. It also makes it easier to paint around the feet as you don’t need to brush right up to the model, instead you can rely on that wicking effect as the paint spreads. This needs to be left to dry completely before anything else is done.

To add highlights and pick out the texture I overbrush lighter colours. Overbrushing is a bit like drybrushing except you leave more paint on the brush. It’s best to apply the brush lightly to allow the paint to catch on the texture. If you’re a bit too heavy handed or there’s too much paint on the brush it’ll streak and just look messy. I’m currently using an old size 1 brush for this job but a small flat brush works even better. Just like drybrushing, this is really bad for brushes so either use old ones or buy something cheap (although still get something with a soft bristle).

 

I used four layers of colour to highlight the base and I’ll admit that my mixes here are a little convoluted. It’s best to keep things simple to maintain colour consistency. With my Bretonnians I’ve struggled to do that as I forgot what colours I used on the first few so I’ve ended up trying to match the colours as best I can which has led to some slight variations. I’ve scanned paint samples to show the colour mixes I used just in case the photographs aren’t clear enough. I don’t tend to keep track of quantities or proportions as I generally just go by eye with these things.

 

Note: VMC = Vallejo Model Color, VGC = Vallejo Game Color

I know the colour that people choose to paint the base edges can be a contentious point but I’m old school and like black. It’s clean and frames the base nicely. If these models were mounted on coins or washers then I’d go for something a little less stark but seeing as these are slottas, black it is!


The final stage is to add some grass tufts and this is really the bit that can bring a base to life and give that little bit of extra oomph to the model. I use Silflor tufts by Mininatur as these look so much better than static grass or flock. There are other brands but most are just repackaged Silflor (with a higher price tag apparently). I’ve put together a little sample sheet showing the various tufts I have. There are a few gaps as I don’t have every set but I also tend to make more use of the autumnal sets as I like the muted colours. These are all 4mm long tufts.

Row 1 = Weed Tufts: Summer/early autumn/late autumn

 

Row 2 = Two Colour Tufts: Spring/summer/early autumn/late autumn/desert/winter

 

Row 3 = Single Colour Tufts: Early autumn/late autumn

 

Row 4 = Blossom Tufts: Spring/summer/early autumn/late autumn

Whilst the tufts do have a sticky backing they really need to be glued in place and I’d suggest wood glue/PVA. You’ll also need tweezers to make placing them easier and a small pair of scissors can come in handy to trim any errant fibres. Put a decent sized blob of glue on the back of the tuft and just press into place with the tweezers. They sit well on a flat surface but if you’re trying to glue them to a less even surface you might have to go back and keep pressing the tuft down as the glue dries.

For this particular base I went with three types of tuft, the two colour early autumn (my go to tuft of choice) and late autumn, plus a late autumn weed tuft to add a little colour (and because I hadn’t used one of these yet). I pick tuft colours that are going to compliment the model’s paint job and if using tufts from different sets they should also work well together. Other than that the real key to making a base look good is simply composition. Try a dry run to see how different colour tufts look before committing glue to them.

 

With these models I’m going for fairly dense base coverage so I’m using a mix of large and small tufts to build up the foliage, whilst also leaving a few bare patches for contrast. I started off with the single weed tuft, quite a large piece and the only bit of bright colour I was going to use. It’s usually best to limit the use of these more colourful tufts I find. Next I added a two colour early autumn tuft behind that and then filled a little more space with a second one next to it. Then back to the front of the base I added a small late autumn tuft to the front of the weed tuft.

Next I decided to add a few fallen leaves. I can’t remember who makes this product and the place I originally ordered them from doesn’t appear to have them anymore but they’re some sort of seed pod or something natural that looks like tiny leaves. I have three colours, dark green, light green and a natural light brown. The latter two colours are the best and they work well together to give a bit of variation. I glue these individually so I can control the composition. The hard part is placing them so that they appear to be a random piece of leaf litter even though they’re carefully placed. I just used three here, one kind of behind the weed next to his foot (it's in there somewhere), another to the front of the weed and a final one between the two grass tufts to the rear of the base.

And that’s everything done for this base. Here’s the finished model with two others from the same unit.